• May 30, 2011
2012 Hyundai Elantra – Click above for high-res image gallery

With a raft of newly redesigned compact sedans hitting the streets this year, Motor Trend decided it was high time to crown a new king among the diminutive four-door masses. The editors gathered eight of the most popular models in the segment and pitted them against each other, battle royale style.

The magazine started by selecting the three best-selling Japanese compact sedans, the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Mazda3, which, combined, accounted for 700,000 sales last year amid fears fostered by a weakened economy. Those were joined by America's two best sellers, the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze. Korea added the Kia Forte and the Hyundai Elantra, and the Volkswagen Jetta TDI from Germany rounded out the list.

MT tried to get the cars as closely matched as possible; all the cars were front-drive, four-cylinder automatics with alloy wheels and stability control, all stickering somewhere in the low-$20,000 range. Still, despite its efforts, there wound up being a fair amount of variance among each of the cars, which helped shape the results of the test.

In the end, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra came out on top, thanks to radical new styling, a raft of standard features and a new found sense of sophistication. The 2012 Honda Civic EX brought up the next spot in the line, followed by the 2011 Mazda3 Touring. The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI snagged fourth, followed by the 2012 Ford Focus Titanium and the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ RS. The 2011 Kia Forte EX edged out the 2011 Toyota Corolla to take seventh place.

Which one would take your top honors? Let us know in the poll, and head over to Motor Trend to read the full results.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 172 Comments
      skeptic
      • 3 Years Ago
      While my personal choice is a manual Focus hatchback, I have to agree to some extent with Motortrend on placing that car far lower. The dual clutch transmission on the Fords (both Focus and Fiesta) is known to be a real clunker, and I would never buy the car with that transmission. Either Ford needs to improve that transmission, or offer a conventional auto. This is not about enthusiasts buying this car, rather regular folks who need to go from point A to B (and last I heard, they were not buying manual). Also, the Titanium is rather too much money - I would rather get a lower trim. For Titanium money, give me a GTI.
        Jason
        • 3 Years Ago
        @skeptic
        They do need to fix the trans on the automatic. The Titanium trim of the Focus gives a lot for features for the money than a GTI however, the Titanium is only offered in automatic. The GTI is probably a little more fun to drive though but at the price of a decently loaded Focus, you would get a total stripper version of the GTI.
        Matt
        • 3 Years Ago
        @skeptic
        Try it and compare. The manual sucks too.
      maximamarv
      • 3 Years Ago
      Truth be told, I'd look at a Suzuki Kiashi for low 20's along with some of these vehicles...
        NightFlight
        • 3 Years Ago
        @maximamarv
        I wouldn't. Not with their poor dealer network and abysmal residuals. I think the Kizashi is a fantastic vehicle, but Suzuki as a brand really scares me. Every single one of its dealers in my area have closed down.
      john
      • 3 Years Ago
      im hoping to see the 2012 impreza compete in this catagory soon and do well
      john
      • 3 Years Ago
      im hoping to see the 2012 impreza in this catagory soon and do well
      MyerShift
      • 3 Years Ago
      Motor Trend's comparison test is an utter failure. There are many things to be pointed out, but I shall list only one: they complain about the Mazda3's mileage being in the class basement. For EPA ratings, this is true. However, the Mazda3 posted better (if only by a couple tenths, not a big deal really) than the Toyota Corolla but they didn't mention this.
      founerra
      • 3 Years Ago
      Something has to give at Hyundai, unless they are secretly getting huge amounts of funding from the South Korean Government
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        OfDukes
        • 3 Years Ago
        The fanboy is strong in this one... Hey look, Mr. Hyundai has evolved to a parrot, repeating everything that has been said about Hyundai vehicles, only changing the names.
        Cornel001
        • 3 Years Ago
        I see u trying hard to be fun, but its useless. A janitor job would fit better.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        Alex Frank
        • 3 Years Ago
        If your main gripe about the Mazda3 is the fuel economy, just wait for the new SkyActiv engines.
        poopoohead100
        • 3 Years Ago
        I personally would probably choose a manual Focus if I were to buy a compact car. But wow, your ranking might as well should've been: 1. USA 2. South Korea 3. Germany 4. Japan
          • 3 Years Ago
          @poopoohead100
          [blocked]
        Andrew
        • 3 Years Ago
        U seem liek an american fanboi. r u mad?
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Andrew
          [blocked]
      Liam
      • 3 Years Ago
      The new Ford Focus. It's got the looks, the performance, the quality, the fuel economy and the features at a price point that puts it a notch above all others.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Liam
        [blocked]
        Yakapo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Liam
        I looked at the new focus. The fit and finish is hands down better than the elantra. I had a hard time getting the trunk to close on the elantra unless I slammed it shut. However the focus is a little small on the inside compared to most of these cars. Give the focus a 6 speed manual and make it a few inches wider and about 5 inches longer and I'd put it at #1 on the list. Another problem with the elantra was the nasty chemical smell. My wife and I had a bad headache after test driving one. I still haven't driven the cruze.
          bizz1441
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Yakapo
          I totally agree. The focus would be awesome if they just gave it a 6 speed manual. And it's definitively smaller that all of the others. As MT said in the article, gimmicky is correct.
      Master Austin
      • 3 Years Ago
      Unfortunately for MT, the Focus has been getting much more attention and positive praise, even one article some days ago crowned the Focus Titanium as the best fully loaded compact that felt like a much more expensive car. And on polls (probably this one as well), the Focus seems to be readers choice. It also has the most toys as well, so for the Elantra to get that praise sounds questionable when the Focus has Auto-Park, Sync with MyFordTouch, Torque Vectoring as well. But sometimes I think most of these Mags try to pick controversial choices just to get attention...look at prime-time TV...
        OfDukes
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Master Austin
        Well said. Even on MT's poll the readers chose the Focus as the best car. Or, at least the car they would choose to spend their money on.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        • 3 Years Ago
        [blocked]
          • 3 Years Ago
          [blocked]
          • 3 Years Ago
          [blocked]
        onewayroll
        • 3 Years Ago
        And then you woke up with your 3rd member in your hand.
        tipdrip215
        • 3 Years Ago
        Cute. It would take one demented mind to seriously call a Corolla a "blast to drive"
      WAR HERO
      • 3 Years Ago
      Good going, Motor Trend! let's just stomp on the graves of all our dead service members this memorial day.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @WAR HERO
        [blocked]
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