What do you picture when you hear the word "car" or "vehicle?" Most likely, you think of a four door sedan.

That's because sedans have been a staple of the American auto industry essentially since its inception.

Today, sedans embody most everything the average consumer looks for in a vehicle: Style, fuel economy, interior space, driving dynamics and affordability. For this reason, sedan sales make up an enormous portion of overall new vehicle transactions and many automakers live and die on the success of their offerings in this category.

Car manufacturers are constantly updating their sedans in order to stay in line with the ever-changing tastes of American sedan drivers, who make up a huge portion of their respective businesses. The 2012 Toyota Camry and 2012 Honda Civic, perennial winners with American consumers, were both recently redesigned. Did their new looks help or hinder their sales? Click through to find out.

15. Nissan Versa

15. Nissan Versa

December 2011 Sales: 9,939
Change vs. December 2010: -2.6%
MSRP: $10,990 - $18,390
Fuel Economy: 36 mpg Hwy/27 mpg City

The Versa is Nissan's entry-level car with the intention of attracting economy-minded buyers with its mileage, price and larger size than most other vehicles in its class. The Versa is available as a hatchback or sedan, the sedan is powered by a 107-hp 1.6-liter four cylinder engine, while the hatchback gets a 122-hp 1.8-liter. The sedan can be equipped with either a five-speed manual or optional Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), the hatchback buyer has a choice between a six-speed manual, a four-speed automatic or the Xtronic CVT.

It should be noted that the current hatchback is a carry-over from the last generation Versa. Only the sedan is a new design. That said, our editors like the hatchback very much and recommend it.

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14. Chevrolet Impala

14. Chevrolet Impala

December 2011 Sales: 10,479
Change vs. December 2010: -8.2%
MSRP: $25,645 - $30,185
Fuel Economy: 30 mpg Hwy/18 mpg City

The Chevrolet Impala is a comfortable and convenient car, practical and enjoyable to drive. It has neat and clean lines with a fresh style that is pleasing to the eye. The Impala is a full-size front-wheel drive sedan capable of carrying up to six people. It comes in three trim levels: LS, LT, and LTZ.

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13. Kia Optima

13. Kia Optima

December 2011 Sales: 10,704
Change vs. December 2010: +244.6%
MSRP: $19,500 - $26,500
Fuel Economy: 35 mpg Hwy/24 mpg City

The Kia Optima is a five-passenger, front-drive, mid-size sedan which places it squarely in the most competitive car class there is. The Optima is available in four trim levels; LX, EX, EX Turbo and SX. The LX and EX are equipped with a naturally-aspirated 200-hp 2.4-liter DOHC four-cylinder. The EX turbo and SX use a turbocharged 274-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder.

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12. Volkswagen Jetta

12. Volkswagen Jetta

December 2011 Sales: 12,422
Change vs. December 2010: +18.0%
MSRP: $15,365 - $26,445
Fuel Economy: 34 mpg Hwy/24 mpg City

The Volkswagen Jetta is the least expensive German sedan/wagon in the North American market, and 2011 marks the debut of the sixth generation sedan. The Jetta SportWagen, carried over from the previous Jetta design, helps to bridge the gap between the Golf and the Tiguan crossover in VW's lineup. The Jetta sedan and SportWagen offer three different engines, a 115-hp 2.0-liter gas four-cylinder (sedan only), a 2.5-liter gas five-cylinder generating 170 horsepower, and a 140-hp 2.0L TDI clean-diesel four-cylinder for those looking for maximum fuel economy and torquey performance.

The new Jetta is roomier than the previous design, and should be considered as a rival to cars like Ford Focus and Toyota Crorolla, but also as a "value" alternative to mid-sized sedans like Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

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11. Hyundai Elantra

11. Hyundai Elantra

December 2011 Sales: 13,025
Change vs. December 2010: -0.5%
MSRP: $15,195 - $20,445
Fuel Economy: 40 mpg Hwy/29 mpg City

The Hyundai Elantra is a compact car with handsome styling and nice lines. It has excellent interior space and standard safety equipment. The current generation Elantra can seat up to five and has very accommodating trunk space. Two trim levels are offered: GLS and Limited. Both use a 148-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the GLS trim, while a six-speed automatic with Shifttronic is standard on the Limited trim and available on the GLS.

The Elantra is light years better than the previous generation design, and should be looked at closely by shoppers. AOL and Autoblog editors consider it one of the "best surprise" cars of 2010.

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10. Chevrolet Malibu

10. Chevrolet Malibu

December 2011 Sales: 13,034
Change vs. December 2010: +13.1%
MSRP: $21,995 - $30,085
Fuel Economy: 33 mpg Hwy/22 mpg City

The award winning Chevrolet Malibu emphasizes civilized road manners, quality construction and practicality, with clean, contemporary styling. The Malibu has three trim levels: LS, LT, and LTZ. All models come with a 169-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission as standard equipment. Optional on the LT and LTZ is a 252-hp, 3.6-liter V6, matched with a high torque six-speed automatic.

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9. Ford Focus

9. Ford Focus

December 2011 Sales: 14,281
Change vs. December 2010: +12.1%
MSRP: $16,500 - $22,700
Fuel Economy: 35 mpg Hwy/24 mpg City

The Ford Focus is still small, economical, and fun but now it includes the latest technology and style; setting, for many buyers, a new standard in the compact car category. Completely redesigned for 2012 the Focus is now available as a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback. Ford offers four trims on the Focus, the S is available on the sedan, the SE, SEL, and Titanium are available on both models.

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8. Chevrolet Cruze

8. Chevrolet Cruze

December 2011 Sales: 16,675
Change vs. December 2010: +53.5%
MSRP: $16,720 - $23,110
Fuel Economy: 36 mpg Hwy/25 mpg City

Chevrolet's new Cruze is a global compact sedan that has been refined for America with an emphasis on fuel economy. The Cruze features two new small-displacement four-cylinder engines; a 140-hp 1.4L turbo, or a 138-hp naturally-aspirated 1.8L. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the LS and soon to be released ECO trims; all others feature a six-speed automatic transmission.

The Cruze replaced the old Chevy Cobalt, and has been acclaimed by numerous media outlets including AOL Autos and Autoblog. The car has performed well in terms of attracting buyers who did not previously own an American brand vehicle.

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7. Hyundai Sonata

7. Hyundai Sonata

December 2011 Sales: 17,340
Change vs. December 2010: +8.6%
MSRP: $19,695 - $28,095
Fuel Economy: 35 mpg Hwy/24 mpg City

The Hyundai Sonata is a four-door, five-passenger sedan that has an established reputation for being well built and excellent value for money. This current design has a stylish coupe-like exterior and modern interior. The front-wheel drive Sonata is offered in five trim levels: GLS, SE, SE 2.0T, Limited, and Limited 2.0T. The GLS and Limited are powered by a 198-hp 2.4-liter gasoline direct injection four-cylinder engine. The SE features dual-exhaust which increases the engine output to 200-hp using the same 2.4-liter gasoline direct injection four-cylinder engine.

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6. Honda Accord

6. Honda Accord

December 2011 Sales: 17,667
Change vs. December 2010: -40.0%
MSRP: $21,055 - $29,305
Fuel Economy: 33 mpg Hwy/23 mpg City

The Accord is Honda's largest passenger car, offering generous interior space for up to 5 people wrapped in stylish exterior sheet metal. The Accord comes either as a two-door coupe or four-door sedan with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder or 3.5-liter V6 engine. The four-cylinder engines are available in five-speed manual or automatic transmission for both styles of the Accord, while the V6 sedan is only available in five-speed automatic. The V6 coupe is available with a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic.

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5. Honda Civic

5. Honda Civic

December 2011 Sales: 20,545
Change vs. December 2010: -27.3%
MSRP: $15,605 - $22,405
Fuel Economy: 36 mpg Hwy/28 mpg City

The redesigned Honda Civic is now in its ninth generation, and has been updated for greater safety and improved fuel economy to help it maintain its popularity in the compact class. Available in sedan or coupe bodies, all but the Si trim are powered by a 140 horsepower, 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder with a standard five-speed manual transmission and optional five-speed automatic. The performance-oriented Si comes with a 201 horsepower, 2.4-liter inline-four bolted only to a six-speed manual.

The new Civic was surprisingly criticized by Consumer Reports, and was not recommended by the influential magazine and vehicle testers.

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4. Toyota Corolla

4. Toyota Corolla

December 2011 Sales: 21,009
Change vs. December 2010: -4.8%
MSRP: $15,600 - $17,470
Fuel Economy: 35 mpg Hwy/26 mpg City

The Toyota Corolla has long been considered among the best of the compact sedans: reliable and economical, yet refined and comfortable. The 2010 Corolla comes in five trims: Standard, LE, XLE, S, and XRS. The principal powertrain is a 132 horsepower, 1.8-liter dual VVT-I engine, matched with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. An added powertrain, available only in XRS models, is a 158 horsepower, 2.4-liter VVT-I engine with a five-speed manual or new five-speed automatic transmission.

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3. Ford Fusion

3. Ford Fusion

December 2011 Sales: 21,622
Change vs. December 2010: -4.5%
MSRP: $20,200 - $29,100
Fuel Economy: 32 mpg Hwy/22 mpg City

Attractive and purposeful, the 2011 Ford Fusion is a top choice among midsize sedans. The Fusion is available in four trim levels, the S, SE, SEL, and Sport; offers three engines, as well as front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The powertrains are a 175-hp 2.5L four-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, a 240-hp 3.0L V6 with a six-speed automatic transmission, or a 263-hp 3.5L V6 with a six-speed automatic transmission with the Sport trim.

The Fusion has been one of the big beneficiaries of consumers increasing their consideration of Ford vehicles in the last two years. The car holds its own head-to-head and pound-for-pound with the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

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2. Nissan Altima

2. Nissan Altima

December 2011 Sales: 25,976
Change vs. December 2010: +12.9%
MSRP: $19,900 - $30,100
Fuel Economy: 32 mpg Hwy/23 mpg City

The front-wheel drive, five-passenger Nissan Altima combines performance and an attractive exterior as either a two-door coupe or a four-door sedan. The Nissan Altima is powered by either a 175-hp 2.5-liter V6 or a 270-hp 3.5-liter V6 and the transmission choices include a six-speed manual or continuously variable transmission (CVT). The trims on the Altima include: the 2.5 Base (on the sedan only), the 2.5 S, and the 3.5 SR. Safety features include: four-wheel disc brakes, anti-lock brakes, six airbags, active front head restraints, vehicle stability and traction control.

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1. Toyota Camry

1. Toyota Camry

December 2011 Sales: 33,506
Change vs. December 2010: +7.3%
MSRP: $21,955 - $29,845
Fuel Economy: 35 mpg Hwy/25 mpg City

The benchmark Toyota Camry sedan continues its reputation of safety, reliability, and quality into an all-new seventh-generation for 2012. The Camry is a front-wheel drive, five-passenger, four-door sedan featuring four trims: L, LE, SE, and XLE. A 178-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission are standard. The SE and XLE trims are also available with a 268-hp 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed automatic transmission.

The last generation Camry remained the best selling sedan in the U.S. despite the fit, finish, ride and handling being often criticized by reviewers. This all-new design is an excellent piece of work, with Toyota having corrected virtually all of the shortcomings of the previous car.

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