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.