Compact car analysis

Not open for further replies.
Nov 3, 2009
New England
I've been trying to come up with an objective way to look at the compact car segment since it's been recently spruced up. Specifically, comparing the Hyundai Elantra, VW Jetta, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, Toyota Corolla, and Honda Civic. I started by looking at the starting MSRP for each vehicle with manual and automatic transmissions, then looked at the engines power (for some kind of rough estimation of power on the road) and the fuel economy numbers. This is how it broke down. VW Jetta Automatic transmission: $16495 Manual transmission: $17695 Engine: 115 hp Fuel economy manual auto: 24/34 24/32 Ford Focus Automatic transmission: $16500 Manual transmission: $17595 Engine: 160 hp Fuel economy manual auto: 28/38 26/36 Chevrolet Cruze Automatic transmission: $16720 Manual transmission: $17715 Engine: 138 hp Fuel economy manual auto: 26/38 26/38 Hyundai Elantra Automatic transmission: $16445 Manual transmission: $17445 Engine: 145 hp Fuel economy manual auto: 29/40 29/40 Toyota Corolla Automatic transmission: $15900 Manual transmission: $16700 Engine: 132 hp Fuel economy manual auto: 28/35 26/34 Honda Civic Automatic transmission: $15805 Manual transmission: $16605 Engine: 140 hp Fuel economy manual auto: 28/36 28/39 Analyzing the manual and automatic offerings separately, it appears that in order from least to most expensive starting price: Manual Civic, Corolla, Elantra, Jetta, Focus, Cruze Automatic Civic, Corolla, Cruze, Focus, Jetta, Cruze Highway fuel economy for transmissions, best to worst: Manual Elantra, Focus/Cruze, Civic, Corolla, Jetta Auto Elantra, Civic, Cruze, Focus, Corolla, Jetta I created a chart to plot MSRP vs. fuel economy and the chart shows that the highest value and economy slot is occupied by the Civic in either transmission layout. Is there anything I am missing here, objectively? What I gather is that the Jetta and Corolla are competitively priced but lack in economy (and in the Jettas case, engine). The Civic and Elantra are by far the best in these areas, and the Cruze and Focus seem to slot somewhere in the middle. Just to be clear, I'm not shopping in this segment. In other words, discuss.
The Corolla has earned the trust of more people than any other compact car I can think of. That has ensured a certain number of sales. The Jetta arrives with a weak engine, however, most people buy the 2.5 at whatever price is charged. The Jetta has a tainted image due to numerous problems with the MKIV.
OP should consider the VW Golf , it is made in Germany and has better quality and relability compared to the Jetta made in Mexico, it is more practical with a hatch and looks sportier to me at least.
Interesting analysis. I hold the Corolla near and dear to my heart, so I am slightly biased towards them. Of the vehicles analyzed here, my preference would be ranked as follows (from best to worst): Corolla, Civic, Elantra, Focus, Jetta, Cruze. I have to say I am impressed at the rapid ascent in the car market that Hyundai is undergoing. I have never been a big fan of GM products and will not own one for various reasons.
The 800 lb gorilla in the living you don't consider is resale value and depreciation (or lack thereof). Honda and Toyota have huge advantage (+ other factors) here.
Weird that manual tranny cars are more expensive... is manual trally considered luxury, or auto trannies still so [censored]?
Last edited:
Buy the Cruze or the Focus and drive it into the ground. I mean take good care of it, but keep it for as long as possible. It disgusts me that the MT is so much more money.
My 97 civic pulls the same if not better MPG than those, I'm fine just where I am... and no car payment is a huge plus.
Your numbers are wrong first one even VW Jetta manual and auto prices are switched. Edit: they are all wrong
Last edited:
Originally Posted By: silverrat
Your numbers are wrong first one even VW Jetta manual and auto prices are switched. Edit: they are all wrong
Thanks - THAT makes sense!
You have to get the Mazda3i Touring to get the 155 hp SKYACTIV-G Manual $18,450 27/39 Automatic $19,300 28/40 You are paying more than you would for a Focus S, Jetta S, Civic LX, or Cruze LS, but you are getting more too. You'd have to go up to a Corolla LE to get close but you'd still be short on horsepower. The Kia Forte comes in at $15,200 ($16,200 automatic) It's a little short on fuel economy: 24/34 manual, 26/36 automatic. But the Subaru is the one in that class that suprises. 27/36 mpg. That's carrying the added weight of it's all wheel drive. It starts at $17,495 The 150 hp Suzuki SX4 sedan doesn't make the cut. I think it's closer to a subcompact, doesn't feel like it has 50 more hp than a Mazda2, and has unimpressive fuel economy. Good price though. The Lancer DE has similar fuel economy to the Suzuki. 26/34mpg
Cheapest Fiat 500 Pop $15,500 101 bhp +1000 for auto tranny. Mpg 30/38 stick 27/34 auto you are skipping sentra, versa,yaris,smart,fit,rio,elanta,fiesta,veloster. Even dough they called "subcompact" they not much smaller.
Have you driven these vehicles? Your analysis is fine, as far as it goes. But living with a vehicle for years, and the joys/frustrations that come with it can completely eclipse a few dollars in initial cost, depreciation, etc. If you do not consider yourself a "driver", it may not matter. For instance, the Corolla comes out well in most purely financial analyses, but between interior materials, feel, driving position, etc, etc, the car is so far away from the VW driving experience. I have 160,000 trouble-free miles on two VW diesel cars, but I do understand some of the reliability fears out there on them. I am currently shopping myself (Volvo in sig totaled by a Yellow Cab running a stop sign), and definitely am considering another VW diesel...this time a Golf. I will be keeping the diesel Jetta in my sig. It has been flawless. Tim
Having very recently driven a 2011 Corolla I can say without reservation that it has the worst steering that I have ever experienced in a modern car. I must assume that 'Yota changed to electric steering because it was like no Corolla I've owned in the past. There is no steering feel whatsoever and it is so light that staying in my lane required major concentration. I can relate it to any Mopar product back in the 60's where one finger in the spoke of the steering wheel would allow you to turn a corner with no effort. Drive them, drive them all prior to purchase!
Yes to all - I had written all this information out on paper but then proceeded to swap the automatic and manual prices on the computer - so that's backwards for all the vehicles. Just mentally swap places and everything else should be fine. Wish I could edit things after the fact...
Go drive a number of those cars before making the final choice. I test-drove or looked at every single one of those cars on your list. I ended up with a Cruze Eco MT, and it's been a great daily driver. Also, check Fuelly to see what folks are getting in the real world for fuel economy. Hyundai's EPA numbers for the Elantra are proving very hard to hit in the real world, as an example.
Not open for further replies.