2012 – the Year of the Compact Car

2012 is going to be an exciting year for small car buyers. The brand new Ford Focus is hitting dealers now, with the Honda Civic nipping at its bumpers, and an exciting redesigned Subaru Impreza coming in the Fall.

2012 Ford Focus

The 2012 Ford Focus has generated a lot of excitement in the media in recent months. It was highly anticipated as North America finally got the legitimate version that had only been available in Europe up until now. Then the test drives started coming in, and it looks like all the excitement was justified. Compared to the 2011 Focus, it’s a totally different car.

If you want a great looking car with excellent fuel economy that is flat out fun to drive, you can’t go wrong with the Focus. Starting at $16,270, you can get up to 40 mpg on the highway with a Super Fuel Economy (SFE) package, but even the regular models still get up to 37 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg in city driving. The SFE package is only available on the Focus SE model.

The interior looks just as good as the exterior, and Ford provides a nice array of accessories. The MyFord Touch system has not been universally liked, with complaints that it’s slow and confusing, so you may want to leave that one off the check list. There are also some suggestions that the automatic transmission might have been rushed out of R&D a bit early. Look for a possible reprogramming to fix this. Lastly, the back seat is going to be a bit tight – consider who might be riding back there. But if you want a Ford, skip over the tiny Fiesta, find an extra $3,000, and go for the Focus.

2012 Honda Civic

The Accord and Civic have been wildly popular, and there’s no reason to think the 2012 Honda Civic won’t continue the trend. It promises to be solidly reliable, if not nearly as exciting as the 2012 Ford Focus.

The base entry price is slightly lower than the Focus, at $15,805. That buys you an even better return on your gas dollars, with 39 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in the city. Honda’s lineup also includes a Civic HF model which goes all the way up to 41 mpg on the highway.

Looks are subjective, but the outside of the Civic definitely can’t compete with the Focus, and the interior is just not on a par with the quality of the Ford. The Honda has a unique two level instrument panel, which draws mixed reviews.

The Civic is roomier in the back than the Focus, so if you regularly have back seat passengers this may be more appealing to you. But whereas the 2012 Ford Focus was like a splash of cold water to the face (in a good way), the 2012 Honda Civic has so far failed to inspire much excitement.

2012 Subaru Impreza

Subarus have always had a slightly quirky reputation, built at least as much on Subaru’s commitment to standard All-Wheel Drive across the line as on the Boxer engine. The 2012 Subaru Impreza will be landing on dealer lots in the fall, but there’s already a lot of anticipation.

The biggest news is that it promises 36 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg in the city. For an all-wheel drive vehicle, that’s amazing.

If Subaru’s hype is anything to go by, the 2012 Impreza will deliver a huge back seat for this class. Sitting in the back seat of big brother Legacy, only the Hyundai Sonata comes close, so there’s every reason to suspect the Impreza will be similarly spacious.

Subaru hasn’t announced pricing yet, but the 2011 Impreza starts at $18,220. The exterior styling is a nice refresh, although it’s not as aggressive as the Focus. Subaru is using high quality materials on their interiors these days, and overall this should be a very comfortable car. It may not look or feel quite as quirky as it used to, but the all-wheel drive will ensure it continues to be popular in more northern states.

A Word about Fuel Economy

Small cars are getting a lot of press with high gas prices, and it’s tempting to go for the one with the biggest mpg numbers. All of these vehicles get excellent mileage, and a difference of one or two mpg might look good for the manufacturer but won’t translate to significant savings at the pump. Make sure you pick a car you are going to feel good about driving and that fits your needs.