2011 New Car Preview
Some 2011 car models worth checking out
New and intriguing offers from automakers
The Cruze is General Motors' latest attempt to compete with the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Built in Ohio, the Cruze replaces GM's last effort, the Chevrolet Cobalt. Prices begin at $16,995 and that includes standard safety gear such as electronic stability control, which is unusual in this segment, and 10 air bags. Most models get a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 138 horsepower. Transmissions are either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic.
But as more 2011 models arrive in dealerships, it is clear that — despite all the public commotion — plenty of engineers and designers have been busily working on some new and intriguing offerings. Here are some worth watching:
1) Chevrolet Cruze – The Cruze is General Motors' latest attempt to compete with the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Built in Ohio, the Cruze replaces GM's last effort, the Chevrolet Cobalt. Prices begin at $16,995 and that includes standard safety gear such as electronic stability control, which is unusual in this segment, and 10 air bags. Most models get a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 138 horsepower. Transmissions are either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic.
2) Ford Fiesta – With the European-designed Fiesta, Ford enters the mini-car market with both a sedan and a four-door hatchback. Assembled in Mexico, prices start at $13,995 for the "S" sedan and at $15,795 for the least expensive hatchback. Electronic stability control is among standard safety features. The engine is 120-horsepower, 1.6-liter 4-cylinder with either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic.
3) Hyundai Sonata – The Sonata continues Hyundai's rapid and aggressive expansion in the American market. Aimed at big-time competitors such as the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion, the Sonata will be available as a standard sedan, a sporty model or a hybrid that Hyundai says will get 37 mpg city and 39 mpg highway. The least expensive Sonata is $17,915. The hybrid will be assembled in South Korea and the other models in Alabama.
4) Ford Explorer – With the new Explorer, Ford abandons the classic truck construction using instead car-type components aimed at providing better ride and handling. Assembled in Chicago, the Explorer's standard engine is a 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6. A fuel-saving option is a turbocharged 2-liter 4-cylinder rated at 237 horsepower. The transmission is a 6-speed automatic. The least-expensive front-wheel-drive model is $28,995.
5) Buick Regal – The mid-size Regal sedan is the next step in what appears to be the successful revitalization of Buick. Assembled in Germany, the Regal is based on a sports sedan sold as the Opel Insignia in Europe. The Regal is aimed at vehicles such as the Acura TSX and Volvo S60. Engines are a 182-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder and a turbocharged, 2-liter 4-cylinder expected to produce 220 horsepower. Transmissions are a 6-speed automatic and 6-speed manual. The least-expensive model is $26,995.
6) Chevrolet Volt – The Volt a front-wheel-drive, four-passenger sedan about 14 inches shorter than the Malibu. It is priced at $41,000, although a tax credit of up to $7,500 is available. Chevy says it can cover "up to 40 miles" using an electric motor and batteries. GM calls the Volt an "extended range electric vehicle" but an argument can be made it is a hybrid since it "extends" that range using a gasoline engine as a generator to provide electricity. It is assembled in Detroit and goes on sale late this year with a staggered, national debut.
7) Nissan LEAF – The LEAF is a pure electric vehicle about the same size as the Nissan Versa sedan. Nissan says the LEAF will carry five passengers and can go "more than 100 miles" when its batteries are fully charged. When the batteries are drained the LEAF must be parked and recharged. The price is $32,780, although a tax credit up to $7,500 is available. Its introduction begins late this year. By the fall of 2011, Nissan says the LEAF will be available nationwide. The LEAF will initially be built in Japan, but Nissan says "additional capacity" is planned for its plant in Smyrna, Tenn.
8) Fiat 500 – Late this year, Chrysler's new owner — Fiat — will be introducing a U.S. version of the tiny Fiat 500 sold in Europe. It's an important car for Chrysler, which badly needs to freshen its offerings. But the automaker has yet to release many details beyond the fact the 500 will have a 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine and will be assembled in Mexico.
9) Toyota Sienna – A new design offers families a transportation choice other than a sport utility vehicle or a large sedan. The Sienna minivan is available with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive with a 265-horsepower V-6 engine. The front-wheel-drive model is available with a slightly more fuel efficient (and less expensive) 2.7-liter 4-cylinder rated at 187 horsepower. The only transmission is a 6-speed automatic. Prices begin at $25,070.
10) Honda Odyssey – Honda officials are predicting that in the next few years the minivan market will be coming back as younger people start their families. And, Honda is ready with a redesigned Odyssey. It is quieter, and has a more comfortable ride and better fuel economy. The most fuel-efficient model (also the most expensive) has a remarkably good EPA rating of 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. It is assembled in Alabama and prices start just under $29,000.