Best Cars of 2011

Last Updated: Jul 5, 2011 categorizes cars based on their purpose, size, and price. Subcompact cars are small, inexpensive fuel-sippers like the 2011 Ford Fiesta. Compact cars are larger and offer more features, but are still affordable:  picture the 2011 Honda Civic. Midsize cars, typified by the 2011 Toyota Camry, are roomy enough for a family, priced for wide appeal, and range from frugal four-cylinder models to sybaritic six-cylinder jobs. Full-size cars, such as the 2011 Chrysler 300, are large inside and out but are priced below premium models. Premium cars span most every size class, from compacts like the 2011 BMW 3-Series, to midsize models such as the 2011 Infiniti G37, to full-size sedans like the 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class.  Sporty cars concentrate on driving fun and come in lots of flavors, from the four-cylinder front-wheel-drive Mini Cooper to the V-8 rear-wheel-drive Chevrolet Corvette.


The Best overall car of 2011

2011 Audi A4
It’s priced in the premium class, but the 2011 Audi A4 teaches lessons every car will need to learn as fuel prices rise and value-conscious shoppers prize versatility. The compact-sized 2011 A4 relies on modest-displacement four-cylinder engines helped by turbochargers to achieve sparkling performance and good gas mileage.  The A4 sedan is fetchingly styled, and its versatile station-wagon companion, which Audi calls the A4 Avant, is a thoughtful alternative to a small SUV. Even the high-performance S4 sedan exercises good judgment with a 333-horsepower supercharged V-6 instead of a honking V-8. Every model carries four adults in sophisticated comfort and, equipped with Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive (available on the sedan, standard on the S4 and Avant), they have a one-car-does-it-all appeal. Base-price range: $32,825-$47,475.

The Best Cars of 2011

The Best Subcompact Car of 2011: Honda Fit. Form follows function in this four-door hatchback that’s tiny on the outside but shockingly roomy inside. Four adults and week’s groceries fit nicely, or you can exploit the brilliant flip-and-fold rear seat to carry a bike or a bookcase. Fit’s a little noisy on a long Interstate drive but feels genuinely sporty in town or on a county lane. And it gets 28/35 mpg city/highway without trying. Base-price range: $15,850-$19,990.

The Best Compact Car of 2011: Mazda 3. Look past that angry-clown grille and you’ll find surprising interior space, solid assembly, fine fuel economy, and livelier road manners than the modest prices imply. The four-door sedan is the better seller but we love the cooler, more versatile four-door hatchback. Mainstream Mazda 3s have 148 horsepower and get 24/33 mpg, or 167 horsepower and 22/29. The turbocharged MazdaSpeed3 has 263 horses and still gets 18/25. Base-price range: $16,595-$24,605.

The Best Midsize Car of 2011: Honda Accord. Newer rivals jab away with flashier styling and gizmo-rich options lists, but none yet matches these remarkable sedans and coupes for all-around excellence. Honda’s engineering mindset is evident in the precision feel of Accord’s steering and suspension, even in the dashboard dials. Room, comfort, and resale value are class benchmarks and the four- and six-cylinder engines are smooth and fuel-efficient. Base-price range: $21,930-$32,480.

The Best Full-Size Car of 2011: Dodge Charger. All-new for 2011, this spacious four-door sedan is reinvigorated with appropriately bold styling, a better ride, and higher-quality interior materials that feature genuine aluminum trim. A modern 292-horsepower V-6 is the new base engine, the charismatic Hemi V-8 gives the R/T version 370 horsepower, and the all-weather security of all-wheel drive is offered as an alternative to the solid-handling standard rear-drive. Base-price range: $25,995-$35,145.

The Best Luxury Car of 2011: Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Posh, prestigious, mechanically polished -- these midsize sedans and wagons nail every premium-car requisite. Solid resale values and top-grade materials justify top-drawer prices. A selection of six- and eight-cylinder engines, including a diesel, provides performance that’s always suitable -- and in the 518-horsepower AMG models, stupendous. Mercedes’ 4Matic AWD is the alternative to classic rear-drive. Base-price range: $50,275-$88,475.

The Best Sports car of 2011: Volkswagen GTI. There are faster sports cars, more powerful muscle cars, and more expensive sports cars. But nothing beats the GTI at bringing the thrill of driving to the masses. Quick acceleration from its efficient turbo four-cylinder demonstrates the wisdom of a rational power-to-weight ratio. A Euro-tuned suspension and tight steering embrace any road. And sensible two- and four-door hatchback body styles excel as daily transportation. Base-price range: $24,460-$31,475.