What does it take besides being small to qualify for Autobytel's 2012 Compact Car of the Year? Looking at the top three finalists, it takes innovation and attention to details, surpassing the long-gone days of the cheap, economically-driven compact cars; bringing refinement, design and technology to the more discerning tastes of today's economically conscious driver.
A few years ago, when fuel prices were spiking at all-time highs, used compact cars were being sought and selling at three and four times their normal market prices but none of those cars would have qualified by any means as a Compact Car of the Year since most were bare bones basic, puttered about with an under-powered 4-cylinders and offered very little in comfort or technology. With the average age of the compact buyer reaching into the 40-somethings, expectations have risen.
All three finalists for the Autobytel 2012 Compact Car of the Year were chosen for their fuel-sipping loyalty to the compact class but contribute to making this one of the hottest categories in the new car market with innovations in design, technology and performance driven fuel efficiencies. By raising the bar to meet the new compact buyer's needs, they have created a change to the compact class that indicates there is no looking back to the econo-boxes of the past.
Autobytel is pleased to announce the following three compacts as the editorial staff's picks in the Autobytel 2012 Compact Car of the Year category.
A resounding favorite of the Autobytel editorial staff was the clear winner of the Autobytel 2012 Compact Car of the Year. Hyundai has truly stepped up to the competition across almost every segment of the automotive industry and with the introduction of the 2012 Hyundai Veloster, the sport compact class will never be the same.
Starting at an affordable $17,300.00, the Compact Car of the Year surprises the segment with the introduction of a 3rd door, standard technology equipment that manages your music, cell communications and navigation plus the choice of a sporty 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. Options include a sky-revealing glass roof and premium sound system that makes the commute one complete with creature comforts expected of a 2012 Compact Car of the Year.
The design of the 2012 Hyundai Veloster is nothing less than show-stopping with the DNA of the Hyundai signature fluidic design showing its colors loud and clear. The 2012 Hyundai Veloster is proof that hot things can come in small packages.
The Mazda3 has never had a problem selling itself as a sporty entrant in the compact segment, but the addition of Mazda's Skyactiv technologies for 2012 help inject a bit of environmental awareness and makes it a finalist for the Autobytel 2012 Compact Car of the Year.
The highlight of the 2012 Mazda Mazda3 Skyactiv is its 40-mpg highway fuel economy rating which is the result of an all-new engine and two new transmissions. Despite all the attention on efficiency, the Mazda3 is now even more fun to drive with a more chassis that is stiffer and stronger but also lighter. Available as either a sedan or a five-door hatchback, the 2012 Mazda3 starts at just $15,800, while the Skyactiv models start at $18,450. Although the Hyundai Veloster was eventually named Compact Car of the Year, the 2012 Mazda3 was a close second with its mix of safety, fuel economy, price and, of course, Mazda's "zoom-zoom" spirit.
Probably the most pleasantly surprising refreshes to the compact car segment was the introduction of the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic. The Sonic deserved consideration for the Autobytel 2012 Compact Car of the Year because of the way that Chevrolet barreled back into a highly competitive category. Offering a pick of either the not-cheap looking 4-door sedan or a sporty 5-door hatchback, the trims range from the LS starting at base $14,995.00 to a tuner-ready LTZ hatchback at $17,995.00.
From details like 10 airbags to class-leading interior storage, it is clear that Chevrolet is out to do business in the compact car arena.
The editorial staff of Autobytel has chosen the previous three compact cars as the best of what we have seen for 2012, and while there are many others in this class that probably deserve some kudos as well, we'd love to hear which one of the previous three you would choose for yourself.
Autobytel 2012 Compact Car of the Year
Autobytel 2012 Convertible of the Year
Autobytel 2012 Sedan of the Year
Autobytel 2012 Luxury Car of the Year
Autobytel 2012 SUV of the Year
Autobytel 2012 Luxury SUV of the Year
Autobytel 2012 Crossover of the Year
Autobytel 2012 Sports Car of the Year
Autobytel 2012 Alternative Fuel Car of the Year
Autobytel 2012 Pickup Truck of the Year
Autobytel 2012 Van/Minivan of the Year
Autobytel 2012 Wagon of the Year