The small-car baton has been passed along in recent years, it seems.
Some of the traditional high-value small car nameplates like the Corolla and Civic have found some unexpectedly tough competition from newcomers like the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte, while models like the Ford Focus and Mazda 3 have become even more focused (pardon us) and upscale in their cabins and driving manners.
The Hyundai Elantra occupies some of the sensible, high-value territory that the Toyota Corolla used to occupy, while Chevrolet and Dodge now have real, top-notch rivals--the Cruze and Dart--to take on the Focus.
The Chevrolet Cruze—from Ford’s crosstown rivals at Chevy—is to some the top rival to the Focus.
Compared to the Focus, the Cruze feels a little roomier yet with a rather soft ride and bland styling inside and out, it’s not nearly as exciting.
For those who want a sporty driving feel, the Mazda3 is still one of the best bets; trouble is, the 3 just has too much harshness and road noise inside.
The Dodge Dart is only offered as a sedan, and it feels like a somewhat larger car in some respects, but it's a far more stylish package than some other recent Dodge small-car efforts like the Caliber.
And there's plenty of evidence that Honda and Toyota are on the comeback trail.
Honda put a lot of effort into refreshing its Civic lineup last year, with an upgraded interior and new look just a year after a major redesign; while the 2014 Toyota Corolla is an all-new model with, perhaps most importantly, upgraded infotainment and connectivity hardware inside.
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