Work trucks aside, the heart of the U.S. new-car market is for sedans, hatchbacks and wagons under $50,000.
TheCarConnection's Best Car to Buy 2011 award will pick one vehicle from among the 40 new or significantly revised cars, crossovers, SUVs and minivans to hit the road this model year. And for our inaugural award, the list of new sedans, wagons and hatchbacks arriving in showrooms and eligible to win is a long one.
We've included nearly every new car fitting our parameters, and in this niche, 19 cars qualify to compete for our Best Car to Buy award. They all slot in with a base price of less than $50,000; each has been made available for a full road test by our editors; and each will be on sale by January 31, 2011, if not already on dealer lots.
Some of the contestants are still under wraps: come Monday, our first drives of the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger will be live on TheCarConnection. We'll be driving the Acura TSX Wagon soon, and are including it here based on its slight mechanical differences from the well-reviewed TSX sedan. Also on the list: the 2011 Hyundai Elantra, which should make the trip from its Alabama factory to the brand's showrooms just in time to make our deadline.
Can any of these vehicles top the impressive new green machines, minivans, or SUVs and crossovers also due in 2011? You'll find out soon, as High Gear Media will be handing out our Best Car to Buy 2011 awards next week, during the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show media days.
You can follow the build-up here at TheCarConnection, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter @CarConnection #BestCarToBuy. In the meantime, the nominees from the world of sedans, hatchbacks and wagons, with our judges' notes:
2011 Acura TSX Sport Wagon: Acura's appealing compact sedan grows a backpack without gaining too much weight.
2011 BMW 5-Series: The follow-up to five generations of fame, the new 5er sedan outweighs bigger size with ripe turbo power.
2011 Buick Regal: Once a Saturn, always an Opel, the Buick Regal brings continental manners to the mid-size sedan class.
2011 Chevrolet Cruze: Chevy's new compact sedan erases the Cobalt from our internal hard drives, though the hatchback would be a welcome addition.
2011 Chrysler 200: Chrysler says its new compact four-door is good enough to ditch the old Sebring nameplate.
2011 Dodge Avenger: Like the 200, the Avenger gets a new cabin and a new powertrain, but the sheetmetal revamp is less extensive.
2011 Dodge Charger: The HEMI is back, and it's hooked up with a new look that's even more in-your-face American than the average UCF match.
2011 Ford Fiesta: Piping hot off the European design desk, the Fiesta has major subcompact street cred off the bat--and SYNC to draw in all the mobile-media addicts.
2011 Hyundai Elantra: Borrowing the look from the bigger Sonata, the new Elantra swaps staid for savvy and aims squarely for Honda's Civic.
2011 Hyundai Sonata: Whether it's four-cylinder, turbo four or hybrid four, the new Sonata delivers astounding value in a handsome package.
2011 Infiniti G25: A 2.5-liter G sedan? Yes, and it's keeping the Infiniti's fame for sharp handling intact.
2011 Infiniti M37: The top-line Infiniti sedan qualifies in V-6 form only here, wrapped in gorgeous sheetmetal outside and finished to exacting standards inside.
2011 Kia Optima: A counterpart and a counterpoint to the Sonata, the Optima's catchy styling riffs give it a personality of its own--one its predecessor never knew.
2011 Mazda2: An out-of-country cousin to the Fiesta, the Mazda2 has pert good looks and steering to its credit.
2011 Nissan Juke: A wild offshoot of economy cars and crossovers, the funked-up Juke sports Nissan's most advanced engine and available all-wheel drive.
2011 Scion tC: A revamped tC draws itself with straighter lines and more power in a tuner-friendly format.
2011 Toyota Avalon: Big, quiet and unassuming, the Avalon does everything Toyota typically does well.
2011 Volkswagen Jetta: Supersized for American tastes, the U.S. version of the new Jetta has a cavernous back seat, and d'Silva-designed lines.
2011 Volvo S60: A sculpted bullet from Sweden lifts interior design to a Scandinavian plane.