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2011 Chevrolet Cruze (GM/General Motors)
2011 Chevrolet Cruze (GM/General Motors)

Best of the Lot

He's thinking small for big insurance savings Add to ...

Hello! I am deaf and I would like you to help me out, as I am looking for a new compact car. I am looking at the Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, Nissan Sentra and Chevy Cruze, as they are available in Yorkton, Sask. I am not sure which one is best suited for me, but I just looked at the Green Rebate Program on the Saskatchewan Government Insurance website and I see I can get a 20 per cent discount on my first year's insurance on Hyundai Elantra and Chevy Cruze, but not on Ford Focus, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla.

- Dwayne in Esterhazy, Sask.

Cato: Notice something here, Vaughan? Dwayne is shopping two compacts from Detroit auto makers and a third from South Korea - along with a pair of cars from Japanese auto makers.

There was a time when Canadians, and Americans for that matter, more often than not turned exclusively to Corollas, Honda Civics, Mazda3s and Sentras without even giving Detroit's auto makers a sniff. Now the Cruze, the Focus and the Elantra are all top-10 sellers in Canada.

Vaughan: Very true.

Cato: No, no. This is important; don't just gloss over my point.

The Cruze and the Focus are products of the crisis sparked by the financial meltdown of 2008 and wild fuel prices the same year. Both forced these once fat and lazy car companies from Detroit to reinvent themselves. Now from Detroit we're seeing something unheard of: a new wave of small cars such as the Focus and Cruze.

Vaughan: Yes, but pay attention to Dwayne's letter. I'm not sure what his comment on being deaf has to do with our recommendation but it's clearly important.

Deaf people drive cars all the time. There's not much about driving that requires you to be able to hear. Emergency vehicles have sirens and lights. In fact, I've been told that deaf people are often better drivers than hearing people because they have enhanced vision and better concentration.

Cato: There is a sensitivity in your observations that surprises me. Didn't know you had a soft side. Where's it been all these decades?

Now if I am a driver with a hearing challenge, what I'm looking for is a car with excellent visibility, clear and big instruments and gauges and a totally minimalist sound system. Obviously, Dwayne does not need the optional voice-activated, talking-car system offered by Ford in the Focus, too. He can save money there.

Vaughan: Another question: Why does Saskatchewan Insurance give the green rebate only to three of the five cars; they're all about equally green as far as I'm concerned?

A 20 per cent premium cut for one year wouldn't steer me to any particular car, but the fact that the Cruze Eco and Elantra both qualify doesn't hurt. They are both favourites of mine.

The Cruze Eco has a 138-horsepower, turbocharged, 1.4-litre, four-cylinder engine with six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The Elantra has a new 1.8-litre, 148-horsepower, four-cylinder engine with six-speed trannies - manual and auto. The Cruze is more comfortable on the long, flat Saskatchewan highways, but it's more expensive, too.

2011 Hyundai Elantra

Cato: Forget about the Cruze Eco. At $19,495, it is nearly $5,000 more than the base Cruze LS at $14,995, and the fuel economy difference between the two is negligible.

Vaughan: Which leads us to the Ford Focus. It also has a brand-new engine - a dual-overhead cam, four-cylinder with a huge 160 horsepower. It has direct fuel injection and no turbo. Of the group it's the sportiest car. Great handling and aggressive looks too.

Cato: The Focus is a game-changer. More powerful, better-looking, more entertaining to drive and with a better cabin than the Cruze - and the sedan with a starting price of $15,999 is affordable. Fuel economy is virtually identical to the Cruze LS, too.

Vaughan: My choice for those long flat Saskatchewan highways that go straight to the horizon would be the Cruze. If you do go for it, Dwayne, you'll have the most comfortable car on the list for long-distance drives.

But if you get the Eco model you'll get low-rolling-resistance tires on it, which will be completely useless in the winter - but you know to put on the snows anyway.

Cato: I told you; forget the Cruze Eco.

But Dwayne should have a long look at the Elantra - Canada's No. 3 best-selling car right now: 148 hp, and better fuel economy than either the Focus or the Cruze, Eco or otherwise. And better than the all-new 2012 Honda Civic, too. A pretty car and pretty well done, starting at $15,849.

Vaughan: Cruise Saskatchewan in the Cruze, Dwayne.

Cato: The Elantra's worth a long look, but I'm focused on the Focus.

2012 Ford Focus



HOW THEY COMPARE



2011 Chevrolet Cruze LS

2012 Ford Focus S sedan

2011 Hyundai Elantra L

Wheelbase (mm)

2,685

2,649

2,700

Length (mm)

4,597

4,534

4,530

Width (mm)

1,796

1,824

1,775

Height (mm)

1,476

1,466

1,435

Engine

1.8-litre four-cylinder

2.0-litre four-cylinder

1.8-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

136/123 lb-ft

160/146 lb-ft

148/131 lb-ft

Drive system

front-wheel drive

front-wheel drive

front-wheel drive

Transmission

six-speed manual

five-speed manual

six-speed manual

Curb weight (kg)

1,386

1,296

1,207

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

7.8 city/5.8 highway

7.8 city/5.5 highway

6.8 city/4.9 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$14,995

$15,999

$15,849

Source: car manufacturers



Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

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