The United States once held the auto industry in the palm of its hand, setting the world standard with brand loyalty that stretched across family generations.
Today, the global market has scattered its allegiance over 30 world automakers available for public inspection at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show.
A hard look at show exhibits reveal that one-quarter of the vehicles on display at this year’s auto show come from the compact and subcompact car market. In fact, the compact car segment alone commands one-third of the cars sold in the U.S. with more than 2 million sales annually.
Collectively, foreign automakers have dominated U.S. small car sales since the turn of the new century.
A key ingredient to the small car turn-around is styling. With vehicle styling the draw, fuel economy becomes the magic elixir that holds consumer interest as gas prices ride a roller-coaster cycle at the pump.
The industry benchmark of 40 miles per gallon is now real-world reality.
By example, Ford Motor Co. offers eight vehicles that deliver 40 miles per gallon or better, doubling their top mileage vehicles from two years ago.
The subcompact 2013 Ford Fiesta rings the fuel economy bell at 40 mpg from a gas stingy four-cylinder engine for a bargain price of $13,200.
Unusual for its class are such options as heated front seats, leather upholstery, remote engine start and voice-activated phone and audio control.
Chrysler Group LLC spices up the small car segment with the Italian-built 2013 Fiat 500 two-door hatchback or convertible that musters 40 mpg from a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine. The subcompact Fiat 500 carries four passengers and a starting price of $16,000.
Japanese automaker Toyota has long been the small car king with the Toyota Corolla that remains the most sold car in the compact segment. Since 1966, Corolla has been the best-selling nameplate with more than 32 million units sold worldwide.
The 2013 Toyota Corolla ranges in price from $15,600 to $18,300 and routinely garners 34 mpg.
Honda weighs into the subcompact class with the 2013 Honda Fit for best-in-class room, cargo space and interior storage.
The base model with automatic transmission comes nicely equipped for $15,325 including freight. Mileage is rated at 40 mpg.
Two of the biggest players in the compact car arena are Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia that 10 years ago were small fish in a big pond.
The subcompact 2013 Hyundai Accent costs $14,545 and musters 37 mpg from its 138 hp, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine.
Hyundai brand also features “America’s Best Warranty” that doles out 10-years/100,000 mile powertrain warranty coverage with a five-year unlimited mile roadside assistance.
Hyundai’s newest small car model comes in a sporty three door coupe named Veloster.
The 2013 Hyundai Veloster’s edgy styling is targeted at the youth market. So is the price at $17,450 with fuel economy that reaches 37 mpg.
Hyundai’s corporate cousin Kia finds the perfect blend of low price and high fuel economy with the 2013 Kia Elantra. Priced at $16,815, this compact sedan has big room inside for four adults and gets 38-mpg to boot.
If a smaller price and smaller need is necessary, Chicago Auto Show shoppers should consider the subcompact Kia Rio priced at $13,100.
The 2013 Kia Rio comes powered by a 1.6-liter engine that achieves 36 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg around town.
“Kia Rio is a great choice for students and commuters who need basic transportation to get from Point A to Point B.” says Rod Gomez, general sales manager for Thomas Kia in Highland. “Rio is an affordable ride that’s great on gas and is very driver friendly.”
Diesel purists are accustomed to paying more at the pump for fuel. On average, 30 cents more per gallon nationwide. But the benefactor of diesel is high mileage and long range distance on a tank of fuel.
Volkswagen takes on the compact car segment with the 2012 VW Jetta SportWagen powered by a five-cylinder diesel engine.
With a prudent throttle, the diesel-powered Jetta SportWagen can travel nearly 600 miles between fill-ups while securing 42 mpg. Base price for the 2013 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen is $20,395.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class highlights the Premium Compact Car segment at the $35,000 entry price. The 2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 with a new four-cylinder turbo engine pegs the mileage meter at 31 mpg.
The Mercedes-Benz C250 marks the blend of luxury, sporty driving dynamics and above average fuel economy for deep-pocket compact car buyers shopping this year’s Chicago Auto Show tomorrow through Feb. 18.