Most Anticipated Vehicles Of 2011

Fall is the traditional start of the new model year for the auto industry. Many of the new models set to hit showrooms in the coming months reflect America's changing priorities after a spike in gas prices in 2008 and tough new emissions rules enacted by the U.S. government.

Chevrolet Cruze
Already a hit in Asia and Europe, the Cruze replaces the disappointing Chevy Cobalt, offering a more refined interior and better handling. Two four-cylinder engines are available, including a 1.4-liter turbocharged version that will get 40 mpg with a manual transmission. It's arriving in showrooms now.

Chevrolet Spark
Due in the U.S. later next year, the Spark is a sporty entry-level vehicle designed by GM Daewoo Auto & Technology, General Motors' Korean subsidiary. It's part of a wave of new small cars from GM.

 Ford Focus
The next-generation Focus was designed in Europe and is expected to be a huge step up from the American version that's been sold here over the past decade. Due in early 2011, it'll feature a direct-injection four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission for improved fuel economy. Later in 2011 a battery-powered Focus will go on sale. 
Ford Explorer
The iconic sport-utility has been redesigned on a car-like, unibody platform instead of a truck-based chassis. And it's been outfitted with new engines, including a turbocharged, direct-injection Ecoboost engine that promises a 30% improvement in fuel economy. It will go on sale early next year.

Fiat 500
This cute, bulb-shaped compact from Fiat is one of the bonuses of the Italian carmaker's role in rescuing Chrysler. Fiat plans to return to the U.S. market after a 30-year absence, and will sell the 500 through separate Fiat showrooms at some 165 Chrysler dealerships, starting early next year.

Mini Countryman
Minis are getting bigger. This is the largest Mini yet, and meant to look like an SUV. It'll be more practical, with more space and available all-wheel-drive, but it's still a Mini. Look for it early next year.

Volkswagen Jetta
Arriving this month in VW dealerships, the redesigned Jetta is part of the first wave of a renewed assault by Volkswagen in the U.S. market. It comes with a lower base price, starting around $16,000.

Scion IQ
This two-door micro-car from Toyota's youth brand is aimed at urban dwellers who spend most of their time zipping around the city or looking for a place to park. It's about the size of a Smart ForTwo, and isn't quite as weird-looking. The design is still pretty unusual, though, and might turn off some people when it goes on sale in early 2011.

Nissan Juke
This crossover is intended as an SUV version of the compact and fuel-efficient Versa hatchback. It, too, is aimed at young buyers, and comes with optional luxury features like leather seats, push-button start, navigation system and a power sunroof.

Kia Optima
Like its larger Korean sister, Hyundai, Kia's vehicles are becoming a lot more attractive and reliable. This redesigned mid-sized sedan shares a platform with the hot-selling Hyundai Sonata, which is getting rave reviews from automotive critics. It goes on sale this fall, with a hybrid model arriving early next year.

This baby SUV from BMW, due in early 2011, is based on the 1-series compact. It slots in below the redesigned X3, which has just started production at BMW's recently expanded factory in South Carolina. The X1 would be a strong entry in the small luxury crossover market.

Hyundai Equus
This $60,000 luxury sedan is the biggest stretch yet for the Korean carmaker, which has steadily improved its reputation over the past decade. While it doesn't fit the trend of small fuel-efficient cars, it's still an interesting car to watch. The Equus will try to go up against the Mercedes S-class and the Lexus LS. Given Hyundai's success to date, the Equus shouldn't be underestimated.

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