8 Hot New Cars for Couples

(Couples car slideshow updated with additional commentary from Edmunds.com analyst the addition of the Volkswagen GTI.)
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Couples who are looking at cars for two may be excited by a variety of offerings on the market -- and new models that will be arriving soon.

As far as those already on the market, Jim Travers of Consumer Reports recommends small hatchbacks. "Models like the Mazda 3 hatchback and Mini Cooper ... provide a good combination of sporty driving, style, fuel economy and practicality. They all have folding back seats to swallow up more cargo or gear, yet can carry four passengers when it's time to bring friends along."

Whether you and your significant other are looking for a car for two because you just happen to like being confined in small spaces -- or are seeking good price, fuel economy or even fashionable eye candy that you can brag to your friends about -- Consumer Reports says the following existing and soon-to-arrive offerings are ...

2011 Ford (F) Fiesta

Base Price: $13,320 - $17,120

Horsepower: 120 hp

Availability: Available since late Spring

Product Description: "Number one, it's a brand new car, at least in the U.S.," says Travers. "It's a nameplate that's been out in Europe and overseas for a while. But in addition to being a small car that gets good gas mileage and good practical package, the Fiesta ups the ante a bit in terms of a finished inside. It gets away from the small car as a very utilitarian, cheap transport. Its interior has higher quality switch gear and upholstery; and even some features like leather seats are available that have not always been what you expect from a subcompact car.

"The Fiesta just came out a few months ago and we're just wrapping up testing of the first one that we have tested -- we actually tested two of them. You can either get a four-door hatchback or a four-door sedan version of it. The four-door hatchback model is about the size of a Honda ( HMC) Fit. It's a small car. Hatchbacks are kind of nice especially for couples. You get a little bit more versatility. You can fold down the back seat if you're not carrying passengers back there and that gives you more room for whatever it is that you're lugging around if you're going antiquing or whatever urban couples do."

"It's relatively quiet for a small car. It's got agile handling. It's not terribly noisy."

Description From Edmunds.com Analyst Karl Brauer: "Excellent combination of fun driving dynamics, high-tech features (including Ford's Sync) and useful interior space in a fuel-efficient package.

2011Volkswagen ( VLKAY) GTI

Base Price: $23,664 - $24,269

Horsepower: 200 hp

Availability: Available on market

Product Description: "The GTI is one of the best performing and most practical choices among affordable sporty cars," Consumer Reports writes. "It is agile and quick, with a gutsy turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that sounds good, all of which make it fun to drive but not at the expense of comfort. Handling is taut and precise with good steering. The ride is fairly civilized and relatively quiet, and the hatchback adds versatility.

2011 Honda CR-Z

Base Price: $19,200 - $23,210

Horsepower: 122 hp

Availability: Available since summer

Product Description: "That came out just a couple of months ago," Travers says. "It's a two-door, two seat hatchback, but it's a hybrid -- it's a gas-electric hybrid and it's meant to be a sportier hybrid. They're kind of focusing on that end of the spectrum rather than strictly gas mileage."

"We just completed testing of it. We haven't yet published our results. But the CR-Z, in our initial impression, is a nice enough little car -- although the gas mileage improvement is not so great because with the hybrid you expect to get 38 or maybe 40 mpg (miles per gallon) on the highway and we didn't get that in testing with this car. And for the hybrid premium you end up paying a price increase of a few thousand dollars over some other cars that do have seating for four people and might be a more practical package in the long run."

"It's a fun enough little car, but it's kind of fashion over form. If you want to have a hybrid so that you've got the bragging rights ... but at the same time you give up some of the practicality of a four door car or even a hatchback with a little more room. You kind of give up some of that, but it's certainly stylish and you don't get the really good gas mileage that you'd expect from a hybrid."

2011 Toyota (TM) Scion IQ

Base Price: Details have not been released

Horsepower: 90-plus hp

Availability: Available in early 2011

Product Description: "The Scion IQ is a two-door, two-seat sort of hip urban type of vehicle. Scion is owned by Toyota. Kind of the way Lexus is their high-end line ... Scion is sort of a more youth marketed line. It certainly would be a couply kind of car because the upcoming IQ isn't really practical for more. They say it can carry three people, but even that's going to be tight. It's got kind of a small back seat, but there really isn't a lot of room back there. Like of the driver seat is adjusted to the point where there's room for the driver, there's not a whole lot of room behind it."

"It definitely looks cute. It's sold as the Toyota IQ in other markets, but basically it's aimed at young city dwellers who are going to be wanting a car that's small so that it's easy to park, gets good fuel economy and of course at affordable pricing. Toyota Scion actually calls it a 3-in-1, saying it fits three adults and a child, but really you're talking about small, small people in the backseat. It's really more a car for one or two people cause it's only 120 inches long, which makes it shorter than just about everything the size of a smart car."

Fiat 500

Base Price: details have not been released

Horsepower: 1.4-liter engine, details have not been released

Availability: Available in December

Product Description: Travers says: "The Fiat 500 is kind of a cool little car too. We've got high expectations for that. I've driven one of those. It's not on the market yet. The Fiat 500 has had all kinds of buzz, which is often compared with the mini Cooper and it's kind of a more stylish little two-door hatch car and that's coming out in December."

"The first offering from Chrysler's new parent company Fiat, the 500 is sized between a Smart ForTwo and a Mini," Consumer Report says. "The first engine will likely be a 1.4-liter, 100-hp four-cylinder matched with a six-speed manual transmission. A 170-hp turbocharged Abarth model is expected to follow, along with a semi-convertible with a roll-up canvas top. An electric version comes in 2012. Prices have not been announced; the 500 starts at about $14,000 in Europe."

What's notable, Consumer Reports says, is "Multiair technology that uses a variable valve system that the carmaker says can improve power by 10% while reducing exhaust emissions by 10%.... We had a chance to drive a Euro-spec two-door hatchback and found that it was fun to drive, but the ride was rather harsh. The interior is small, but has a chic look to it."

2011 Mazda 2

Base Price: $13,980 - $15,435

Horsepower: 100 hp

Availability: Available since late Spring

Product Description: "The Mazda2 is a small hatchback about the size of the Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris," Consumer Reports writes. "It has been sold overseas since 2008 as a three- and five-door hatchback. Here, it will use the largest available engine: a 100-hp, 1.5-liter four cylinder with double-overhead camshafts and a variable-geometry intake manifold. A five-speed manual transmission will be standard, and a four-speed automatic will be available.

"The Mazda 2 will join a growing class of subcompact hatchbacks in the U.S., including the upcoming Chevrolet Spark and Ford Fiesta. The Mazda2 won the European Car of the Year award when it was introduced there in 2008, and it promises to be competitive in the category. While slightly related to the Ford Fiesta, with its less powerful engines and simpler transmission, the Mazda 2 aims to be more affordable."**

Description From Edmunds.com Analyst Karl Brauer: "Built on the same platform as the Ford Fiesta, the Mazda version offers many of the same traits (fun-to-drive, fuel-efficient, creative styling) but interior space is bit tighter.**

2011 Mazda 3 hatchback

Base Price: $15,450 - $23,695

Horsepower: 148, 167 or 263 hp

Availability: Available on market

Product Description: "The pleasant, practical, fun-to-drive Mazda3 uses a 2.0-liter engine that is relatively quick and sparing with fuel," Consumer Reports says. "The new 2.5-liter is punchy. Handling is precise and responsive, and the ride is firm and comfortable, though road noise is still pronounced.

"Braking was disappointing on the Touring sedan we tested. Interior quality is very good. The rear-seat room is rather tight. The hatchback increases versatility. The sporty turbocharged Mazdaspeed3 is very quick but has a harsh ride and is noisy. ESC is standard except for the lowest two sedan trim lines. Curtain air bags are standard. Crash-test results are impressive."

2011 Mini Cooper

Base Price: $19,400 - $34,300

Horsepower: 118, 172 or 208 hp

Availability: Available on market

Product Description: "Agile handling and quick, precise steering makes the Mini lots of fun to drive, but the ride is choppy," notes Consumer Reports. "The base four-cylinder engine has just adequate response but the turbocharged Cooper S has punchy acceleration.

"The cabin is surprisingly roomy, with plenty of front legroom. We found the audio and climate system controls confusing to use, and the rear seat is very tight. Convertibles have an easy-to-use drop top with a novel partial-open sunroof position. Fuel economy is excellent, ranging from 29 to 33 mpg depending on the version."

Consumer Reports' Jim Traver said the only major change from the 2010 model to the 2011 model is the latter has more power.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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