Top 10 Cars Women Want

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- What do women want?

First of all, let's not get overly ambitious about resolving one of the many puzzles in life that we cannot figure out, a list that also includes questions like why the money airlines pay for long tarmac delays goes to the government and not to the passengers and why Mitt Romney, coming from an automobile family, would disavow a course of action that probably saved the U.S. auto industry.

Rather, let's just define the question to focus on women's preferences among U.S. new vehicle purchases during the first eight months of 2011. That way, we can provide a clear, concise answer. Women want small crossover utility vehicles that are, according to Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell, "very practical, reasonably priced, round and curvy, from import brands and (providing) overall ease of handling."

In other words, Caldwell said, women want "Cute Utes" or cute utility vehicles.

These vehicles "are a lot more curvaceous than the Ford ( F) Escape," she said. Ease of handling means "you're not worried about where to park it." And pricing, in most cases, is at or below the high $20,000 range that is the average for new U.S. cars.

Imports dominate this list. In particular, Nissan ( NSANY) has four of the top 10 vehicles, which is partially a tribute to the availability of its inventory while rivals Honda ( HMC) and Toyota ( TM) faced shortages.

As for the Detroit Three, only Chrysler's Jeep Compass made the list. But Edmunds.com has noted that of the top four brands that made market-share gains among women during the past year, three were Detroit-based and two were from GM ( GM).

No. 1 was Porsche, with a 21% gain in the percentage of female buyers, to 23% from 19%. Second was Buick, with a 9% gain, to 38% from 35%. Third was Dodge, with a 7.4% gain to 29% from 27%. Fourth was Chevrolet, with a 6.5% gain to 33% from 31%. Caldwell said cars like the Cruze are helping GM among women.

Here are the top 10 vehicles women currently want, based on U.S. new vehicle registrations in women's names during the first eight months, as compiled by Edmunds.

Nissan Sentra

Of the 30,386 Sentras purchased in the U.S. during the first eight months, 52% were bought by women.

The Sentra sells starts at $16,060 and gets 27 mpg in the city and 34 on the highway.

The car "is inexpensive and has been around for a long time," Caldwell said. "Also, you could get them this year because Nissan had inventory. A lot of buyers in the market for a Civic or a Corolla couldn't get one."

Nissan Juke

Of the 11,192 Jukes purchased during the first eight months, 52% had women buyers.

The Juke starts at $19,770 and gets 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.

"The Juke is a small SUV that looks like a frog," Caldwell said. "It's small and price competitive and a little quirky, not as mainstream as a lot of the cars we see."

Lexus IS

Of the 7,826 Lexus IS units purchased in the first eight months, 52% were registered to women.

The Lexus IS starts at $33,595 and gets 19/27 mpg.

"This is the entry-level luxury vehicle for Lexus," Caldwell said. "It's a bit sporty, and doesn't skimp on performance, but it has the practicality of four doors." Lexus is the only luxury brand with a vehicle in the top 10.

Nissan Versa

Of the 20,030 Versas registered in the first eight months, 53% were registered to women.

The Versa starts at $10,990 and gets 30/38 mpg.

"The Versa is one of the most inexpensive cars you can buy in the U.S.," Caldwell said. "It's definitely a good deal, and a lot of women are pragmatic buyers, which is why it is popular with women."

Jeep Compass

Of the 10,569 Compasses registered in the first eight months, 53% were registered to women.

The Jeep Compass starts at $19,295 and gets 23/29 mpg.

"The Compass is a mini Grand Cherokee," Caldwell said. "It's another small crossover, recently redesigned, and the new body style is very appealing."

Toyota RAV4

Of the 40,573 Rav4's purchased in the first eight months, 53% were registered to women.

The RAV4 starts at $22,475 and gets 22/28 mpg.

The RAV4, Toyota's entry in the small crossover market, "has been around for a long time," Caldwell said. "It got bigger a few years ago, which I thought could have had an impact on this market, but it didn't. It's still smaller than other midsize crossover SUVs."

Honda CR-V

Of the 67,452 Honda CR-Vs purchased in the first eight months, 53% were registered to women.

The Honda CR-V starts at $21,895 and gets 21/28 mpg.

The Honda CR-V, the most popular vehicle overall on the list of the 10 vehicles most favored by women, "has been around for a while," Caldwell said."It's traditionally very popular with women because the size is right: it's not too large, and people are used to it."

Hyundai Tucson

Of the 14,612 Tucsons purchased in the first eight months, 54% were registered to women, making Tucson the third most popular vehicle with women.

The Tucson starts at $19,045 and gets 23/31 mpg.

"Hyundai has done very well in the past year, and the Tucson is a great-looking vehicle with a good value story and the right size," Caldwell said. "The practicality of it definitely appeals to women."

Volkswagen Eos

Of the 2,624 Eoses purchased in the first eight months, 56% were registered to women, making the Eos the second most popular vehicle with women.

The Eos starts at $33,995 and gets 22/29 mpg.

"Eos has a retractable hardtop that women find appealing for a convertible, and the shape and design is more feminine that masculine," Caldwell said. "Among the VW vehicles, Jetta is also known as a female car, while Golf is more male."

Nissan Rogue

The Nissan Rogue is the vehicle most favored by women.

Of the 36,480 Rogues purchased in the first eight months, 57% were registered to women.

The Rogue starts at $21,530 and gets 23/28 mpg.

"The Rogue has a good value message: it's priced very competitively, which satisfies a lot of budgets," Caldwell said. "It's very practical and round and curvy. That resonates well with women."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C. P/>>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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