List: Top Ten Humbly Fun Cars Of 2011

By John Beltz Snyder

December 29, 2011


Mazda2: Since the MX-5, being a convertible, is too obviously a fun car for this list, we picked the next best thing. The Mazda2 may not be propelled by the rear wheels, and the top may not drop, but this car handles like a champ. We love driving it in all types of conditions, but especially on a nice, dry road with lots of tight corners.


Fiat 500 Sport: Yes, it kind of looks like a toy. But what are toys if not fun? We love the authentically Italian voice of this engine. The Sport variant adds some special suspension, steering, and exhaust tuning to amp up the entertainment factor.


Chevrolet Cruze Eco: Affordable, efficient, practical. The Cruze nameplate doesn’t particularly evoke thoughts of spirited driving, particularly the model meant to eke the most out of every gallon of fuel. Still, it feels pleasantly solid and refined. The six-speed manual transmission is a willing companion for the driver who wants to feel involved in the driving process.


Honda Odyssey: This minivan won’t bore you to death every time you need to take the kids to soccer practice. The 248-horsepower V-6 motor provides an interesting soundtrack, and accelerates nicely when goaded. Plus, you can bring seven of your friends along for the ride.


Volkswagen Jetta TDI: The torque of this diesel engine helps boost the Jetta TDI off the line. The car is also really good at slalom maneuvers, transitioning quickly from side to side, always keeping its balance. Not bad for something that gets 42 miles per gallon on the highway.


Suzuki Kizashi: It may look like your plain, old family sedan, but this car can cook. Whether with front- or all-wheel drive, manual transmission or CVT, the Kizashi has the chops to dice it up on our favorite roads with gusto.


Chevrolet Sonic: The base model doesn’t just have a manual transmission, it has manual roll-up windows and manually adjusted side-view mirrors, too. But don’t be fooled by its economy-class veneer. The Sonic is a well-balanced, nicely solid small car that makes day-to-day driving surprisingly fun.


Honda CR-Z: Ignore anyone who says hybrids aren’t fun. This one harkens back to the old favorite, the Honda CR-X. Its electric power provides that needed torque off the line, and the manual transmission making swapping the gears an exercise in fun. This little guy can rotate, too.


Subaru Impreza: This engine just sounds delicious, and it doesn’t hold back its song, either. The standard all-wheel drive makes it nicely sticky, and adds a bit of confidence in the rain, snow, and dirt. Even the CVT isn’t horrible, with a responsive set of paddle shifters at the wheel.


Kia Soul: This funky box may look about as sporty as a brick, but it is nicely adept at hopping around in city traffic. Get it with the 2.0-liter motor and six-speed manual transmission, and you’ll be catching surprised glances as you pass up other commuters with a smile on your face.

Mazda2: Fiat Chevrolet Honda Volkswagen Suzuki Chevrolet Honda Subaru Kia
As automakers work toward producing more efficient cars, and the down economy has buyers shopping for smaller, more economical vehicles, we have been seeing a lot more practical cars that forgo the big horsepower for better mileage and a lower price tag. Speed freaks couldn’t be blamed for seeing this as dulling down the automotive landscape. A keen observer, however, will find that among the more pragmatic vehicles on the market, some still retain the qualities that make them fun to drive.
As we drive hundreds of vehicles throughout the year, we indefinitely come across a handful of unassuming cars the surprise us with their ability to keep us entertained. And as we count down to our best cars of the year in Winding Road Issue 78, we feel it appropriate to mention some of these diamonds in the rough.
You won’t find expensive, flashy, rubber-burning monsters on this list. What you will find are everyday cars that, while they my fly under most people’s radar, can put a smile on the face of the eager driver.