2012 Ford Focus vs. 2011 Chevy Cruze vs. 2011 Volkswagen Jetta: Affordability Index

One complaint we read over and over again about the latest crop of compact cars is they’re getting more expensive. Automakers are packing these cars with more standard equipment and tech-oriented options.

The newest entrants in the field, the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta, 2011 Chevrolet Cruze and 2012 Ford Focus, sure seem expensive, but when you compare them to the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic standard bearers, they’re not as expensive as you might think.

To compete on our affordability index, each applicant has to come with the following equipment: an automatic transmission; air conditioning; power locks, windows and side mirrors; keyless entry; cruise control; Bluetooth connectivity; a USB port; and electronic stability control.

These are the new “creature comforts” that buyers supposedly want, and they don’t come at starting prices. We’ve driven all these cars except the 2012 Focus; you can read reviews via links below. Shoppers research and build cars on sites like ours before they ever take a test drive. With our Affordability Index, we’re doing the price comparisons for you.

2012 Ford Focus
The 2012 Ford Focus is hotly anticipated but won’t go on sale until spring 2011. This may be the car that makes a shopper in this segment wait to make a purchase. Is it worth all that time?

The new Focus comes standard with 155-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine; integrated blind spot mirrors; air conditioning; electronic stability control; keyless entry; and power windows, locks and side mirrors. To get cruise control, a USB port and Bluetooth, we had to upgrade to the SE-trimmed Focus sedan and opt for the Convenience and MyFord and Sync packages. An automatic transmission is $1,095 option, as well. With these additions, the Focus cost $19,600, excluding a $725 destination charge.

2011 Volkswagen Jetta
The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta has been derided for a low-rent interior compared to the outgoing model, but it compares well to the Corolla and Civic. The base model comes with a 115-hp four-cylinder and a manual transmission, electronic stability control, keyless entry, and power locks and windows. Side mirrors are powered and heated (neither the Cruze nor the Focus have heated side mirrors at this price). For a fair comparison we had to move up to the midlevel SE trim, which comes with a 170-hp, 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine. This is the most powerful engine in this comparison. Cruise control is standard on the SE.

Volkswagen confirmed that it expects the SE trim to be its volume seller when equipped with an automatic transmission. You have to opt for the Convenience Package ($525) to get Bluetooth and an iPod connector on the Jetta.

Overall, the model comes in at $20,660, excluding the $770 destination fee. We found VW’s pricing a little ironic considering the new Jetta is supposed to be more of a value-oriented proposition compared with the outgoing 2010 Jetta, however to get the same features on the 2010 will cost $19,594 and you get the more beloved but cramped interior.

The 2011 Jetta includes a three-year/36,000-mile free maintenance program that covers four scheduled service checks and saves owners a few hundred dollars.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze
Chevrolet is pinning a lot of hopes on its new 2011 Cruze sedan and will offer a base car with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder and an Eco model, too. To get the configuration we’re after (LT with 1LT trim), the compact comes equipped with a more fuel-efficient turbo 1.4-liter four-cylinder and an automatic transmission standard. Both engines are rated at 138 hp, but the LT gets 24/36 mpg on the city/highway.

All Cruzes come standard with electronic stability control, 10 airbags (the most in this segment), air conditioning, power windows and locks, keyless entry, satellite radio and an OnStar communication system, which offers its own hands-free calling. To get Bluetooth connectivity, the USB port and cruise control, you have to get the Connectivity Plus Cruise Package. Overall, you’re looking at $19,420 for the Cruze, excluding the $720 destination fee. That’s cheaper than both the Jetta and Focus.

Now how do the new applicants stack up against the old guard: the Corolla and Civic?

2010 Toyota Corolla
The best-selling 2010 Toyota Corolla comes with a 132-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder and a four-speed automatic transmission standard, and the XLE trim comes with almost everything needed for this comparison. Toyota really makes you jump through hoops to get both cruise control, which is optional, and Bluetooth connectivity, which comes as a BLU Logic dealer accessory or a part of an expensive JBL stereo and sunroof option. There isn’t a universal USB port available, but Toyota does offer an iPod connector accessory. Overall, a 2010 Toyota Corolla XLE, with Bluetooth, a dealer-installed iPod-USB connector and the Extra Value Package (for cruise control), comes in at $19,138, excluding a $760 destination charge. This makes the Corolla the value king amongst its new competition.

2011 Honda Civic
The other best-selling compact, the 2011 Honda Civic, handicaps itself in this contest due to its lack of electronic stability control on anything less than the EX-L trim. Civics can only get Bluetooth if they opt for a pricey navigation package; if you’re looking for this option it’s best to get a dealer to install it. Overall, the 2011 Civic EX-L sedan with satellite navigation comes in at $23,955, excluding a $750 destination charge. Admittedly, this is a fully loaded Civic with a sunroof and leather upholstery, but it does illustrate how both Honda and Toyota package their vehicles compared with Volkswagen, Ford and Chevrolet. A 2012 Honda Civic will be rolled out during this year’s auto-show season and will go on sale next year. Stability control will likely be standard because of new federal regulations.

When you look at the final prices, it’s amazing how closely priced all of these vehicles are (barring the Civic) once you get down to real-world trim levels and options.

The Cruze and Focus are competitively priced against the Corolla, while the Jetta’s 7.7% premium over the Corolla might dissuade some value shoppers.

Check out the final numbers below, and let us know in the comment section below who you think the winner is.

  • Toyota Corolla: $19,138 (2.9% more affordable than the mean) 
  • Chevrolet Cruze: $19,420 (1.4% more affordable than the mean) 
  • Ford Focus: $19,600 (0.5% more affordable than the mean) 
  • Mean price*: $19,704  
  • Volkswagen Jetta: $20,660 (4.8% less affordable than the mean) 
  • Honda Civic: $23,955 (21.6% less affordable than the mean) 

*Mean price excludes the Honda Civic, which is considered an outlier due to its intricate packaging format.







"Both engines are rated at 138 hp, but the LT gets 24/26 mpg on the city/highway."

I think you mean 24/36.

Thanks for the catch,fixed above.


So here's my question:
Considering price and fuel economy--would it really be that bad to step up to midsize and do something like the Sonata? With an automatic it's just over $20,000 with a 200 horsepower engine and 22/35mpg which is really comparable to some of these models.

Or is the Sonata missing some equipment I'm not thinking about?

Amuro Ray

Hi Colin,

When the prices are configured, the comment you made about these 3 vehicles are expensive is actually valid - relatively speaking of 'coz. For example, @ $19900+add'l fees (eg dest charge), you can get a base, barebone Altima. Sure it doesn't have many of those amenities, esp luxury ones, but as far as vehicle "class" goes, it does represent the next class up. And if you do count rebate on the "older" MY, you will get a similar equip Altima at around the same price of these new comers.

The other issue here is that there is another excellent entry for this class of vehicle: Nissan Sentra. It's comparable in engine displacement, vehicle size, etc. But a fully loaded Sentra (with GPS, leather, sunroof, etc.) max out at less than $22K (excl fees). I really hope that you can revise this article a bit due to the long history of the Sentra, and even the Hyundai/Kia counterparts, as a more accurate representation of this class size of vehicle. After all, you've listed 6 vehicles already - why not include 2 more, which represent a significant portion of the compact size class of vehicles?

We picked the three newcomers against the leaders in the class. We could add Elantra and Forte too, but then no one would get to the end of the story ;)

Moving up to a larger bare bones sedan doesn't address what consumers want in their vehicles and that's why these cars are now being packaged like this with more room and more features.


you can't really have outliers in a sample this small. thats just not good statistics. plus the options packages are an inconvenient part of buying a Honda; just disregarding that is way too biased.

add in the Elantra, Forte, Mazda3, Lancer, Sentra, and Impreza. then, if the Honda is still an 'outlier' we can consider it.

Again, the Civic is a best seller and is why it was included. When we move forward more new cars will have these options avail without the nav package like Honda. One of the only companies that does it, and is moving away from it.

Next time I think we will add just the pricing of the other models though even if they don't warrant the full breakdown to get the right mean price.

Good article, and I think it gives you a foundation for another, more detailed one. First, a comparison of ALL of the cars in the class, as previously mentioned by others in the comments. Additionally, factor in the "Fun/Modification" factor. Many people in the compact market customize, modify and tweak their cars. Which cars are going to be best supported for this? Which ones are be most likely to be weekend raced, be it Autocross or drag strip. The compact market has a lot of things about it that the mainstream automotive media is missing... The Honda Civic has been a mainstay in the "tuner" scene for 20 years, odd, for what most people considered an econobox, but it took off.

Personally, just as a gut call, I'd say that Chevrolet has a winner with their new turbocharged Cruze. Some quick ECM/Fuel map tuning, a boost controller and better wheels and tires and it's going to be the foundation of a fantastic autocross car.


This is an interesting article. Looking at weekends AD's, you can get a new Toyota Corolla LE for around $14,488 plus TTL. Civic LX automatic around $16,000 plus TTL, Sentra 2.0 automatic about $13,988 plus TTL. As for the Sonata and Altima. Altima 2.5S can be had for around $16,888 plus TTL. Sonata GLS Automatic for $18,500 plus TTL. Personally, I think for a couple grand more, you can get a midsize sedan, which is a better deal.


Just wanted to say that I think this is a worthwhile exercise. Last time I purchased a new vehicle, I had to create a spreadsheet to compare equal vehicles. This could have saved me a lot of time. I also like the chart below with estimated fuel economy stats. Only other thing I would include is crash test results.


When it comes to everything Corolla is a champ. But how to drive it if it floats?

Amuro Ray

Dave T,

I think you kinda nail it in your latest comment above. Have either a 2-3 sentences mentioning the other vehicles w/o going into details like the Civics or Corollas, plus a "Numbers" spreadsheet type just to illustrate the price of rel comparable vehicles (for Sentra, Forte, etc.). (I'm an Apple guy :) )

I think the "problem" here is that this is an article - an excellent one too - about pricing of vehicle for this class. The comparison, otoh, are on the C & C - yes, they are the best sellers/most recognized in this class, they are also the more expensive too (rel to those not mentioned). As a result, the dollar figures will be skewed toward a high point. In a way, Colin proved her point by using data that "supports" her point (and not including those - unintentionally of 'coz - that may disprove her hypothesis), instead of data that actually reflect the real world figure.

As far as cross shopping goes, yes, I know, and u r right ;) It's just that this article is 'bou expensive/price/value, and that's why I said that the new comers are relatively expensive as they are reaching the mid-size class, though within compact class itself, that may not be the case. In no way am I suggesting that cross shopping b/n the 2 classes are actually happening.


Having gone through this purchase exercise just last month my wife and I reached the conclusion that the Cruz is a good car but way overpriced. If it were not for my wife loving the Mazda3 we probably would have bought either the Civic or Focus. I would put the Cruz as fourth on our list as it was no different than driving my company car (Camry).

@Steve. I agree it's a helpful article but the MPG chart has the MPG for the VW TDI(diesel) not the 2.5 gasser which was compared.

@ many of the rest. Can we stop picking apart the article for what it is statedly not trying to do? It wasn't meant to compare every car in the class. It did not try to bring in every car in the world you could possibly get at that approximate price point. How about a 3 year old beemer that you can get for close to $22k street price? Why not compare that too. Jeesh! Give the author a break.

Also, this IS a mainstream auto site, not a "Tuner Daily". If you want that go to a specialty site. You say "many" people want to modify their cars. Well, what percent is that? 1? I personally don't want to read that stuff and I'm sure I'm in the vast majority.

@Dave Thomas..why do we have to continue to give prices as "XXXX plus $770 destination"? Is there some law that says you can't just say "total price or price including destination chg"? Does anyone have the choice to not pay the destination charge? Does any manufacturer not charge it? I realize why they do it as a marketing ploy but do we have play their game?

Just venting, all. Have a good one.


I've always liked the look of the Cruz especially in LTZ trim but now that I see it along side the Focus I think the Focus is a much richer looking car.

Thanks for the kind words.

We break out destination simply because there are so many variations on how automakers and the press present the price of a car. Some include it (publications) some don't (TV ads). Why not offer both so a customer sees the full picture?

Also not sure why the model capsule is showing the diesel mileage but it's something we're working on.

Amuro Ray

@ Lance,

As per the title and 1st sentence of this blog post, it paints a picture of "affordability of the compact class cars." Then it went on to state that kicking tires is going to perform the research for "us" in this affordability index. To me, that means comparing every car in this class -relevant ones of 'coz, based on price point, sales figures, etc.

I already stated my position. I think it's a valid, and several people proposed the same. Granted, the 3 series is a compact car, but it's not a volume seller. There are other choices, however, that are volume sellers (except for the Lancer and Impreza) which are worth comparing, just for the price and equipment alone.

If the article has a title like "affordability against the best sellers" or "comparison with the best in class," then it's a different story - one that would have coincide with exactly what ur stating.


Toyota Corolla LE is available with all of these features as well--this brings it down to a price of $17,698 plus $760 destination fee.

This is the first sentence "One complaint we read over and over again about the latest crop of compact cars is they’re getting more expensive." Followed by "Automakers are packing these cars with more standard equipment and tech-oriented options."
Latest being the key phrase, expensive being the next. That's all.
Like I said, next time we'll tackle the field for the index mean.

Amuro Ray


I hope that you didn't take it the wrong way. I really think that this is an excellent blog post. Judging from many of the responses, many think so too 'coz the "criticisms" here are really constructive ones. The fact that positive comments are seen here and there (not like that 'bou the Caravan and Avenger), and what we are essentially say, "we want MORE," means that this article has created a stir of ideas, and that's a great thing. Kudos to kickingtires.

Having said that, please proceed with ur suggestion in a future (or like I suggested, rework this a bit if not too difficult).

(Side note)
I was actually re-reading your comparo tests on Civics/Corolla/Sentra, and how cars.com praised the Sentra (but not so good review on the Corolla), which won the overall value "award," yet not being included in this posting which talks about affordability...


The author stated he was comparing the newest entries which have the perception of being high priced because of their included equipment against the two "standard bearers" or the two biggest sellers comparably equipped as most people will probably want them. If he said "I am going to compare the three new models to all other pertinent compact cars in the class" it would be different and I would agree wholeheartedly with you.

You state he should also compare the Sentra as after all he already compared 6. Actually he compared three new entries to the two big sellers which my caclulator says equals 5, not 6.

You bring up the Altima without the exact same equipment and mention that because of rebates it can fall into this category from a price point aspect. Obviously, you like Nissans but why stop there? Maybe he could have considered every car in the universe from any class that can be purchased in that general price arena.

My only point was that he did what he said he was going to do and made no claim that it was an all inclusive comparison article of the compact car class.

Amuro Ray

NO need to be hostile there, Lance.

I do apologize for the counting error...I looked at the BOLD and counted "MEAN" as 1 of the brands.

The Altima reference was actually due to my research on the Sentra. Not that I'm particular fond of it (Altima).

I suggested Sentra (at least) 'coz cars.com did a similar comparo b/n Civic/Sentra/Corolla as explained in my last post. Civic and Sentra went neck to neck, with Sentra won the overall "value," and Corolla kinda "don't know" what it's good for in the comparo. Yet, there is no comparing with the Sentra with this affordability post. Like I said, this is a great article like those great movies - at the end of it, people talks 'bou them and keep saying we want more (sequel or prequel).

Corolla LE can't be equipped with the JBL USB stereo.

All the comments have been constructive and I think you'll see the next one we do will have more figures to compare and more models.

We were really just amazed at how close in price all of them are to each other so if you really like one the price will likely not sway you to another.


Barry you really need to stop with the stunned babbling now that the election is over.


The info Ford released on the 2011 Focus is that it would have 160hp. They also stated it would get 40mpg..Both i think huge factors when making a purchase decision, but werent in this article


I am seeing a major push in quality and innovation in American car companies. I am a fan of purchasing American products to support our people. Ford is off to the races with technology and Innovations. Buy American..maybe we would not suffer such hard recessions?? just saying.


for a little less than a grand - I get a VW? I have had a Jetta and a Passat - I have also had two Toyotas, a honda and a Chevy - I would take the VW hands down to any of the cars listed - power performance, handling, fuel economy, resale value - none of the others even compare - In fact, I think my '10 Passat is nicer than the wifes Avalon - and about 7 grand less

LJ is Focused

Thanks for this amazing article....I am in the market now and the 3 choices I had were the Jetta, 2012 Focus and the Cruze, how ironic! I have found that the Jetta (like all VW and Audis) start having problems after the warranty expires, around 45-65k miles, and we all know that even a small problem on a foreign model can be pricey. So, I recently narrowed it down to the Cruze and the new Focus (yet to be for sale). I dont mind paying a few more bucks (into the low 20s) for a compact car if it has all the bells and whistles I want. I actually just sold my 07 Benz C230 Sport so I can buy a Focus or Cruze...imagine that! I do extensive traveling through Europe and have been waiting about 2 years for the European Focus to make its way here!! Its just what I want. Though I also love the new look and price of the Cruze. I will be buying the new Focus with the packages mentioned above (plus Nav System) in about 2 months!! Thanks so much for the great article. I think you wrote it just for me!! Focused :-)


hi -

please add something to illustrate where the money spent for these vehicle's winds up. if the profit on the sale of the vw's goes back to Germany, I'd be interested in knowing about it. a piece about content origination would also be of value. the impact of my purchase on the state of the u.s.'s economy matters to me as a reader. thanks.


Hello after reading the article and being in the car business, I feel the article pointed out some good points .Although I feel that there should of been more side by side information.actually the ford feista should of been included as it has as much to ffer as the cruz.

Doug S

Comparisons should include the best compact re Consumer Reports recent entry is the 2011 Hyundai Elantra.

Fully loaded except for Nav and sunroof including destination and a 100000 miles powertrain warranty $20880.

Includes all the power equipment plus leather seats, heated front and rear seats and epa rated 29/40 with a 148 hp 4cyl.

NO I don't sell them but own a 2002 Elantra with 129000 miles and will upgrade to the new Elantra when the new 2.0 liter turbo hits the showrooms in late 2011 or early 2012 pushing 200 hp and epa numbers close to the gas model.

A similar loaded Cruze LTZ is $25000 which is equal to a loaded KIA Optima or a well equiped Sonata Limited.

Although Hyundai and Kia combined only represent 7% of market share in the US its significant since the new models are showing Americans they are winners.

Style, Quality, and good numbers on HP and EpA drive sales numbers.

Doug S

He is a good friend that speaks well of us behind our backs.

Tom C

Odd you put in the Jetta (which no one cares about) and left out the Elantra which everyone (else) is talking about as the class miracle.

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