The Toyota Corolla won October. Which begs the question: Do car shoppers read car reviews? Actually, this curious phenomenon begs many questions, but none of them matter now. What does matter is that 20,949 October consumers agreed to pay money, real money, for the aging, about-to-be-replaced Corolla, and they chose to do so over two-handfuls of cars that are significantly newer, flashier, and achieve greater fuel economy. This is the automotive equivalent of the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series: Yes, the Cubbies play the same game in the same league as the San Francisco Giants, but the Cubs just aren’t good. And neither is the Corolla.
Rant aside, let’s backup to set some parameters. These are the top-selling economy cars for October 2012. You may have noticed that in the title. And you may be familiar with the term, or have a mostly accurate sense of what it entails. We consider cars in this segment as more likely than not to be in the compact or subcompact categories, and which utilize smaller engines and advanced injection and transmission technologies to boost fuel economy. This is generally the category where people surmise, “Eh, you get what you pay for.”
So, with little further ado, here are the twelve best-selling economy cars from October 2012, and the Toyota Corolla:
13. Dodge Dart (5,455/YTD 14,709)
Dodge’s feisty newcomer gained little traction (+4.0-percent from September) in October, and it actually fell two places on the list, but it did manage to sell a couple hundred more units than in September. This number should rise in time, especially when Chrysler releases the R/T and SRT variants. Would we recommend it over the Corolla? In a heartbeat.
12. Chevrolet Sonic (5,495/YTD 70,241)
The smallest car on this list did significantly worse than last month, but surprisingly well compared to the same period last year (+43.4-percent). As we said last month, the Sonic isn’t the flashiest vehicle in Chevrolet’s portfolio, and it’s unlikely to catch the segment’s top sellers, but it has just enough buzz for the budget to keep Chevy in the black.
11. Nissan Sentra (5,624/YTD 91,464)
The Nissan Sentra fell off a cliff compared to last month as inventories of the old model cleared out to make way for the all-new 2013 Nissan Sentra. Like the Toyota Corolla, the Sentra survives on name recognition, and the new model, which should begin arriving on dealership lots soon, is more engaging than the current, aging also-ran.
10. Kia Forte (5,911/YTD 67,139)
The Kia Forte fell about 1,000 models short of last month, but retains the same spot on the list. The Forte doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it is one of the more handsome cars in the segment, and it does well with young buyers. It, too, has a considerable update on the horizon, but will it be enough to jump a few places on this list?
9. Nissan Versa (8,311/YTD 93,883)
They’re interchangeable to us, and it appears that way to consumers, too: What is the difference between the Nissan Sentra and the Nissan Versa? No one knows. Year to date, both have sold slightly more than 90,000 units, and both maintain a sizable lead over cars 9-12 on this list. This is the part of the movie where Scooby Doo finds out that Versa is really just Sentra wearing a Corolla mask. Ruh Roh!
8. Mazda3 (9,518/YTD 103,223)
This is an economy car that we love, and it’s doing well: Year to date, the Mazda3 is up +34.2 percent, and it should be near the top of your list if you are shopping this segment. It’s rich with features, fun to drive, and absolutely miserly with fuel. About the only downside we can see is the literal one: The car’s front-end styling, with its big, goofy grin, may be the thing that’s keeping the Mazda3 from being a top-3 seller.
7. Volkswagen Jetta (13,476/YTD 140,504)
The Jetta has long been a sales pillar for the German automaker and last month was no exception. It did better than September, and slightly better than this period last year (+3.2 percent) Currently, the Jetta offers seven different engine options and four different transmissions, plus there’s a hybrid version in the pipeline. To top it all off, it’s cute, too.
6. Hyundai Elantra (14,512/YTD 167,087)
Hyundai’s Corolla is better than Toyota’s Corolla, and it’s the one car on this list that Corolla shoppers should be cross-referencing. And test-driving. It’s up 12.0-percent year to date, and it should continue to do well for the remainder of the year—even with new competition from Sentra and Dart. However, recent news that the 40 mpg claim isn’t all it’s cracked up to be may hinder sales some.
5. Toyota Prius (16,774/YTD 200,114)
It may be a hybrid, but the Prius is simply one of the best-selling economy cars in the country. Yes, that’s 200,000 people this year who have picked one up. It won’t outsell its older brother, the Corolla, not yet, but it’ll come close by year’s end. Year to date, the Prius is 52.4-percent over, and it’s showing few signs of slowing down. (Toyota did not include breakdown of individual numbers per model, ie. Prius, Pricus c, Prius v, and this model includes the sales of all such Prii.)
4. Ford Focus (18,320/YTD 205,006)
Ford’s Focus stumbled a bit compared to last month, but year to date, it’s up by 47.9 percent. And for good reason—it’s a solid car with tons of cool, in-car technology. On the other hand, when you add in all that tech, the Focus starts getting expensive; is a $24,000 economy car really economical? Ford’s goal to sell 250,000 stateside is looking like less of a lock, but with two months remaining in the calendar year, it has a chance. Expect to see some massive incentive spending by Ford in the next couple months to meet that goal.
3. Chevrolet Cruze (19,121/YTD 199,721)
Last months number one slipped two spots to number three, and overall, it’s now a few thousand behind the Focus, and a few hundred behind the Prius. But Chevy can hardly complain about selling 19,121 models in one month, right? We’ve driven the Cruze, and it’s solid, comfortable, and surprisingly refined small car. Plus, fuel economy was excellent in the Cruze Eco model we drove. Here is yet another example of a great car being snubbed by the Corolla’s name value…
2. Honda Civic (20,687/YTD 254,716)
The Civic is an All Star, it just isn’t the MVP. And though it’s received a lukewarm critical reception since its redesign last year, it’s still handily outselling most comers. There’s a refreshed version coming soon, which Honda promises will fix many of the current car’s shortcomings: a noisy interior, lowball-feeling interior, and mushy handling among them. It sold less than last month, but is still up 27.9-percent year to date. And, for what it’s worth, it has a half-month lead in overall sales for the year, with two months to build.
1. Toyota Corolla (20,949/YTD 243,652)
Her? OK, the Toyota Corolla is a dependable car. And, depending on the day, it’s either the best or second best selling car in the history of cars. There was even a time when it was the best in its class. The problem is that Toyota hasn’t significantly changed the car in 11 years. And why should they? It just outsold every better and newer car in the segment.