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Betting Big on Small Cars

2014 Ford Fiesta ST

This week at the Los Angeles Auto Show, several automakers rolled out new or updated small cars, a segment that has gained tremendous popularity over the past couple years.

Ford unveiled the 2014 Fiesta, which gets exterior styling tweaks and additional powertrain offerings. A new 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine that produces 123 horsepower joins the current powertrain lineup. Ford says this engine will help the Fiesta surpass 40 mpg. It will also get some technology upgrades, including a revised version of MyFord Touch with a 6.5-inch touch screen, which will be available as an option. MyKey, which allows parents to set up limits on vehicle speed and radio volume to encourage good driving behavior when their kids are behind the wheel, is another new option on the 2014 Fiesta. Ford hasn’t announced the price of the 2014 Fiesta, but the 2013 model starts at $13,200 for the sedan model and $14,200 for the hatchback.

Also unveiled was a high-performance version of the Fiesta, dubbed the Fiesta ST. This model gets a 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine good for 197 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque. Like the Focus ST, the Fiesta ST will be available only with a six-speed manual transmission and hatchback body style. Pricing for the Fiesta ST has not yet been released.

2013 Honda Civic sedan

Honda officially revealed its reworked 2013 Civic. Though fully redesigned just last year, the Civic got thoroughly overhauled because it "failed to set the enthusiast and critical press (including us) on fire,” says Car and Driver. Among the updates are tweaked exterior styling for the sedan, and for both the sedan and coupe, more standard equipment and a revised interior design with “improved materials and assembly,” according to Car and Driver. The 2013 Civic also gets suspension, chassis and steering upgrades that Honda says will make the Civic safer, quieter and more comfortable. The 2013 Civic starts at $18,165, which is an increase of $160 over the 2012 model, according to Honda.

One notable all-new model that debuted at the LA Auto Show is the 2014 Fiat 500L. FIAT says that L stands for Large, and the new model’s wheelbase is 26 inches longer than the regular 500. It also is six inches wider and taller, and gets a pair of back doors, which will give FIAT a more spacious offering in its lineup, especially for rear passengers. It is powered by the 160-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine currently found in the Fiat 500 Abarth. The 500L puts power to the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or dual-clutch transmission.

2014 Fiat 500L

Many publications, including Kicking Tires, say that the 500L will compete directly with the Mini Countryman, which is Mini’s largest offering and only model with four passenger doors. Pricing on the 500L has not yet been announced, but as a point of reference, the Countryman starts at $22,700, although the turbocharged Cooper S model, which is more competitive with the FIAT’s standard turbocharged engine, starts at $26,300. FIAT says the 500L will arrive at dealerships in mid-2013.

Shopping for an affordable small car? Check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars. Then, look for a great deal on a new car by checking out this month’s best car deals. You can also find the best local prices in the area by using our Best Price Program. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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