Looking for a new car? Catch the latest auto show trends

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If you’re in the market for a new car this year, trends from recent auto shows indicate you’re going to find a market full of smaller and more affordable vehicles. And those vehicles are going to be more fuel efficient.

The federal government has been pushing for better fuel efficiency in vehicles since 2009, and the recent auto shows highlighted many smaller, fun-to drive vehicles with this bonus. In addition, higher gas prices also have consumers looking for ways to save money – which includes purchasing smaller cars.

Many manufacturers showcased smaller-sized vehicles at the North American International Auto Show, held this past January in Detroit. Familiar models that are shrinking in size – and also in estimated price- include the Buick Verano and the Chevrolet Sonic. Even the Ford C-max compact minivan – which holds up to seven passengers – is smaller in size to help give it the label of fuel efficient.

Hybrid and electric vehicles were also in the spotlight – ranging from the Toyota Prius models to the Nisson Leaf and Volvo’s C30. After the automobile slump of the past few years, manufacturers are heavily promoting new car incentives to entice shoppers back into buying new cars.

Another event, the Chicago Auto Show held in February, gave the public a chance to review more than 1,000 autos. In the “vehicle I’d most like to have in my driveway” category, the Chevrolet Camaro came in just slightly higher than the Ford Mustang. Voters liked the Camaro ZL1, which combines a powerful V8 engine with advanced technology, enabling the sporty-looking muscle car to be driven year round in style. The Mustang also beefed up its power and has sporty two-door styling, but also offers better fuel economy than its competitors. Both models are smaller, more compact vehicles.

If you’re researching new cars for 2011, start by looking at the domestic and international trends displayed at these two shows, or make an effort to catch one of the many similar auto show exhibitions happening almost every weekend for the next several months.