Mid-Size Sedan Challenge
To tell you just how competitive the midsize sedan segment is, it hasn’t even been 2 years since we last did a comparison test. Yet, almost every car in this segment has been significantly updated since then. Well, you know what that means, time to round ‘em up and figure ‘em out!
Look up a list of the top-10 selling cars and trucks of 2013, and you’ll more midsize sedans on that list than from any other segment.
Well, we’ve gathered 10 of the newest at our Maryland HQ, and along with editorial teams from cars.com and USA TODAY, we’re ready to weed through this pack and find out which one offers the best fit for the typical American family.
Vying for the top honor are …the highly connected Chevrolet Malibu… the super stylish Chrysler 200… the dynamic Ford Fusion… the solid Honda Accord… the all-new Hyundai Sonata… the sporty Mazda6… the spacious Nissan Altima… the all-wheel-drive, and also all-new Subaru Legacy… America’s bestselling car, the Toyota Camry, with significant upgrades for the 2015 model year… and finally the only European entry, the Volkswagen Passat.
All of our 2015 contenders have 4-cylinder power with automatic transmissions, and cost no more than $27,000.
Joining us in our quest is the Kapoor family from northern Virginia. They are looking to add a family sedan to their household. While rain forced us into Goss’ Garage for their evaluations, it didn’t dampen their enthusiasm.
But, once the rain cleared, it was time for us to hit the road. And while early on it was hard to predict how these cars would stack up, we were sure that when all was said and done, we’d have a winner where style, function, and value would prove to be the keys to victory.
Now, for a full scoring breakdown head to the cars.com website. But, briefly, 10th spot, most surprisingly, went to the reworked Toyota Camry. The interior look and quality of our SE trimmed car really disappointed. In 9th through 5th place are Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, and Chevrolet Malibu. A list with the top four sellers in the segment.
Now, for our top four, we’ll start with a perennial favorite here at MotorWeek, the Mazda6. Sporting a 184-horsepower 2.5-liter I4 and a true 6-speed automatic, it yields a Combined Fuel Economy Rating of 30. But, what solidified a top tier rating had everything to do with how well it drives.
JOE WIESENFELDER: “Not surprisingly, the Mazda6 is the sportiest car in this contest, arguably. It has everything, it has the braking, it has the steering, the handling; the power. It may not be the best choice for a family because it’s a little bit noisy inside and the ride is firm, but if you’re looking for a fun car in this class, you could do a lot worse.”
FRED MEIER: “The Mazda6 was the sportiest in this group, both in its looks, the interior design; and its handling and power. Its compact size though, may make it not the best choice for some families.”
John Davis: A much bigger surprise was our 3rd place finisher, the Volkswagen Passat. Its 170-horsepower 1.8-liter turbo-I4, mated to a 6-speed auto, is the second smallest power plant here. But, that’s where the Passat’s smallness ends.
Brian Robinson: “The Passat, the numbers may not bear it out, but it feels huge inside, almost like a full-size car; very comfortable, still has a good ride and handling package, all around, one of my favorites here.”
AARON BRAGMAN: “The Volkswagen Passat is the limousine of this group; it’s got the most rear seat space of any of these cars here, even if it doesn’t say so on paper. You sit in it and you’re amazed at how much leg room it actually has.”
John Davis: That brings us to our runner up, the only all-wheel-drive car here, a very impressive new Subaru Legacy. With its recent re-design, the Legacy proved it has all it needs to play with the big boys in this segment. The interior is both stylish and comfortable, but the powerful feeling 175-horsepower 2.5-liter Flat-4 and minimally annoying CVT really helps seal the deal.
Amit Kapoor: “The Legacy, I love the ride and handling of it, it was phenomenal; and the field of view, when you look out the car front …and the power behind the all-wheel-drive, it’s pretty impressive.”
JENNIFER NEWMAN: “If you can get past its tame exterior the Legacy has a lot of features that should excite drivers. Starting with its standard all-wheel drive and ending with the affordable eye-sight safety system. ”
John Davis: And so our winner, with a runaway victory, is the Hyundai Sonata. Feelings were mixed on the new Sonata’s tamer styling. But no one could find fault with it’s well-equipped high value, ease of use, 185-horsepower 2.4-liter I4 6-speed auto powertrain, ride handling mix, and all-around livability.
AARON BRAGMAN: “The Sonata might be the freshest offering here, they’ve really upped their game inside and out. It drives like a completely different car, it’s really smooth, it’s fun to drive, it’s quick, and it’s comfortable.
FRED MEIER: “The new Sonata has a more conservative look; less of an edge in style, but the brand has not lost its edge in being the value leader in terms of features for the dollar.
John Davis: With such strong competition in this segment, we really cannot call any of these ten a loser. But, it was amazingly easy for us to pick a winner in this mid-size sedan challenge. Some cars may be higher styled, be more fun to drive, and have more wow factors. But, doing some of that, while also delivering the utmost in practicality for your dollar, is what truly impressed our testers the most. And, when it comes to the mid-size American family sedan, it’s clear that Hyundai knows how to do that better than all the rest.