Mid-Size Sedan Challenge
If you’re a regular viewer, you know that from time to time we get together with our friends at Cars.com, for comparison tests of various automotive segments. And this week we’re at it again with some very familiar four-doors.
Family sedans… the currently overshadowed warriors of American Suburbia. While it’s true, there may be an SUV parked in just about every neighborhood driveway, chances are good that it’s parked next to a midsize sedan, a segment that saw almost 2 ½ millions sales last year.
We had to narrow the field somewhat as there are so many of them available. So, we decided to pit our top 3 finishers from our last midsize sedan roundup against cars that were revised for 2016.
That top-3 from the last comparison includes…
…our winner, the Hyundai Sonata…
…followed by the Subaru Legacy…
…and the Volkswagen Passat…
The 5-redesigned competitors taking them on…
…are the better than ever Chevrolet Malibu…
…longtime segment stalwart Honda Accord…
…the euro-inspired Kia Optima…
…the fun and sporty Mazda6…
…and the stylish Nissan Altima…that’s 8 total…
…and we couldn’t leave out the segment’s sales leader, the Toyota Camry, bringing our final tally to 9-vehicles.
All 2016s, all sport an automatic transmission as required. As are a Combined Government Fuel Economy Rating of 28, and pricing under $28,000.
All four-doors are 4-cylinder powered, some with turbos; and all are front-wheel-drive except for the Subaru Legacy which of course has standard all-wheel-drive
Atlanta, Georgia is our operations base; and as usual, we are joined by a local couple looking to add some 4-door functionality to their daily routine.
Once scores were tallied, and every hanging chad verified, a winner was declared. Not enough time for full details here, so head to Cars.com for the complete scoring run-down. For now, we’ll just run through our top-4 finishers.
At this price point, you certainly can’t have it all; but our 4th-place finisher Hyundai Sonata clearly gives you plenty for the money, packing the lowest price tag here at $25,310. For that you get a very luxurious and comfortable interior; as well as 185-horsepower and 29-Combined miles-per-gallon from a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter engine; but not quite as many features as some of our other competitors.
JENNIFER GEIGER: “The Sonata is the value leader of the pack, but it doesn’t feel like the budget pick; it has plenty of creature comforts, a really nice interior, and a great ride and handling balance.”
AARON BRAGMAN: “I really like the comfort of the Hyundai Sonata; it’s very comfortable inside, there’s plenty of space, there’s good visibility, all the controls look and feel very good; overall, it’s a very comfortable package.”
JOHN DAVIS: Safety’s a big seller these days of course, so our 3rd place finishing Chevrolet Malibu was well equipped for battle here; with features seen mostly on higher-end machinery, like lane keep assist and autonomous braking with pedestrian detection. Driving dynamics were also good, though its 1.5-liter turbo engine was the smallest here; rated at 163-horsepower and 31-Combined MPG. And its price tag was highest, just making the cut at $27,985.
BRIAN ROBINSON: “Whether it wins in this competition or not, the Malibu could certainly win the award for most improved; for the ’16 redesign it went from rental car reject to one of the most stylish, best performing cars in this class.”
JENNIFER GEIGER: “Chevy did a great job with the Malibu’s redesign; its polished good looks are matched by really refined road manners; I’m not crazy about the interior cabin design with the upholstery on the dash, not really loving that, but the multimedia system is seamless and the safety features are really impressive.”
JOHN DAVIS: The 2nd place Kia Optima is becoming more and more like a German Sport sedan with every update. Here in this test, it was powerful, quiet, handsome inside and out; and very well equipped for a mid-pack price of $27,415. Its 1.6-liter turbo is small but mighty, at 178-horsepower; and rates 32-Combined.
RYAN SMALL: “…the Kia Optima, the interior had a very clean nice look to it, we like the space that it had in there and the when I took it on the road and drove around, it seem to be very responsive with acceleration, it handles well and it was a smooth more quiet ride… …it has a sporty side to it, but also a sort of luxury and comfortable side to it.”
FRED MEIER: “The Kia Optima’s 1.6-liter turbo and dual clutch automatic transmission is one of the best powertrains in this group; it was enjoyable to drive, it offers impressive performance with really impressive efficiency as well.”
JOHN DAVIS: The Volkswagen Passat’s 3rd-place finish last time out was a bit of a surprise as it’s not usually at the top of most buyer’s wish list. And it has gotten updated since then, and those updates were enough to take it all the way to the top this time around. But really, what made it a hit then, makes is an even bigger one now, great handling, tons of space, high quality materials, and a terrific price, at $27,100. In the turbo game for much longer than the competition, its 1.8-liter feels great despite rating just 170-horsepower, getting 29-Combined.
AARON BRAGMAN: “I have to say I think the Passat is probably the best sedan here; it’s go a mixture of everything that you want in a family sedan; it’s roomy, it’s spacious, it has plenty of power… …and it’s a really good value to boot.”
BRIAN ROBINSON: “The last time we did this midsize comparison, the Passat really surprised with its amount of space inside, sporty driving experience, and material quality; and that really carries over to this one as well; very impressive overall.”
JOHN DAVIS: So regardless of trendy buying habits, midsize sedans still play a huge part of the American family motoring experience; and there’s really not an unworthy car in this lot. But in this competition, the Volkswagen Passat’s spacious mix of comfort, luxury, and sporty performance was clearly a step above; making 4-door family drive time about as enjoyable as it gets.
2016 Chevrolet Malibu
2016 Honda Accord
2016 Hyundai Sonata
2016 Kia Optima
2016 Nissan Altima
2016 Subaru Legacy
2016 Toyota Camry
2016 Volkswagen Passat