Midsize Sedan Shootout
With all of the new midsize family sedans rolling through our offices over the last year, it’s definitely time for a comparison test. Whether you’re looking for style, comfort, or lots of features, any of today’s mainstream mid-size four-doors will probably fit the bill. But which one does it best? Well, that’s exactly what we’re about to find out.
Once again MotorWeek teamed up with CARS.com and USA TODAY to rifle through 6 of today’s newest midsize mainstream sedans, to see how close each comes to hitting the family car sweet spot. Judging took place near our home base; south central Maryland just outside Washington D.C.. As before, we invited a local family along to give us their take on what’s important in this car class, and help us come up with a winner.
Our price point for this sparring is $26,000. Carmakers could equip the cars as they saw fit, provided it didn’t go over. We also required each car to have a Combined Government Fuel Economy Rating of 28 miles-per-gallon or higher. All of our competitors are 2013 models, and get down the road with 4-cylinder power and automatic transmissions.
…First up, the all-new 2nd generation Ford Fusion with its Aston-Martin inspired styling…
…also totally redesigned for ’13 is the perennial favorite Honda Accord…
…the winner of our last Family Sedan Shootout, the Hyundai Sonata…
…it’s Korean Cousin, the stylish and fun to drive Kia Optima…
…the all-new, and good value for the money Nissan Altima…
…and finally, the 7th-gen Toyota Camry that was redesigned just last year.
Missing from our test is the new Chevrolet Malibu. While the light hybrid ECO model beats the fuel numbers, it stickers for more than the target price.
It became apparent early on, that this would be an incredibly close competition. And indeed, when it was all said and done, we had one of the closest finishes ever, with some positions decided by less than a single point.
Our finalists start with Toyota Camry in 4th place. Everyone loved the Camry’s sportier style and improve handling, but with it came a ride that didn’t seem as comfortable as before, and an interior that was still Camry bland. There were no complaints about power from the 2.5-liter engine, but its price was also the most in this contest at $25,710; with its Combined Fuel Economy Rating of 28, also just making the cut.
PATRICK GIRVIN: The Toyota Camry didn’t strike me as terribly exciting at first when I saw it, but as I sat in it and we examined all the features we found that it was very thoughtfully laid out and… and all the dials and gauges were pretty easy to understand and navigate through …then it drove very well, had a nice feel on the road.
BRIAN ROBINSON: The Toyota Camry is not quite as boring as it used to be; they’ve made it a bit more entertaining to drive and the interior is refreshingly simple, but it’s not quite as comfortable as it used to be.
JOHN DAVIS: Our 3rd place finisher, the Kia Optima, is among the oldest designs, introduced for 2011. Its 2.4-liter direct injected engine was very peppy, also with a Combined Fuel Economy Rating of 28. Having the smallest price tag, at $24,524 certainly helped the Optima work its way towards the top; but really it was the sporty design and great interior that aided it the most.
KELSEY MAYS: It’s very interesting that the Optima and the Hyundai Sonata share a lot of the same roots because I think the Optima has aged a lot better; interior quality still seems very good in this test.
JAMES R. HEALEY: The Optima just oozes excitement. It has interesting styling, the slight bulge on the wheel-wells; it’s the only one in the group that had leather at the price.
JOHN DAVIS: Second spot goes to the just introduced Ford Fusion. Exterior styling looks fantastic, but although its interior is feature packed, it is also a little dull; and the Fusion came in with the second highest price at $25,585. The 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine was the smallest in the group by far, but turbo charging made it plenty energetic. Also with a Combined Fuel Economy Rating of 28; it was still one of the most fun to drive.
KELSEY MAYS: The Ford Fusion is a nicely executed car. The steering feedback is very good, possibly the best steering in this test. The back seat surprisingly has good head room and a nice high seating position.
BRIAN ROBINSON: The Ford Fusion definitely wins the award for best looking in this competition and the 1.6-liter engine has plenty of power; but the interior styling doesn’t quite match up with the exterior.
JOHN DAVIS: First place bragging rights go the also just introduced Honda Accord. It was a bit of a surprise, as it didn’t really stand out in any one area, it just does everything very well. Starting with the power-train, the 2.4-liter engine felt strong and it was attached to one of the most non-CVT like CVT’s we’ve tried. Add in a mid-pack price of $24,980 and a Combined Fuel Economy Rating of 29 and it is the winner.
KRISTIN VARELA: The Honda Accord has a very soft and comfortable ride quality to it; it would be great on long road trips, and one thing that I really appreciated was the fact that it had a back-up camera.
JOE WIESENFELDER: I was impressed with the handling in the Accord, it was more athletic than I expected it to be, but really the high point for me was the CVT… …if you can get the efficiency of a CVT with that kind of performance, I think it’s a new game.
JOHN DAVIS: Much has been said about the incredibly competitive mid-size family sedan segment. Our close scores certainly confirmed that. Plus, they all came exceptionally close to hitting the bulls eye of family needs, while also providing top drawer quality and the latest in connectivity. For the full rundown and detailed scoring, visit the CARS dot com website.
So clearly, there are no real losers in this segment. But, in this particular showdown, it is the 2013 Honda Accord that hits the family sedan sweet spot the best.
2013 Ford Fusion
2013 Honda Accord
2013 Hyundai Sonata
2013 Kia Optima
2013 Nissan Altima
2013 Toyota Camry