Sedans are not the flashiest cars on the road, but they're popular because of their versatility. For many people, they are the perfect combination of space, comfort, and dependability. And we can now add style to that list, as carmakers move away from the generic, middle-of-the-road designs of the past, and start producing sedans with more personality and flair. In fact, most of the sedans on this list were redesigned in either 2011 or 2012.
Our CarsDirect editors studied the 2012 crop of sedans, and looking at things like fuel efficiency, performance, reliability, spaciousness, style, and options, we came up with our picks for the top three in each price segment.
Sedans Under $15,000
Sedans in this price range are usually referred to as subcompacts because of their diminutive size. Their smaller stature allows for enhanced fuel-efficiency and the ability to park in the tightest of spaces. Solid construction, sporty styling, and nimble handling are other traits of these low-priced subcompact sedans.
With the lowest base price and best fuel efficiency in the under-$15k category, the 2012 Fiesta will give leave you with enough money to throw your own fiesta. Not only is the Fiesta efficient and affordable, it's also lively and agile around town. Available as a sedan or hatchback, the Fiesta receives an excellent 29/39 mpg.
Toyota redesigned everything except the engine in the spunky 2012 Yaris, the most affordable car in their lineup. The Yaris added more cargo capacity with a 2.9-inch longer wheelbase, and sportier suspension tuning to help navigate rush hour traffic. Power is not the Yaris' forte, but with an EPA-estimated 30/36 mpg, fuel economy is. The Yaris is the only subcompact on this list that features a standard USB port with iPod connectivity.
The all-new Chevy Sonic is making noise in the subcompact segment with class-leading power and torque. A 138-horsepower engine generates 148 pounds-feet torque, which is almost unheard of in a subcompact vehicle. The Sonic replaces the Aveo and features a unique tachometer with a rectangular digital readout. Topping things off, the Sonic is a "Top Safety Pick" by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Fuel efficiency is also top-notch, with 26/35 mpg.
Sedans Under $20,000
What a difference $5k makes. For just a few dollars more, this crop of sedans offer added power, higher-quality materials and eye-catching style. The Focus was totally redesigned for 2012, the Elantra is in its second year of a new design, and the Cruze is in its second year - ever.
The 2012 Hyundai Elantra is the best value in the entire compact class. It has a starting price under $17k and has fuel-efficiency (29/40 mpg) that a hybrid would be proud of. If you're worried about style - don't be. The Elantra is the best looking compact sedan inside and out, making it look more expensive than it really is. Add 148 horsepower and spacious front seats and you have a well-rounded sedan at a great value.
Ford changed the compact sedan world this year by turning the 2011 Focus from a frog into a prince for 2012. The new Ford Focus is hard to resist, with a fully redesigned look, re-engineered engine, and next-generation features. Still available in sedan and hatchback offerings, the Focus is almost unrecognizable with a sleek and sporty appearance. The Focus has the most powerful engine (a high-rev 160 horsepower) of the three compacts in this price range and still manages an impressive 27/37 mpg. If parallel parking makes you nervous, take a deep sigh of relief, because the Focus can park itself in as little as 24 seconds.
With an astounding 42 highway mpg, the 2012 Cruze offers the best highway fuel efficiency of any gas engine in America. The Cruze Eco has a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that generates 138 horsepower, while the non-Eco configurations still produce an impressive 22/38 mpg. The Cruze also boasts more cargo space than the Focus and Elantra at 15.4 cubic feet. Best-in-class 10 standard airbags are one reason why the Cruze earned a 5-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Sedans Under $25,000
The midsize segment is one of the most popular sedan categories due to its affordability and generous offerings. The Sonata and redesigned Passat are fresh and viable contenders to the reigning champ, Toyota Camry.
German design, sophistication and a price-drop of $7k earned the refreshed 2012 Volkswagen Passat Motor Trend Car of the Year honors. The Passat is the first model to roll out of Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, and from all accounts, it has been well worth the wait. The Passat adds three inches of legroom to the backseat, besting the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Sculpted German looks are present in the high-quality cabin, while the Fender premium audio system rocks a true American spirit.
Dependability, low cost of maintenance and high resale value are why the fully redesigned 2012 Camry has been the best-selling car in America 13 out of the last 14 years. The Camry also has the best resale value of any car, according to Kelley Blue Book, and a superb 5-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA. The new web-based Entune system connects you to Bing, Pandora, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com and OpenTable.com, giving a whole new meaning to the term 'mobile apps.' If those weren't enough reasons for Camry to claim midsize sedan superiority, then perhaps its 268-horsepower V6 engine, that gets an impressive 30 mpg on the highway, is.
With a base price of just under $20k, the 2012 Sonata is extremely well-rounded. With a best-in-class 24/35 mpg, its 174 horsepower engine doesn't sacrifice acceleration for fuel-efficiency. Like the Elantra, the Sonata looks more expensive than it really is due to distinctive styling. With a sculpted hood and flowing lines, the Sonata slightly resembles the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class. Fit five occupants with ease in the Sonata, which nearly matches the Passat's roomy interior. Compared to the classy interior of the Passat and the bland interior of the Camry, the Sonata's cabin is fun, flashy and futuristic.
Sedans Under $30,000
Buyers looking to take the next step up in terms of luxury will want to consider cars in the entry-level luxury sedan segment. With more standard features, improved technology and high quality materials, sedans in this price range are sure to turn heads. And with two out of the three sedans in this price range coming from American manufacturers, it's starting to look like the U.S. is back on track in the industry it created.
Like a man amongst boys, the low-profile yet upscale 2012 TSX has the appointments and reliability worthy of a luxury sedan in a higher class. The Acura TSX would normally be compared to luxury sedans such as the Audi A4 and class-leading BMW 3 Series if it weren't so affordable. The TSX is extremely well, reliable, and comes equipped with numerous standard features. Anytime you can get a sunroof, a leather eight-way power driver seat with memory, heated front seats, seven-speaker sound system, and a USB port standard for under $30k, you know you've found something special.
An astounding 41 mpg in the city and spacious interior make the 2012 Fusion Hybrid a perfect everyday family sedan. A 41/36 mpg rating is very impressive, considering that the Fusion also receives a total of 191 horsepower. The cavernous interior is perfect for picking the kids up from soccer practice or taking the family on long road trips. The Fusion Hybrid can also be fun and engaging, with dual LCD SmartGauge screens on either side of the center-mounted speedometer. Watch leaves grow on the display when you drive efficiently, or watch them fade away when you don't. Just make sure to keep your eyes on the road.
One of the most stunning Chryslers we've ever seen, the 2012 Chrysler 300 is the definitive modern American sedan. The interior of the Chrysler 300 is full of luxury touches, like satin chrome on the instrument clusters, an analog clock, and leather trim that will make you want to light a cigar and drink brandy (not while driving of course). The good news is that the 300 doesn't sacrifice sophistication for modern features. Live concerts will have trouble beating the sound quality of the optional 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. Its powerful 292-horsepower V6 engine is efficient enough to receive 19/31 mpg.
Sedans Under $35,000
This group features names that have long been associated with "luxury," yet they manage to deliver that luxury at an affordable price. Whether you're looking for sports handling, minimalist sophistication, impressive fuel economy, or tremendous value with a warranty that's second-to-none, this group has it all.
The Germans are at it again. The 2012 A4's austere and clean interior gives it a minimalistic feel for those who prefer low-key sophistication. Unlike BMW and Mercedes, which use vinyl leatherette, the A4 adorns the interior with real leather. You're not going to break any speed records with the 211 horsepower engine, but you will achieve decent acceleration and fuel-efficiency with 21/30 mpg.
The newest member of the luxury class has a lot to prove, meaning that you stand to receive much more for far less than other luxury sedans. The Genesis' 333-horsepower V6 is the most powerful engine in this group and is extremely efficient with 19/29 mpg. Throw in a class-leading 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty and you'll realize that owning a Genesis can be the beginning of a long lasting relationship.
The 2012 G25 handles so well, you'll seek out winding roads and pray for rain. When it comes to handling, the G25x blows away the competition with Infiniti's Intelligent All-Wheel Drive. With AWD, power flows through the rear wheels for enhanced performance in turns when the sailing is smooth. When conditions change, power is sent to wheels with the best grip, so you get AWD traction when you need it, and rear wheel drive when you don't. Leather-appointed seating, a seven-inch color vehicle-information display and rearview monitor provide additional luxuries.
Sedans Under $45,000
For this luxury sedan segment, we chose two titans of German engineering, and one hallmark of American sophistication. Drivers of vehicles in this class demand style, performance and, increasingly, fuel efficiency. These three sedans deliver on all accounts.
If looks could kill, the redesigned 2012 A6 would be a cold-blooded assassin. A large trapezoidal grille and angular LED headlights immediately catch your eye, while increased interior room and leather upholstery continue to seduce. Proving that looks aren't everything, the A6 gets an impressive 25/33 mpg, which is even better than the less-expensive A4. With so much for so little, the 2012 A6 has what it takes to be the best in its class.
The sporty, yet spacious CTS sedan is what you've come to expect from a Cadillac. A 318-horsepower V6 makes it one of the more powerful sedans currently available. The Performance package adds a sport-tuned suspension system which improves handling substantially. The CTS is also available with race-inspired Recaro bucket seats which offer 14-way power-adjustability and hold both the driver and passenger securely during spirited canyon runs. The 2012 CTS still has that Cadillac feel and craftsmanship with leather seating and a well-appointed cabin complete with an outstanding infotainment system.
Sedans Under $65,000
Drivers looking for cars in this price range expect the best of everything, whether it's extravagantly appointed interiors, top of the line technology options, or simply the sterling reputation that comes with a name like Mercedes or Jaguar. All of the expectations are met in our top three picks - sedans that show that world class refinement, performance, and sportiness can live together in a luxury sedan.
If you opt for the redesigned 2012 C63 AMG, you might want to buy yourself a neck brace to go with it. That's because the C63 AMG boasts enough torque (443 pounds-feet) to go zero to 60 in a mere 4.2 seconds. The standard 451 horsepower, 6.3-liter V8 engine gets a boost from the AMG Development package, raising total hp output to 481. Let's be honest, though. You aren't interested in the C63 AMG because you want to play it safe. You want the C63 AMG for its large performance-oriented tires and wheels, aggressive body kit, sport suspension, high-performance braking system, and carbon-fiber spoiler lip on the trunk lid.
It's a shame that there isn't an Autobahn here in the States for you to unleash the most-powerful sedan under $65k. A 556-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8 generates an astonishing 551 pounds-feet of torque that will leave tire marks on roads everywhere. Seriously, 556 hp is virtually unheard of - especially in a Cadillac. This performance sedan is for those who are willing to push the limits. Brembo brakes, a domed hood, and larger wire-mesh grille are just a few of the aggressive styling cues. With the 2012 CTS-V, you'll still get vintage Cadillac opulence with piano-black or genuine wood trim on the steering wheel, center control panel, and door panel.
Tech lovers with money to spend will be amazed at how futuristic and cutting-edge the 2012 XF is. Unlike stuffy Jaguars of years past, the XF is amazingly stylish inside and out, providing an interesting drive every time you get behind the wheel. The start button pulses like a heartbeat. When you press it, the engine not only comes to life, but the gear selector rises out of the center console and the four air vents open and swivel into place. If that's just the start button, imagine how cool the rest of the ride will be.
Sedans Under $85,000
When you start talking about cars in the $85k range, you're entering "what car would you buy if money wasn't an issue," land. We're guessing that if you had that kind of money, you would spend it on one of these deserving 'dream cars.' Big-time power, next-generation technology and über-refinement take these sedans to the next level.
Thanks to the people at Porsche, you will never have to decide between a family sedan and a car that makes you feel alive. Porsche took the look and feel of the 911 and added two rear seats and a generous trunk to bring us the four-door Panamera. You can fit four large suitcases behind the rear seats making the Panamera a great reason to take long road trips. The center armrest extends into the backseat giving the Panamera a unique look and utility.
Sports sedan handling and Audi's sharp styling earned the Audi A8 the "Best large luxury sedan" title by Road & Track and Car and Driver. The long wheel-base version offers 43 inches of rear legroom, a refrigerator, individual operating console and dual 10-inch screens. This segment is loaded with high-end everything, and the 2012 A8 is no exception. As the driver, you can manage audio, navigation and other settings using a gesture-driven touchpad. A 372-horsepower, V8 gets 18/28 mpg, making the A8 the most efficient sedan on this list considering how much power it generates.
Sporting Bentley-esque refinement with modern day technology, the 2012 Jaguar XJ will give you tremendous value and class. Like the A8, the XJ has an extended wheel-base model (XJL Portfolio) that provides 44 inches of rear legroom and available flip-down trays. Normally, you would want to hire a driver in order to enjoy such spaciousness, but the XJ is such a pleasure to drive, you won't want to relinquish control of the wheel. Forget about going to Burke Williams for a massage and enjoy the 22-way power, massaging driver's seat. So place your tray tables up and prepare for takeoff in the 2012 Jaguar XJ.