Midsize family sedans sell better than any other segment on the market. They are built to be an everyman's car, providing enough space to serve without complaint as the only vehicle for the average family. In recent years, competition has heated up such that a large interior, big trunk and comfortable ride are no longer enough to top the class. Today's top midsizes also offer hybrid-like fuel efficiency, sporty driving dynamics and all the comforts of a good luxury car.
In the last couple of years, each major player in the midsize sedan game has come out with an all-new model. Here are our top 5 choices for family four-doors, any of which will make a fine next vehicle.
Value extends to fuel economy, too. As manufacturers race to improve their numbers, Accord and Altima breach the 30mpg combined rating and the other contenders aren’t far behind. Overall, the competition in this class is fierce, but it’s the buyer who gets the victory. Here are the Top 5 midsize sedans on the market today.
The Mazda6 with SKYACTIV technology is the newest redesigned midsize sedan to come to market, making the choice even more difficult for those seeking a sporty, practical ride. Arguably the most exciting product to come out from Mazda since the legendary RX-7, the new 6 is the very definition of over-engineering, a long list of virtues highlighted by light weight, a very responsive 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (170 horsepower, up to 26 city/38 highway mpg) and slick-shifting six-speed automatic and manual transmissions. As of launch time, the 2.5 is the only available engine choice, though a 2.2-liter turbo-diesel will arrive later in 2013, bringing more than 300 lb-ft. of torque, greater than 40 highway mpg and placed as the high-performance choice within the range. While the previous-generation Mazda6 was a great car saddled by a cutesy, unattractive exterior design, the new 2014 model is eclipsed only by the Fusion as the class's most beautiful offering, its long, low-slung design accentuated by curves in all the right places. That commitment to style extends to the interior, which is well thought-out if a little lacking in whiz-bang tech features. Rear seat legroom is admirable. The base “Sport” model is inexpensive, though note that most available luxury and convenience features are only offered on the higher trim levels.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 28 city/38 highway.
The Ford Fusion is all-new for 2013, and represents a quantum leap forward over the undistinguished model it replaces. Any discussion of the new Fusion must start with its sleek, luxury car-like exterior design, which has shades of Jaguar and Aston Martin and makes most other midsizes look boring and conservative by comparison. Among a trio of engine choices, the mid-priced 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder offers the best blend of performance and efficiency, bringing 180 horsepower and up to 25 city/37 highway mpg, though note that you will need to shell out around $2,500 more than the base 2.5-liter “S” model for a Fusion SE with the 1.6 EcoBoost engine. As with Ford's smaller Focus, handling performance is excellent for the class, with a tightly sprung suspension that still does an admirable job soaking up bumps and road imperfections. On the inside, the Fusion continues to impress, with a class-leading commitment to interior tech. The SYNC with MyFord Touch infotainment system may not be for everyone, but for those who are never without their iPads, it's a sophisticated, fully featured experience that's become easier to use with recent updates. You'll also find available features like a 12-speaker premium audio system with HD radio, remote start, keyless entry and start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and interior ambient lighting. The Fusion lags a little behind the Accord and Volkswagen Passat in the look and feel of interior materials, especially in the lower-priced trim levels.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 22 city/33 highway/26 combined mpg (2.0-liter FWD) or 22 city/34 highway/26 combined mpg (2.5-liter FWD).
Redesigned for the 2013 model year and bringing a host of improvements over the outgoing model, the Accord is our confident top choice for economical midsize family sedans. At the lower trim levels, Honda pairs its new 185-horsepower Earth Dreams 2.4-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine with either an unobtrusive CVT or a six-speed manual transmission for up to 27 city/36 highway mpg. For those craving a little more passing power, the 3.5-liter V6 model offers 278 horses while still returning up to 21 city/34 highway mpg. Sharp exterior styling is joined by a spacious interior with top-shelf material quality. For families with growing teens, or who need seating capacity for five full-size adults, the Accord's roomy back seat is a welcome change from sedans with tighter proportions like the Chevrolet Malibu and Hyundai Sonata. In the realm of interior technology, Honda doesn't break much new ground, but the total navigation and infotainment package is intuitive and works as it should. Standout features include a class-exclusive blind-spot monitoring camera and the i-MID display, which shows the info you use the most high on the dash for quick reference. And unlike its competitors, the Accord is once again available as an attractive two-door coupe, still maintaining good rear seat room and a truly sporty choice when fitted with the V6 and manual transmission.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 27 city/36 highway/30 combined mpg (2.4-liter with CVT)
The Nissan Altima has always been one of the sportier choices in the midsize sedan segment, its powerful engines and capable chassis setting the bar with each new generation. Redesigned for 2013, the Altima once again finds its way near the top of the class. The manual transmission choice has been dropped, leaving the excellent 2.5-liter four-cylinder (182 horsepower) and CVT transmission combo as the entry-level choice. Nissan's continuously variable automatic, which uses a sub-planetary gear to widen available gear ratios and better mimic the feel of a traditional automatic, is the best we've tried, and helps four-cylinder models achieve an outstanding 27 city/38 highway mpg. Not only are these efficiency figures the class's best, but you do not need to pay extra for engine or transmission upgrades to attain them. The highly responsive 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine (22 city/31 highway mpg) shares lineage with the slightly larger motor you'll find in the Nissan 370Z and Infiniti G. Nissan calls its interior seating “Zero Gravity”, reminding us they were developed using input from NASA to provide maximum comfort on long drives. And drive you shall, as the Altima's spritely handling encourages taking the long way home. Rear legroom is average, and interior tech is passable if not revolutionary, though the navigation, high-end audio and other premium upgrades are competitively priced, meaning a loaded Altima will be easier on the wallet than with most competing models.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 27 city/38 highway/31 combined mpg (2.5-liter).
The venerable Toyota Camry has been the top-selling passenger car in the U.S. nearly every year since the early 1990s, and it's easy to see why. Toyota has the midsize family sedan formula down pat, and doesn't need to rely on look-at-me styling to sell hundreds of thousands each year. The Camry is built like a tank, and thanks to Toyota's legendary reliability, affordable parts, excellent resale value, and 2 years of Toyota Care free scheduled maintenance, this overachieving midsize offers one of the lowest total costs of ownership on the market. You'll find the choice of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder (178 horsepower, 25 city/35 highway mpg) or a 3.5-liter V6 (268 horsepower, 21 city/31 highway mpg), either coming paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The current model debuted for 2012, and sees a couple of updates for 2013 that improve upon interior design, material quality and technology. Toyota's touchscreen Display Audio system now comes standard even on the base “L” trim, and hard plastic surfaces have been replaced with soft-touch materials. When fitted with the optional Entune smartphone-pairing infotainment module, Display Audio comes to life with internet radio and tons of convenience apps. Built for comfort rather than corner-carving performance, the Camry can be dull and even a little disconcerting if driven hard, but with so much to like about this award-winning midsize, most owners won't care.
EPA-rated fuel economy: Up to 25 city/35 highway/28 combined mpg (2.5-liter).