SUVs and crossovers might be great for big broods, but what if there's only one or two kids at home? The typical family of four can do just fine without the size and thirst of a rec room on wheels. That explains why the midsize sedan has been a staple of family transportation for decades, even as newer types of vehicle invaded its turf. And why not? You get plenty of room for two toddler seats in the back, reasonable efficiency, and the easy driveability of a passenger car.
If you're one of the millions in the market for a sedan this year, you can't go wrong with these top performers.
The Fusion has always managed to seem more expensive than it really is. The fluid roofline and subtle body contours result in a prestigious look. It's safe to say the Fusion is the style leader in this rather conservative class.
On the road, the Fusion is quiet and composed, imparting the feel of an entry-level luxury car. Wind and engine noise have been all but engineered out at highway speeds. Handling is definitely on the sporty end of this class.
Engine choices start with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with a 175 horsepower. The optional 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder provides performance similar to a V6, but with vastly superior fuel economy.
The new Sport model features a 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 that develops a class-leading 325 horsepower. All-wheel drive is standard on the Sport and optional on models equipped with the 2-liter engine. The highly efficient hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Fusion remain available.
The Camry goes about its business in smooth silence, not unlike luxury cars of just a few years ago. Once you sample its fluid operation and relaxed nature, you'll understand why it's so darn popular with American families. You also get a well-tailored cabin, excellent highway efficiency with any engine, and a comfy rear seat that even tall adults will appreciate. In short, the Camry gives you exactly what you want, no questions asked.
The standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder produces 178 horsepower, and you can upgrade to a 3.5-liter V6 with 268 horsepower. Both engines deliver power to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Also available is a 200-horsepower hybrid setup that achieves 41 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
The current Accord has always impressed us with its lean, athletic body and spirited driving dynamics. The car's crisp handling and medium-firm suspension make it feel smaller than it really is.
Despite its emphasis on performance, the Accord is brimming with family-car virtues. You get ample rear legroom, a generous trunk, and fine efficiency.
The standard 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine delivers an impressive 31 mpg in combined city and highway driving. You can upgrade to a 3.5-liter V6 with 278 horsepower for acceleration to match the Accord's already sporty handling.
To top it off, the Accord enjoys a decades-old reputation for providing excellent value over the long haul.
If you've always found family sedans rather boring, try the swoopy Mazda6 on for size. It looks like an athlete and handles like one too. You also get terrific efficiency and some nice convenience features for the price. Even though it's aimed primarily at families, the Mazda6 has a youthful vibe that's hard to come by in this class.
All models are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 184 horsepower. While most models run with a six-speed automatic transmission, a six-speed manual is available on some trim levels. That's something you can't get in any of its rivals. The Mazda6 achieves 38 mpg on the highway, which is remarkable for a gas-powered midsize sedan.
The Nissan Altima counters the competition with fresh, sophisticated styling throughout and a highly efficient standard powertrain. Thanks to last year's makeover, the Altima looks and feels far richer than previous editions. Inside, soft-touch materials and a finely detailed dash create an atmosphere of casual luxury.
Both the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder and optional 3.5-liter V6 are matched to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that's unobtrusive and efficient. With the standard engine, the Altima returns 31 mpg in combined city and highway driving. The V6 delivers 270 horsepower for eye-opening acceleration, albeit at a loss of economy.