Best Midsize Sedans 2010-2016
Midsize sedans populate the driveways of America. According to Popular Mechanic’s, the category of midsized sedans was the single largest volume segment in 2009 with nearly 20% of the market. That equates to nearly one in every six new cars sold annually. Over the last six years their popularity has continued to grow. It’s no wonder. High quality sedans provide pragmatic family transportation with comfort, roominess, plenty of luxury features, all at an affordable price. Of the top thirty best-selling vehicles in 2013, 25% were midsize sedans, the highest market share of any vehicle type.
The Big Three, the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry, had long dominated the market, but up and coming challengers emerged like the Kia Optima, Ford Fusion, Subaru Legacy, Chevy Malibu, Suzuki Kizashi, Chrysler 200, and Mazda 6. How have the popular, perennial best-sellers fared against the rival upstarts?
Automakers differ in how they configure the trim levels for their vehicle models. Generally speaking, base-model midsize sedans have fewer features, smaller wheels, and basic stereos, but have the same passenger and trunk space as the more expensive trim levels. Fully loaded midsize sedans come with every feature that a luxury car does: advanced safety features, leather interior, heated seats, navigation systems with large touch-screen displays, etc. for thousands less than actual luxury vehicles. They just don’t have the brand cache and social status of a luxury car like the BMW, Audi, or Mercedes. Falling within a price range from the low $20’s to mid-$30’s, the midsize sedan is affordable, fitting different budgetary needs. The luxury sedans are not included in the models considered for best picks in the information that follows because they cost so much more in all respects. They cost more to buy, they cost more to drive, they cost more to insure and they cost more to repair. The focus is on the midsize sedans purchased and driven by the majority of consumers.
The Subaru Legacy, received excellent reviews from Consumer Reports, Car Connection and Popular Mechanics, and is one of the best midsize sedans of 2016. Consumer Reports reviewer characterized it “as a car with very few compromises, effectively blending an excellent ride, responsive handling, a roomy and quiet interior, great visibility, simple controls and easy cabin access front and rear. This all adds up to a package that puts it among the top performers in our ratings of midsize family sedans.” Scoring an 89, the highest score among all the midsize sedans, it received a recommended rating. The Legacy offers an extensive set of advanced safety features standard on all models with blind spot monitoring, lane change warnings, back-up camera, pre-collision braking and rear cross-traffic alert.
It was awarded a 5-star overall rating by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) having earned the highest rating possible in every one of the agency’s tests. It also achieved the highest rating possible in all five crash tests performed by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety); the best crash test scores among all midsize sedans making it a Top Safety Pick Plus.
The Subaru Legacy is extremely fuel efficient considering it comes standard with AWD (all wheel drive), an additional security advantage in low-traction driving conditions. Few cars in this class, and none with AWD, are more efficient. The CVT transmission contributes to fuel economy delivering 30 mpg overall. The redesigned Legacy looks very similar to the 2010-2014 models and there are certainly more attractively designed models among its competitors like the Mazda 6 and Ford Fusion, but the current model has improved design appeal and it offers way more than any of its competitors at a lower price.
Since its redesign for 2014, the Mazda 6 has been a favorite. It is Popular Mechanics top pick described as “not only the best midsize sedan available in America, its one of the best sedans in the world, period.” Motor Trend’s Johnny Lieberman said, “If Americans actually cared about driving, the Mazda 6 would be the best selling car in America.” It is an all around exceptional midsize sedan, a blend of spirited handling, attractive, slick interior/exterior styling, well-crafted, roomy, interior. It offers a comparable, equally extensive set of safety features as the Subaru, though not available on the base model. The Mazda 6 costs $3000 more to match the Legacy’s high tech safety features, not including the AWD. The very powerful powertrain delivered 32 mpg overall in Consumer Reports tests achieving the best fuel economy among conventional midsize sedans. Reviews indicate the car handles well with responsive steering that contributes to its agility, quick shifts, ease of cornering. It is described as a sporty alternative to the conventional ho hum design, engaging and a joy to drive. It beat out 5 other cars in Motor Trends Big Test of 2014-/15 Midsize Sedans. Car enthusiasts, perhaps placing more value on looks and handling, rave about this car. It is without question one of the best.
Among the tried and true established midsize sedans, the Toyota Camry delivers year after year with outstanding reliability which when combined with impressive crash test results make it one of Consumer Reports top picks. It received their Good Bet endorsement for used car purchase across all model years 2010-2015. Smooth and dependable, skewed toward comfort and convenience, with its long history of high level owner satisfaction, it retains its standing as one of the best in its class recommended by Consumer Reports.
The Honda Accord holds its own as one of the best midsize sedans with high safety ratings, improved fuel economy, sound performance and solid handling, and crash avoidance systems. It is a Top Pick Plus according to the IIHS and has a Good Bet rating across all model years 2010-2015 from Consumer Reports.
The category of midsize sedans is fiercely competitive among all the automakers and the truth is that all of the models are reasonable and decent choices. None has a flagrant Achilles heel, some have better qualities than others, and some offer more value than others. The subtleties of each car’s personality and the nuanced connection between man and machine is what ultimately determines what is the best, the top pick for each of us—and preference often trumps data. So check them all out, and then decide—for yourself.