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What is the Best Midsize Sedan?

September 27th, 2011

So, you’re looking for the best midsize sedan.  Where do you start your search?  There are a lot of models out there.  You could start with the big name brands – Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu.  That seems pretty safe.  But, would you really be getting the best sedan for you, or would you be overlooking something?  Well, before you drive all over your local area visiting dealerships and test driving various models, here is something that might help you hone down your search.

We invited over 100 midsize sedan owners to our research facility to conduct a detailed, hands-on comparison of the top 13 selling midsize sedans.  They rated over 80 attributes for each vehicle.  Then, we statistically summarized their ratings into a handy summary that gives you a quick, clear look at how each model measures up in all the major categories – exterior appearance, interior appearance, rear seat comfort and roominess, etc.  So, what did over 100 real owners – people like you -  find to be the best midsize sedan when they compared them all?  The winner was none of the big names mentioned above, and 3 of the top 6 scoring models are not in that list.  Here is what consumers found in a back-to-back, hands-on comparison.

2nd runner up:  The following three sedans tied for 3rd place:

Honda Accord:  Accord is the roominess and visibility champion, claiming top honors for front seat roominess, driver seat comfort, rear seat comfort and roominess, and overall visibility.  Interior storage and value for the money rate above average.  However, exterior styling, center instrument panel appearance, and interior controls are weaknesses, rating below average.

Nissan Altima:  Altima scores above average for 8 of 10 summary categories, earning the top score for front seat roominess and for front seating area storage.  It rates average for exterior and interior appearance.  Altima has few weaknesses, rating below average for only 4 of 87 ratings.

Subaru Legacy:  Legacy ties Camry and Accord for the top rated rear seat comfort and roominess.  Interior appearance, storage, and controls rate above average, together with visibility.  Legacy’s average rated exterior appearance is seen as boxy and masculine, a look fitting its active outdoor image and standard all-wheel drive.  The trunk rates below average for size of opening and cargo space.  Price and value for the money rate average.

First runner up:  The following two sedans tied for second place:

2011 Toyota Camry:  In the final year of its life cycle, the best-selling Toyota Camry earned the highest rating for rear seat comfort and roominess, and was above average for exterior appearance, front seat comfort and roominess, trunk area, visibility, and value for the money.  Camry scored average for interior appearance, storage, and controls.  Camry’s few weaknesses came in center stack appearance, rear seat storage, warranty, and cargo flexibility, where it was the only vehicle without a fold down rear seat.  True Consumer Reviews will do a new mid sedan test early next year with the redesigned  2012 Camry and Malibu.

Kia Optima:  Optima ties Sonata for the top rated trunk, and rates above average for 7 of 10 summary categories.  Segment owners find few weaknesses, rating Optima below average for only one of 87 attributes.  Optima’s unique driver-oriented instrument panel design was an exciter for some, lending an almost guilty sense of driver self-indulgence.

And now, the winner of the best midsize sedan:

Hyundai Sonata:  The redesigned 2011 Hyundai Sonata was the clear winner with midsize sedan owners.  Sonata earned the highest overall vehicle rating, taking top honors in 6 of 10 summary categories, including exterior appearance, interior appearance, interior controls, interior storage, trunk area, and value for the money.  Sonata takes top honors in 45 of 87 detailed ratings.  Segment owners find no real weaknesses, giving Sonata only 12 average scores and none below average. Forty three percent of those rating Sonata gave it a top box (like strongly) score for overall vehicle, compared to 27% for Camry and 25% for Accord.

Want to learn more?  Just click the sedan icon on the upper right of our home page, pick the midsize sedans, and select the models you want to compare.  You’ll get something you cannot find anywhere else:  the compiled ratings of over a hundred midsize sedan owners who compared all the major models, hands-on.  Then, click on the rating symbols to get the photos and explanations behind the ratings.