Midsize sedans are the vehicular standard for millions of Americans, and each year brings with it new models and discontinued lines as manufacturers calibrate their products to exactly what consumers are looking for. The midsize sedan market is constantly saturated with models from car makers across the world, giving customers a cornucopia of options and the ability to track down the car best tailored to their interests. Popular models from companies like Chevrolet (NYSE:GM), Ford (NYSE:F), Honda (NYSE:HMC), and more have long been customer favorites, but the emergence of newer companies over the past couple of decades have blown the market wide open.
A team over at Motor Trend took the liberty of going in-depth in comparing six of the top models on the market today. The lineup includes the following models: Chevrolet Malibu, Mazda (MAZDY.PK) 6, Kia (KIMTF.PK) Optima, Nissan (NSANY.PK) Altima, Honda Accord, and the Chrysler (FIATY.PK) 200. As Motor Trend lays it out, “each manufacturer was instructed to give us what they consider the best version of their midsizer available for a base price of $26,000 or less, destination fees included. From there, options could be added however they saw fit.”
With a leveled playing field, the team got to work comparing the models across several categories, including ride and handling, performance, efficiency, cockpit/cabin, safety, value, notable features, and cost of ownership. Here are the results of the Motor Trend comparison between six top midsize sedan models in the order their judges placed them.
6. Chevrolet Malibu
Coming in at last place among the six sedans is the Chevrolet Malibu. Judges said factors like a lackluster engine, poor efficiency, and a cheap interior helped anchor the Malibu down to the bottom. Also lowering the Malibu’s chances were what the judges deemed to be the car’s two weakest points: a noisy engine and cramped back seat. To sum things up, judges said efficiency was the final nail in the coffin for the Malibu. “The Chevy was weak in value and questionable in fuel economy given its lowest averaged combined mpg figure,” Motor Trend concluded.
5. Nissan Altima
Besting the Malibu for fifth place was the Nissan Altima. The Altima showcased strengths in the efficiency and value categories, but came up short with a lackluster powertrain and steering response. The Altima was also praised for having a sizable rear seat, one factor that put it above the Malibu in the results. The biggest thing weighing down the Altima is the handling and steering dynamics, which judges reported to have a heavy feeling, cheapening the driving experience. Motor Trend adds that, “The Altima just didn’t capture our hearts like the four cars ranked ahead of it.”
4. Honda Accord
The much-beloved Honda Accord ranks somewhat surprisingly low on the list in the number four spot. Motor Trend praises the Accord for being extremely spacious, but had gripes regarding a lack of amenities, a cheap interior, and an overall rough ride. It was noted that the Sport model supplied may have been a contributing factor to the Accord’s shortcomings. Some of the things the judges did like about the Accord were the safety aspect, overall value, and decent fuel economy. The Accord, although coming up short on the list, makes a great choice for families due to the spacious interior. If all you need is space and speed, look no further. A rough ride might be solved by a non-Sport model.
3. Chrysler 200
In a fairly surprising achievement, the Chrysler 200 made the top half of Motor Trend‘s findings thanks to an attentive approach to the vehicle’s design, particularly in the cabin. Chrysler redesigned the 200 from the ground up recently, adding innovative storage compartments, among other things, that helped prop the it up over models like the Accord and Altima. There were plenty of things to ding the 200 for as well, including a lethargic powertrain and underpowered engine, in addition to a cabin that’s less roomy than some of its contemporaries. One cool aspect of the car is that it is the only model to include a nine-speed rotary dial transmission. Ultimately, it the 200 proves to be a middle-of-the-pack sedan, with better choices available.
2. Kia Optima
A solid showing for Kia, the Optima found its way all the way to number two on the list. Kia models have been quietly assuming masses of fans thanks to stylish and reliable vehicles that provide a great value. Heated and cooled front seats are only one feature that help the Optima stand out in its segment. Others include gorgeous interior and exterior design, along with great fuel efficiency. The one gripe the team at Motor Trend really had to say about the Optima concerned its uninspired driving dynamics, which evidently was the only thing keeping it out of the top spot.
1. Mazda 6
Crowned king of the midsize sedans for this comparison is the Mazda 6. As the Motor Trend team puts it, “when we asked ourselves which vehicle we’d purchase with our own money, we unanimously voted for the Mazda.” A combination of great exterior design, roomy seats, great efficiency, and superior driving dynamics made the 6 an easy winner over its competitors. Of all the great features, the one thing Motor Trend’s team said really set the 6 apart from the others is that it brings personality to the table. For drivers looking to add some charisma and genuine identity to their daily routine, the Mazda 6 outclasses its rivals in the midsize sedan market.