Midsize sedans are the bread and butter cars of most companies. Yet, even if typical bread and butter may seem like a bland food, that doesn’t stop these cars from being stylish, sporty, and fun to drive.
The best selling cars in the country are midsize sedans and the best selling cars for most automakers are their sedan offerings. The midsize sedan offers practicality without the reputation crushing style of a minivan.
At least, that’s what they want you to think.
The Toyota Camry was once the most popular car in the world and a year ago, the Camry’s annual American sales typically exceeded the total annual new car sales in the average European country.
There are many choices for car buyers and that allows people to demand many different things from these four door cars. Some people buy them as family cars, opting for more room over a compact sedan, without sacrificing small car handling and fuel economy. Other people like a bigger car over a smaller one and then there’s people who prefer the Honda Accord to the Civic because it has a bigger presence on the road. The larger car makes you feel safer and more secure during highway travel.
These are our top ten midsize cars under $30,000.
Hit the jump to read on.
10) Chrysler Sebring
There isn’t much to love about the midsize Chrysler except maybe the fact that you won’t have to keep it long when you buy it because it will most likely break down. That or you’ll just get tired of the dull interior and boring driving experience. Under the hood of the Sebring is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder motor with 173 horsepower. Step it up a notch and you can get the larger 2.7-liter V6 with 189 horsepower. Amazingly, with that many liters Chrysler could barely get 190 from the motor. The cost is around $20,500 for the base model and it goes up from there. So, if you want a cheap car that is, frankly, dull, this is your car.
9) Toyota Camry
Motor Trend feels that this car is the best in the midsize segment, but they are wrong. This car is as dull as dirt and it’s basically an appliance on wheels. The car is built to haul people and it does that well, but don’t expect to be moved by it. We, at TopSpeed, love cars that provide us that certain something, a sparkle that makes a good car great. This car lacks that sparkle and the steering is appalling. There is no feel in the wheel and there is way too much play at the dead center. It rolls in the corners and is way too big. The price for the Camry is around $19,950 for the base LE, but we would recommend the SE with the manual, that way you can inject a little life into the Camry. Under the hood is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder motor that delivers around 179 horsepower. It feels fast on the highway, but seriously, don’t buy this car.
8) Chevrolet Malibu
The Malibu isn’t in eighth because it’s a bad car, but the competition is so tough that the Malibu just isn’t ready to go against the big boys. The Chevrolet starts at $21,825 and goes up $26,995 for the high end model. Under the hood is either a 2.4-liter four-cylinder or a 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine. We would go with the four-cylinder model because the six-cylinder isn’t needed in this sort of car. The ride is good and the controls are very easy to use. We usually don’t like cars that look like cheaper versions of other cars, but that’s all right. The rear-seat space is cramped and the build quality is questionable. Not to mention you don’t get the kind of equipment that you would on other models.
7) Nissan Altima
We love the Altima on the track and the V6 SE-R is fantastic, but on the road, the car can be a bit hard. The exterior look is good, but the interior is average. To be honest, it’s a bit dull and some of the plastics are a bit below average. If you don’t get the navigation system the controls are boring and the interior is too black. We aren’t huge fans of the CVT transmission and the four-cylinder models are a bit uninteresting. In the base model, you get the 2.4-liter with 175 horsepower. The price is around $19,900 for the base model, a decent price, but we would pass if it were up to us.
6) Subaru Legacy
We love the Legacy. In fact, we love it a lot, but sadly it ranks in sixth and not in the top five. If we were to buy a midsize sedan it would easily be one that we would consider. Yet, for the masses, the Legacy won’t be a mainstream choice. There is no automatic transmission available on the turbocharged model and in the American market, where we are to busy to shift gears ourselves, that won’t go over well. The base price is $19,950, but if you want any sort of options you will be forced to pay. Under the hood is a 2.5-liter flat-four that cranks out 170 horsepower. Gas mileage is average compared to the other models in this test. Overall, the Legacy is a decent car and we love it for it’s manual gearbox and all-wheel drive, but it won’t sell well.
5) Honda Accord
The Accord is the quintessential midsize sedan, but sadly it got fat. We aren’t fans of the new exterior look, with the big eye headlights and dull rear-end. The interior is pretty good, but the navigation system is a bit hard to use. The steering is dull and numb, like most Hondas, but the car is pretty fast and it handles well. It’s also pretty comfortable. The base price for the Accord is $21,055, a little more expensive than the base models of the competition. For that price you get a 2.4-liter four-cylinder 177 horsepower motor, but if you up the price to the EX, that same motor will crank out 190 horsepower. Gas mileage is average, but not as good as the other models. We like the Accord, but it’s not what it used to be.
4) Ford Fusion
The Fusion is ready to hit the big stage after years of disappointment. We love the exterior design and we really love the dials in the interior. The V6 model is just amazing, as it has a 3.5-liter V6 with 263 horsepower and it feels fast. If we were to choose a model, it would be the V6 SEL or the Sport model, which are priced at $26,505 and $28,115 respectively. The base model is just $19,695, but the four-cylinder model is good, but not nearly as good as the V6.
3) Volkswagen CC
The CC is fantastic, but it was one major flaw; the price. The base model is just as expensive as the top of line Fusion models, but you do get a lot for your $27,760. You will need to stay within the Sport model in order to stay below $30,000, but that isn’t really a bad thing. The Sport model gives you a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 200 horsepower. It’s not the engine that makes us love the CC, it’s the style and the German built quality. We love the way this car looks and the way it drives. The engine is peppy and has pretty good fuel efficiency. It’s well equipped and who wouldn’t want a car that looks this good?
2) Mazda 6
The Mazda 6 has grown up, but for the better. We loved the old 6, but it was a bit small to be a real competitor in the midsize segment. Now, the 6 is bigger, but it hasn’t lost that "Zoom Zoom" spirit. The base price is $18,600, but the V6 model is the one you need. The S Touring Plus model is about $26,600, but it’s so much fun and so fast to drive that you won’t mind paying the extra price. It looks fantastic inside and out and you get a lot for your money. The cabin is roomy, the V6 is aggressive and fast, the automatic is smooth, and the handling is better than most of the cars in this test. On the downside, the fuel economy is average.
1) Hyundai Sonata
It’s a Hyundai and most people aren’t going to agree with this pick, but do us a favor and go drive one. We were skeptical as well, but once we got behind the wheel of this machine, our attitudes changed. First of all this car looks incredible, like a Mercedes-Benz CLS. The interior is a fun place to sit and the fuel economy is just out of this world. Prices start at $19,195 for the Sonata and they only go to the mid-twenties for the top end model. The ride is smooth, the seats are comfortable, the trunk is spacious, the rear-seat is spacious, and the warranty is stunning. Under the hood is a 2.4-liter with 198 horsepower. There is even a turbocharged version coming. This is the best car in the midsize segment and some might not like that, but it’s the truth.
Lists like this are always controversial and this one is no different. Some might not like the results of this, but many hours went into driving each and every one of these machines and the Sonata was the clear winner. While these are bread and butter machines, some of the them are truly stunning.
Up next, the top ten entry-level luxury cars.