At the center of the market, midsize sedans collectively have outsold any other segment for many years. Competition is fierce and consumers have many high-quality models from which to choose. Prices start just below $20,000 and rise above $30,000 for fully loaded midsize cars and their hybrid versions.
Here we use the AutoEcoRating scale to compare five of the front runners at the most affordable end of the segment’s range. The resulting eRatings — all for models with automatic transmissions — set a baseline to which we can compare midsize hybrid sedans in a later post.
With an eRating of 120, the 2011 Honda Accord claims the top spot among non-hybrid midsize choices. Long regarded as a benchmark to which other automakers calibrate their designs, the Accord routinely appears on numerous “best of” lists. For instance, it has now garnered Car & Driver magazine’s “10 Best Cars” award for 14 years running.
This year Honda updated the Accord for better efficiency and other improvements, yielding a combined fuel economy of 27 mpg for both the LX ($22,730) and the sportier EX trims ($25,655; MSRP including destination charge). The Accord meets a second-generation “ultra-low emissions” (ULEV) standard, implying a tailpipe that’s 30 percent cleaner than the requisite average. This ULEV rating plus an all-around efficient design for its size and performance earns the Accord the highest eRating within the most affordable portion of the midsize segment.
Next in line is Chevy Malibu, which earns an eRating of 118. The Malibu LS trim is priced similarly to the Accord for similar features and its environmental performance isn’t far behind. The Malibu has a combined (city-highway average) fuel economy rating of 26 mpg — a mile shy of the Accord’s — and certifies a slightly cleaner tailpipe, keeping it ahead of the rest of the competition.
The comparably spec’ed Hyundai Sonata GLS is offered at $20,915, the lowest price among the models evaluated while offering the highest horsepower. Its eRating is 112. The Ford Fusion S trim with a 2.5 liter, 175 horsepower engine achieves an eRating of 111 at a $21,475 price point. (All the prices cited here are MSRP plus destination charge for an automatic plus other standard features and don’t reflect any rebates or other discounts that might apply.) Although its eRating of 109 finds the Toyota Camry bringing up the rear in this group of under-$25,000 midsize sedans, it’s still a competitive product as seen in how it’s been America’s top-selling sedan for the past eight years running.
Five Midsize Sedans Under $25,000
|Make & Model||Specifications||Price||City / Hwy MPG||eRating|
|Honda Accord LX||2.4L 177 hp auto||$22,730||23 / 34||120|
|Chevrolet Malibu LS||2.4L 169 hp auto||$22,735||22 / 33||118|
|Hyundai Sonata GLS||2.4L 198 hp auto||$20,915||22 / 35||112|
|Ford Fusion S||2.5L 175 hp auto||$21,475||23 / 33||111|
|Toyota Camry base||2.5L 169 hp auto||$21,630||22 / 32||109|