DRIVEN: Midsize Madness - Day One

March 18, 2013
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Mainstream sedans--millions of them. Get out there on the road and you'll find them. Not too big and not too small, all built for the way we drive in this country--even if the carmakers labels seem to come from elsewhere. These are midsize cars built to suit American roads and American drivers, so we really should call them American sedans.
Family Sedan Spread
These are pretty much the best, most practical sedans in the world. You get plenty of passenger room and no end of features, plus you don't have to spend too much for the privilege of ownership. The cars almost never, ever break down, since every little component has been refined to the last degree during miles and miles of testing by dozens of engineers and miles and miles of just plain driving by millions of owners. Like a stone that you find in a river, all the rough edges have been worn off of these cars until only the truest, purest form remains.
We've gathered eight midsize American sedans that speak to the priorities we have at Automobile Magazine: Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and Volkswagen Passat. Some have style, some have speed, and some have reliability, yet all have a unique, definable character. By choosing one of them as the best, we hope to not only define the current state of the American midsize sedan but also define the character that those of us who read Automobile want in a practical, everyday kind of car.
We haven't included every car in this segment because, well, such a test would be a mess. We elected to compare front-wheel-drive family sedans powered by four-cylinder engines, and there are a lot of them. Not every car had the right kind of game to make the tournament, among them the Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, and Chevrolet Malibu. The Subaru Legacy is available only with all-wheel drive, so we set up a match with an all-wheel-drive Ford Fusion to get a different perspective.
We'll admit that our standards are perhaps impractically high. We can't pretend to be the average buyer, because, well, that would be impossible. Just like you, we are who we are. If you want complete objectivity unconfused by education, experience, enthusiasm, and just plain good taste, well, good luck.
The choices we'll make will be just as difficult yet just as final as the ones consumers make. We're going to match the cars head-to-head, weigh the assets and liabilities, and then choose. We're not going to dumb down the process into some kind of SAT test, where like eraser-head geeks we carefully add up the points scored in a thousand little categories of performance. When you do that, you reward broad-based mediocrity, not excellence. And at Automobile Magazine, we're all about excellence.
We think the question of choice is personal and powerful, and a one-to-one confrontation reveals character in a way that giant test groups do not. The things we care about in every match-up might change as we wrestle with the differences between cars, but we're sure that this overall strategy will enable a real winner to emerge. After all, we're looking for a great car, not great statistics.
To give a little real-world perspective to the whole process ("real world" being a largely foreign concept to those of us at Automobile), we've arranged the participants in brackets just as you would in an athletic tournament. The losers will be knocked out one by one until the winner presents itself.
It's a different kind of comparison test, but it's one that suits us. For us, its all about driving.
Come back to automobilemag.com tomorrow morning for the first round of Midsize Madness.

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2013 Honda Accord

LX FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
starting at (MSRP)
$21,680
Engine
2.4L I4
Fuel Economy
24 City 34 Hwy
2013 Honda Accord