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Consumer Reports names best sedans

Consumer Reports logo Consumer Reports 3/16/2015 Jeff Bartlett

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Cars come in all shapes and sizes, but the dominant silhouette on American highways and byways belongs to the ubiquitous four-door sedan. These classically configured cars range from affordable, subcompact models to ultra-luxury land yachts, crossing every price point in between.

When it comes time to select the perfect sedan for your needs and budget, the choices may be overwhelming at first. That’s where Consumer Reports comes in, cutting through the marketing hype with a comprehensive program that spans more than 50 tests and evaluations. To ensure we evaluate representative vehicles, every one of those cars is purchased anonymously, giving us the same dealership experiences as consumers. As a result, we can rate and rank without fear or favor. (Learn about how we test cars.)

In the sedans category, there are numerous excellent models well worth considering. But there are even more that frankly shouldn’t make the cut. To accelerate your shopping process, we’ve picked the 10 best sedans across several key categories, putting emphasis on the popular, and price-sensitive, compact and midsized sedan classes.

Each car here ranks among the best in class for road test performance, has average or better predicted reliability, and performs adequately if included in government or insurance-industry crash tests. Or simply put, these are the best new sedans on the market today and ones we strongly recommend.

Click through to read the complete road tests, along with scanning reliability, owner cost, owner satisfaction, pricing, and other data. Or use our search tools to compile your own list based on the factors that matter most to you.

Jeff Bartlett


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Compact car: Subaru Impreza

Base MSRP price range: $18,195 - $23,295

The Impreza’s interior packaging is outstanding, especially when you put friends (whom you want to remain your friends) in the backseat. Recent ­improvements have made it quieter inside. The ride is more comfortable than in some pricier cars. It drinks more fuel than its peers, but you’re getting all-wheel drive as a benefit. We don’t like the slackness and drone of most continuously variable transmissions, but with recent ­improvements Subaru has managed to mask those quirks. Subaru also has finally embraced the need for a contemporary infotainment system. The Impreza is among the pricier compact sedans, but it’s a strong value. 

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Compact car: Kia Forte

Base MSRP price range: $15,890 - $21,890

There's a lot to like in the Kia Forte for those in the market for a small car. Unassuming in nature yet considerably more refined than previous Kia compact sedans, the Forte feels mature and solid, thanks to having a quiet cabin and one of the most comfortable rides in its class. Kia's Forte provides generous interior room and a wide assortment of amenities. Our tested base LX sedan got 28-mpg overall with the smooth 1.8-liter four-cylinder and six-speed automatic. Handling is very secure but not particularly agile. All EX versions get a stronger 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and the SX coupe and hatch use a 1.6-liter turbo. The spacious interior is quiet for a compact car, and the controls are logically arranged. Part of the appeal for the Forte is that it offers features not usually found in the class, such as front/rear heated and ventilated seats. Predicted reliability is average, and owner satisfaction is better than average.

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Midsized sedan: Ford Fusion

Base MSRP price range: $22,500 - $36,630

If you seek an engaging midsized sedan, look no further. The Fusion is a delight to drive, with a supple ride and agile handling rivaling that of a European sports sedan. All trim levels and powertrains feel solid and upscale, with a well-finished and quiet cabin and comfortable seats. But the rear seat is somewhat snug, and the MyFord Touch interface is an annoyance. Most Fusions get either a 1.5- or 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder matched with a six-speed automatic. The 1.5-liter does the job, but the 2.0-liter packs more punch and better suits the car. We recorded 24-and 22-mpg overall, respectively, which is among the lower performers in the category. The Hybrid turned in an excellent 39-mpg overall. Reliability has been average or better for all versions.

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Midsized sedan: Subaru Legacy

Base MSRP price range: $21,695 - $29,595

Most sedans are excellent appliances—they do their job, but few people wake up excited to drive them. The Legacy exceeds those drab, rental-car expectations, providing a quiet, comfortable, and roomy package that also has the best ride among its peers. Its 26 mpg might seem lackluster, but that’s with the reassurance of all-wheel drive. Years ago, quirky folks bought Subarus to be practical and pragmatic. Now it’s simply a great car with mainstream appeal and impact. If you need a wagon for its cargo space, the Legacy’s Outback sibling is an excellent choice, as well.

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Midsized sedan: Toyota Camry

Base MSRP price range: $22,970 - $31,370

The Camry delivers smooth, dependable transportation that skews toward comfort and convenience. Its 2015 freshening offers upgraded interior electronics, more intuitive controls, reduced cabin noise, suspension tweaks that keep the ride steadier, and more interesting exterior styling. Because of the popularity of the sporty SE trim, Toyota has added a higher level XSE and SE Hybrid. The Camry more than holds its own among other family sedans with responsive and secure handling. The interior is quiet, and the ride soaks up bumps without much complaining. There's plenty of room inside and controls are easy to use, except for some tight-packed touch-screen buttons. All Camrys come well-equipped, with a standard backup camera and power driver's seat. Each of our tested Camrys—the LE four-cylinder, XLE Hybrid, and XLE V6—score within a few points of each other and cater to a wide spectrum of buyers, from the green-oriented hybrid to the semi-luxurious V6. A long history of strong reliability provides yet another selling point for this fuss-free sedan.

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Large sedan: Chevrolet Impala

Base MSRP price range: $27,060 - $40,660

For decades, the Impala nameplate was synonymous with the image of a bad rental car. Make no mistake, this Impala humbles the Toyota Avalon and even the Lexus ES 350. Large and roomy, the Impala has comfortable seats and rides like a true luxury car. The suspension is supple yet responsive, without the body roll that plagues many big cars. The cabin is hushed. For those of us with diminishing eye-sight , the controls are big, intuitive, and easily understood. The only drawback is limited rear visibility due to its high rear deck and deep parcel shelf. You can get one nicely equipped for $35,000, with affordable optional forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems. A caveat: Only the V6 version meets our reliability standards.

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Luxury compact car: BMW 328d xDrive

Base MSRP price range: $32,950 - $62,000

The BMW 3 Series is an excellent car that boasts high quality, attention to detail, and a long list of high-tech features. The car is agile, steady, and well balanced—even when pushed hard. Ride comfort, cabin quietness, and interior fit and finish are all impressive. The turbo four-cylinder makes the 328i quick yet returns a frugal 28-mpg overall. The diesel 328d that trades off some top-end acceleration for even better fuel economy with 35 mpg overall. And the 328d's 49-mpg highway mileage gives the car a lengthy driving range of 735 uninterrupted miles. With some diesel clatter, the 328d is a little noisier than the 328i, but we didn't find it offensive. Fun and efficient, the 328d is a luxury car with a rational side.

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Luxury car: Audi A6

Base MSRP price range: $44,800 - $75,500

Quick, nimble, and effortless, the A6 pampers you with extravagant surroundings and a plush ride. But at its heart, this Audi remains a driver-focused machine faithful to its core value of crisp handling on a curvy road. The seats are bolstered for hard cornering yet are comfortable on that 6-hour whisper-quiet cruise to wine country—with a trunk that will store your year’s supply of Riesling. The interior’s styling and layout display functional elegance without showy glitz—a fit-and-finish leitmotif that makes fans of Design Within Reach all squishy inside. All functions are within a finger reach of an infotainment system that becomes logical with some practice. Fuel economy is commendable when combined with the security of the Quattro all-wheel drive. Hit five out of six Powerball numbers? Then take your reward.

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Luxury car: Lincoln MKZ

Base MSRP price range: $35,190 - $37,080

The upscale MKZ is the most appealing and well-executed Lincoln in recent memory. Based on the Ford Fusion, it has a luxurious, quiet interior, and its ride and handling rival some high-end European sports sedans. Powertrains include a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder and a 3.7-liter V6, each matched with a six-speed automatic. There's also a hybrid, which returned a near-class-best 34-mpg overall in our tests. The push-button gear selector and touch-sensitive controls for climate and audio functions are frustrating to use. And the modern styling compromises cabin access and rear-seat room. Reliability has been average for all versions.

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Sports sedan: Buick Regal

Base MSRP price range: $29,990 - $39,810

Fans of German autobahn cruisers are breaking out their venom-tipped quill pens as they read this. An American car—an American front-drive car—is one of our Top Picks? Unbelievable! Surprisingly agile, the Regal defies Buick’s brand stereotype. Because it’s an Opel underneath, it has that Teutonic ride control that provides a Europhile driving experience. Close your eyes, and you’ll think you’re driving an Audi—a very good Audi at that. The 259-hp, 2.0-liter turbo is sharply integrated with a six-speed automatic and available all-wheel drive, and it remains responsive across a linear power band. The IntelliLink infotainment system is intuitive. The value-for-money equation is strong. You can even get a Regal with a stick shift to bolster your sport sedan credentials. It may not be as luxurious as the German giants, but a well-equipped Regal delivers a lot for the money.

More from Consumer Reports:

Best and worst three-row vehicles

Safest and most lethal late-model cars

Best new cars for under $25,000

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