One and Done: The Best Midsize Sedan in America

The best midsize sedan in America, and four other cars.

By Jason Davis | Photos By Jason Davis | February 26, 2013
Here is how this story begins and ends: The 2013 Honda Accord is the best midsize sedan in America, and it belongs in your driveway. If you clicked this link to find the answer to that question, you now have it. Thanks for the pageview. But there's more to the story here, and it starts and ends with coffee. Specifically in this case, under an umbrella on the patio at Martha's 22nd St. Grill in Hermosa Beach on a cloudy morning. There were five of us, one for each car -- the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ, the 2013 Nissan Altima, the 2013 Honda Accord EX-L, the 2012 Toyota Camry LE, and the 2013 Ford Fusion -- and each reviewer brought his own conflicting interests, driving needs, habits, and experience. Among us were two married guys, another who might as well be, and two bachelors of decidedly different backgrounds. Case in point: One of us doesn't drink coffee, which begs the question: How do you even argue with that person when he says, "I think the such-and-such car has the best cup holders." NO, YOU DON'T DRINK COFFEE, YOUR POINT IS INVALID. But all of this is really just support for the fact that the 2013 Honda Accord is the best midsize sedan in America (and it belongs in your driveway). That much was unanimous. Uncontested. Even the Honda-hating non-coffee drinker agreed. Exactly how we came to that conclusion, and how close the Accord's victory was, is where the story lies.

Cars and Coffee

The gourmet coffee at Martha's was excellent, the stuffed French toast even better, and the great service, and gently crashing waves in the background made for a setting that was too comfortable to leave. So we drank more coffee, fine-tuned the test criteria, and picked our pre-road test favorites:
Accord - 2 Fusion - 1 Altima - 1 Camry - 1 Our testing method included driving each car in a number of typical road situations, like on the freeway, in traffic, in and out of busy parking lots, and on backcountry roads. We drove each car back-to-back and on the same road and weather conditions, which we feel is the best way to subjectively evaluate the practicality and nuance of each vehicle. Then we sat in the backseat, fitted a Britax infant carrier and toddler's booster seat into each car, and filled the trunk with as many grocery bags we could fit. We asked and found answers to questions like, "Which car provides the best value," "What is the difference between the car I want, and the car I would buy with my own money," and, "Which car would I recommend to a family member?" Finally, despite months of planning, it wasn't possible to get a completely level playing field, because automotive fleets don't always carry every single model with every price point. As a result, our midsize best-sellers ranged from about $23,000 to just more than $32,000. However, keep in mind that the price difference between these vehicles when equipped the same is surprisingly narrow, just a few hundred dollars one way or the other.
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7 comments
DRJJJ
DRJJJ

The Accord is the best looking, but the Camry is the best choice if you're looking for reliability! The Camry has the traditional engine/drivetrain config-no direct injection and no cvt tranny like the accord auto! Read forums, these two features are over sold and may just lead to very expensive repairs down the road! I'm guessing manufacturers will regret DI and CVTs! These two features have not delivered as promise in the mpg department either as promised! All the cars are good looking outside and competition is tightening, but this should be known to the buying public! The chevy and chrysler engine/drivetrain is still sub par too ( I rent them), but getting better! Thanks, picky EngineerĀ 

Audi Love
Audi Love

The Fusion is the best of them all, honey! ^^^^^

Gregory Smitherman
Gregory Smitherman

I'm chevy all the way, both the Honda and Chevy Malibu looks the best.

Automotive.com
Automotive.com

It takes a little coercing to get our staff photographer (and talented writer if you haven't read the story yet) out of the dark dungeon known as our cubicle-walled office. But when he gets out, he does a great job. -Jacob

Alex Brown
Alex Brown

This is a great picture.... If the fusion was in a different color, I'd give it the best grill award. Def goes to Honda tho! :)