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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

Another Terrible Metaphor

Automotive Journalism is a lot like food writing: A critic visits a restaurant, samples some food, and writes a review. But good (and bad) reviews of good (and less than good) restaurants do nothing to deter people from continually eating at McDonalds.
Look, we're not saying that the Toyota Camry is the automotive equivalent of McDonalds, but its popularity, like McDonalds, is both absolutely reasonable, and certifiably baffling. Which is to say that no other car on this list was as hotly debated as the Toyota Camry. One of us placed it last on his list, while two others placed it as high as second and third on their lists. First, the good: It's a Camry, so you know it'll drive to the moon and back. Secondly, it's a Camry, so you know you can drive to the moon and back comfortably with four extra passengers. And, since it's a Camry, you know you can drive to the moon and back comfortably with four extra passengers and still have enough room for a trunk full of lavender-scented hand towels from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Also, no one would question that you got the best fuel economy in the Milky Way by virtue of it being a Toyota. Camrys are good at that. And then the less than good: The good engine is mated to a frustratingly-intolerant transmission, the suspension was stolen from a 1980s Buick, and the steering is about as intuitive as a unicycle's (it's good at going straight!). "Everything about this car is good," said Might As Well Be Married Guy. And that's the problem. It's so blandly good that almost nothing about it stands out. "It looks good," said Bachelor #1. "Front seat was very good, the cloth seats would be good for long trips," he continued. "Visibility is good," said Married Guy #1, "and there's a good-sized trunk." And when it's not good, it's basic. Or honest, inoffensive, solid, simple, unexciting, un-engaging, appliance-like, bland, grayge, durable, reputable, middle-ground, standard, rudimentary, unsophisticated, un-flashy, anonymous, supportive, cheap, and smart. These are the actual uninspiring descriptors we used in our comparison notes to explain the Camry. If these words were sent to you in a love letter, you'd actually be offended. "It doesn't evoke much feeling," remarked Bachelor #1, "not like the Fusion, anyway. But it offers everything shoppers in this segment care about." And that's true, and important to remember. The Camry is very fuel efficient. It's safe. It has a spacious, mostly comfortable interior, both front and back. The trunk is huge. And Toyota's brand perception is at an all-time high in terms of quality, reliability, and value. A lot of people want those things in a car. "The reason the Camry sells so well is because it manages to hit all those high points, and for people who don't need anything beyond that, they're happy," said Married Guy #1.
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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! :)