When it comes to choosing the best vehicle for a family, car shoppers might think of large gas-guzzling SUVs or the dreaded minivan. While both options provide plenty of passenger room for large families — along with cavernous cargo capacity — not all families need that extra space. In many cases a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle may be the best answer. Although a compact SUV is one option, the best choice for many families could be the venerable midsize sedan, which offers room for up to five occupants, economical engine choices and the latest technological wizardry. Let’s look at the best sedan choices with starting prices of less than $25,000.
Price: Starting at $21,065
The Verano is a smaller sedan that joined the Buick lineup as a 2012 model, featuring a sportier design created to appeal to a younger demographic. OnStar with 4G LTE and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot to provide a mobile hub are standard equipment, with a rearview camera system and heated steering wheel available as options. The standard engine is a 2.4-liter ECOTEC four cylinder that produces 180 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque, paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission to achieve EPA ratings of 21 mpg city / 32 mpg hwy / 25 mpg combined.
The optional 2.0-liter ECOTEC turbocharged 4-cylinder engine produces 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, with EPA ratings of 21 mpg city / 30 mpg hwy / 24 mpg combined. Although Buick does not tout the Verano as a sport sedan, a 6-speed manual transmission is offered with the 2.0-liter ECOTEC engine. Verano showcases Buick’s QuietTuning technology, which is designed to block and absorb sound and eliminate vibrations to give the car one of the quietest interiors in its class.
Price: Starting at $21,495
The current generation of the Mazda6 debuted as a 2014 model with a sleek design to make a splash in the ultra-competitive midsize sedan segment. Updates for 2016 include a new grille, new fog light surrounds for the Grand Touring trim and standard LED headlights for Grand Touring (optional for Touring). Inside, the 2016 Mazda6 receives an updated dashboard design, a revised center console, an electronic parking brake, the MAZDA CONNECT infotainment system with a larger 7-inch full-color touchscreen, and available Active Driving Display and Sport Mode are standard for all models equipped with automatic transmissions. The Mazda6 is powered by a 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G engine that produces 184 horsepower and 158 lb-ft of torque, combined with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is EPA rated at 25 mpg city / 37 mpg hwy / 29 mpg combined mpg when equipped with a manual transmission, and 26 mpg city / 38 highway / 30 combined mpg with the automatic.
The Grand Touring trim level features an optional i-ELOOP system, which is a capacitor-based regenerative braking system that captures energy and stores it to power vehicle electrical components such as the headlights, climate control and audio systems, thus reducing the need for the gas engine to generate electricity. When equipped with i-ELOOP, fuel economy for the Mazda6 improves to 28 mpg city / 40 highway / 32 mpg combined.
Price: Starting at $21,625
The Chevrolet Malibu is all-new for 2016 with a 3.6-inch longer wheelbase and 2.3-inch longer overall length for more interior volume, but 300 pounds lighter than its predecessor. The sleek new design features slim, swept-back headlights and a new take on the Chevrolet dual-port grille, as well as body-side creases that redefine the profile. The standard engine is an ECOTEC 1.5-liter turbocharged four cylinder that produces 163 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, combined with a 6-speed automatic transmission. An optional ECOTEC 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine produces 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, combined with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The ECOTEC 1.5 is EPA rated at 27 mpg city / 37 mpg hwy / 31 mpg combined, and the ECOTEC 2.0 is rated at 22 mpg city / 33 mpg hwy / 26 mpg combined.
The 2016 Malibu Hybrid leverages components and knowledge developed from the Chevrolet Volt, and it gets power from a new 1.8-liter direct-injection 4-cylinder gas engine mated to a two-motor drive unit slightly modified from the 2016 Chevrolet Volt. The drive unit provides additional power to assist the engine during acceleration for a total system output of 182 horsepower. Power to the hybrid system comes from an 80-cell 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that can power the Malibu Hybrid to 55 mph on electric power only. The gasoline engine automatically comes on at higher speeds and high loads for additional power. The Malibu Hybrid shares Volt’s blended regenerative braking system for maximum energy recovery during braking.
Price: Starting at $21,750
The Hyundai Sonata was redesigned for the 2015 model year following the success of the 2011 model, which stirred up the midsize sedan segment with a flashy design more befitting an upscale luxury car than a mainstream midsize model. The current Sonata design is a little more conservative, with a new grille and sharper lines that reflect the style of Hyundai’s top-line Genesis sedan, but it retains the sloping roofline of the previous model. With its stiffer body structure, the new model emphasizes better ride quality and a reduced interior sound level. For 2016 a 7-inch color touchscreen with Android Auto is added for SE, Sport, Limited, Eco and Sport 2.0T trims. Aluminum suspension components reduce unsprung weight for handling improvements.
The Sonata SE, Sport and Limited trims are all powered by a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter engine combined with a standard 6-speed automatic transmission. The EPA fuel economy ratings for the SE are 25 mpg city / 37 mpg hwy / 29 mpg combined. The Sonata Eco, starting at $23,725, is the fuel-economy champ, powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine producing 178 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission to achieve 28 mpg city / 38 highway EPA estimates. Sonata Sport 2.0T and Sonata Limited 2.0T are powered by a revised 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that produces 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.
Price: Starting at $21,995
The Chrysler 200 was redesigned for 2015 with a much more elegant look, new technology and a standard 9-speed automatic transmission. The standard engine is a 2.4-liter MultiAir2 Tigershark 4-cylinder unit that produces 184 horsepower and 173 lb-ft of torque, and has EPA ratings of 23 mpg city / 38 mpg hwy / 28 mpg combined. The optional 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine produces 295 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, rated at 19 mpg city / 32 mpg hwy / 23 mpg combined. For 2016 a rear backup camera is standard on Limited and S trim levels; Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection are available as a standalone option for the Limited, and a 3.6-liter Pentastar engine is optional.
The Chrysler 200 offers an available all-wheel-drive system with an automatic full-disconnecting rear axle for improved fuel economy when all-wheel drive is unneeded. Inside, the center console design offers a pass-through storage space for driver and passengers, a covered charging station and sliding cupholders for even more storage when necessary.
Price: Starting at $21,995
The Subaru Legacy was redesigned for the 2015 model year with the most room ever offered in the Legacy, a more refined interior, additional safety technology and fuel economy improvements. As with all Subaru models, all-wheel drive is standard for all trim levels. The standard engine is a 2.5-liter horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder unit that produces 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, paired with a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission for EPA fuel economy ratings of 26 mpg city / 36 mpg hwy / 30 mpg combined. The CVT includes a 6-speed manual mode and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Updates for 2016 include SUBARU STARLINK Safety and Security features for Legacy Premium and Limited trims; available EyeSight Driver Assist Technology adds Lane Keep Assist and the suspension in Limited trims gets retuned for a smoother ride.
The Legacy 3.6R Limited is powered by a 3.6-liter horizontally-opposed 6-cylinder engine that produces 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque, combined with the Lineartronic CVT to achieve EPA fuel-economy ratings of 20 mpg city / 29 mpg hwy / 23 mpg combined. Active Torque Vectoring is added as an enhancement of the Vehicle Dynamics Control and traction control systems for more neutral handling in corners. Inside, Legacy features a more refined interior and more shoulder, hip and legroom than the previous model. For 2017 the Legacy 2.5i Sport adds exclusive features that include 18-inch sport-styled wheels, a dark gray grille, fog lights, chrome-accent rocker trim, a two-tone interior, cloth seats with blue stitching, as well as piano black and carbon fiber interior trim.
Price: Starting at $22,120
The revised 2017 Ford Fusion is already on sale, but the design changes are subtle since the previous model has been so popular. When the Fusion received a complete makeover for the 2013 model year, the bold new look included a long nose, sloping roofline and short rear deck to create a much more upscale look from the previous conservative design. The subtle changes create a more aerodynamic shape overall, pulling the grille forward with a new headlight design and new lower fascia, while at the rear a horizontal chrome strip connects the new taillights. Fusion Titanium, Platinum and Sport trims include new high-power LED headlights. The 2017 Ford Fusion adds two new trim levels, with the Platinum adding a new level of luxury starting at $36,620, and the Sport adding a high-performance option starting at $33,475.
Fusion has three EcoBoost engine offerings: a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder unit that produces 181 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque and can be equipped with optional auto start-stop to achieve EPA ratings of 23 mpg city / 34 mpg hwy / 27 mpg combined. A 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four cylinder produces 245 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, and is rated at 21 mpg city / 31 highway / 25 mpg combined. When it arrives later in 2016, the new Fusion Sport will be powered by the EcoBoost 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 producing 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque with standard all-wheel drive. Intelligent all-wheel drive is offered as an option with the 2.0 EcoBoost. The Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid are also available, combining a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle engine with an electronic continuously variable transmission and an electric motor to achieve EPA ratings of 43 mpg city / 41 mpg hwy / 42 mpg combined. The Fusion Energi has EPA ratings of 104 mpg city / 91 mpg hwy/ 97 mpg combined MPGe.
Price: Starting at $22,140
The Optima gets redesigned for 2016 following the bold, aggressive design of the previous version, which was a huge change for Kia’s midsize sedan; it created a tremendous amount of interest and a big jump in sales. Considering the success of the previous design, the new Optima is not a dramatic change but a refinement of the popular look. Kia chose to focus on creating a more premium interior experience and improving the ride and handling. The new Optima’s chassis also supports that focus, since it is longer, wider and stiffer for improved handling and more interior space.
Three engine choices are offered for Optima, including a new 1.6-liter turbocharged four cylinder mated with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission to produce 178 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque (optional for the LX trim). The standard engine for Optima LX and EX is a 2.4-liter GDI 4-cylinder powerplant producing 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. The Optima SX and SXL are powered by a 2.0-liter GDI turbocharged engine that produces 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Both the 2.4-liter and the 2.0-liter are mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and EPA fuel economy ratings for the 2.4-liter unit are 25 mpg city / 37 mpg hwy (LX trim); the 2.0-liter turbo gets EPA ratings of 22 mpg city / 32 mpg hwy; and the LX 1.6 gets EPA ratings of 28 mpg city / 39 mpg hwy. For 2017 the Kia Optima Hybrid and Optima Plug-In Hybrid will be added.
Price: Starting at $22,355
The ninth-generation Honda Accord debuted as a 2013 model and receives significant updates for 2016, including a revised design, a more rigid body, upgraded suspension and new wheels. Exterior changes include a new front fascia, a more pronounced grille, a new aluminum hood for the Accord Sedan, a new rear fascia and new LED taillight design. Inside the Accord receives new interior trim, materials and seat fabrics for various trim levels. Accord Sedan Sport and all Coupe trims include new gauges. Accord is offered with either a 2.4-liter direct injection i-VETC 4-cylinder engine that produces 185 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque, or a 3.5-liter VTEC V6 with Variable Cylinder Management that produces 278 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque. The 4-cylinder is mated with either a CVT or a 6-speed manual transmission and the V6 is paired with a 6-speed automatic. The Accord LX sedan with the four cylinder and CVT is rated at 27 mpg city / 37 mpg hwy / 31 mpg combined, and the Accord EX-L with the V6 is rated at 21 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.
The Accord Hybrid will return for 2017 with the same updates as the 2016 Accord, as well as unique features that include a special aluminum hood, unique alloy wheel design, blue highlighted LED headlights, blue highlighted LED taillights and Hybrid badging. The 2017 Accord Hybrid is powered by a new second-generation version of Honda’s Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive two-motor hybrid system that seamlessly blends full electric, hybrid and gasoline engine drive modes with peak combined output of 212 horsepower — an increase of 16 horsepower over the 2015 model. Based on new more stringent EPA rating requirements for the 2017 model year, the 2017 Accord Hybrid achieves EPA fuel economy ratings of 49 mpg city / 47 mpg hwy / 48 mpg combined. The new ratings are down slightly from the previous model, but Honda says the new numbers are higher than the 2015 model would have achieved under the new requirements. The 2017 Accord Hybrid will start at $29,605.
Price: Starting at $22,440
Built in Tennessee specifically for the American market, Passat is Volkswagen’s midsize sedan that has been updated for the 2016 model year. New exterior design elements include a four-bar grille with more chrome, slimmer headlights, available LED headlights, standard chrome window trim, a new rear bumper, a new trunk lid, available LED taillights and a chrome strip on the trunk connecting the taillights. For the first time an R-Line trim is offered for Passat, including unique rocker panels, a restyled front bumper with black accents, a modified rear diffuser and anthracite aluminum-alloy 19-inch wheels.
Inside, the Passat receives a new dashboard, a new center console with integrated two-tone trim, a new instrument cluster similar to the Golf, a new steering wheel design, a standard MIB II infotainment system and available VW Car-Net App-Connect for smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. Two engine choices are offered: a 1.8-liter turbocharged four cylinder that produces 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, or a powerful 3.6-liter VR6 that produces 280 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The 1.8-liter achieves EPA-estimated ratings of 25 mpg city / 38 mpg highway with the 6-speed automatic transmission.
Price: Starting at $22,500
For 2016 the Nissan Altima gets a major face-lift incorporating the Nissan “Energetic Flow” design language from the 2015 Murano SUV and 2016 Maxima sport sedan. Redesigned three years ago, the Altima receives a new lower front fascia, “V-motion” grille, and a new front bumper, hood, front fenders and headlights. At the rear updates include a new bumper, a new trunk lid and lower, wider 4-piece taillights with a boomerang shape. The overall structure now utilizes high-strength steel to reduce weight. Inside the Altima receives a new center-stack and console design that follows the “gliding wing” design of the Murano and Maxima. Most trim levels except the 2.5 base include a 5-inch color audio screen that also displays the RearView Monitor images and accesses the standard NissanConnect with Mobile Apps system. Standard on 3.5 SL and optional on 2.5 SV and 2.5 SL is NissanConnect with Navigation and Mobile Apps, including a 7-inch touchscreen with 3D-effect map views, Nissan Voice Recognition and turn-by-turn navigation.
Nissan’s midsize Altima continues to be offered with the choice of a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder producing 182 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque, or a 3.5-liter V6 producing 270 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are combined with a standard Xtronic continuously variable transmission. The 2.5-liter achieves EPA ratings of 27 mpg city / 39 mpg hwy / 31 mpg combined, and the 3.5-liter is rated at 22 mpg city / 32 mpg hwy / 26 mpg combined — an increase of one mpg for the highway rating. The Altima SR joins the lineup for 2016 with either engine choice. Altima SR features include revised damper tuning, stiffer front and rear stabilizer bars, 18-inch machine finished wheels, manual mode for the Xtronic transmission and paddle shifters. Other SR features are smoked headlight housings, daytime running lights, fog lights and a rear spoiler. Interior appointments include an 8-way power driver’s seat and blue contrast stitching for the seats, steering wheel and shift knob.
Price: Starting at $23,070
The Toyota Camry has been the best-selling car in America for the last 14 years, and it was redesigned for the 2015 model year with an aggressive new grille and front bumper. The current design continues for 2016 and into the 2017 model year with available LED headlights with integrated front turn signals and LED daytime running lights. New taillights wrap around into tapered rear quarter panels. The standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine produces 178 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque; with a 6-speed automatic transmission it’s EPA rated at 25 mpg city / 35 mpg hwy / 28 mpg combined.
The 3.5-liter V6 is optional for Camry XLE and XSE and produces 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque; combined with a 6-speed automatic transmission it achieves EPA fuel economy ratings of 21 mpg city / 31 mpg hwy / 25 mpg combined. The Camry Hybrid with its Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain is rated at 43 mpg city / 39 mpg hwy / 41 mpg combined. The Camry SE has been a popular trim level, and the XSE was added for 2015. Both SE and XSE are designed to appeal to younger buyers via a sport-tuned suspension, a unique front fascia, a piano black mesh grille, front sport seats, a leather-trimmed 3-spoke steering wheel, multi-mode for the 6-speed automatic transmission, and steering wheel paddle shifters. The SE receives 17-inch alloy wheels with a graphite finish, and the XSE features 18-inch machine finish alloy wheels with black accents.