Family sedans are slowly losing market share to crossovers and SUVs, which boast better interior practicality and a more commanding view of the road. But the automakers who have the most to lose in the family sedan class are doing their best to extend the life of this segment.
Some have added all-wheel drive – a big selling point when competing against utility vehicles – while others have built in eye-catching styling and improved driving dynamics to appeal to buyers who might be swayed by the prospect of owing a budget-priced sport sedan.
So even if the mid-size sedan’s eventual disappearance is inevitable, it’s certainly not dead yet. After considering every single vehicle in this segment, our jury of 20 auto industry experts voted on the best ones they would feel confident recommending to their own family and friends. These five sedans were all finalists in the 2023 AutoTrader Awards, so are considered the best of the best.
2023 Honda Accord
Our jury began casting votes for this year’s awards just before Honda revealed an all-new, 11th-generation Accord. So while AutoTrader contributor Jerry Vo wrote in his first drive review that the new car is better than the outgoing version, it was the already-excellent 10th-generation model that put the Accord at the head of the family sedan class.
Jil McIntosh reviewed a 2022 Accord in top-end Touring trim equipped with the optional 2.0L turbo engine, which she said “gives that extra kick for off-the-line performance and stronger highway passing” than the standard 1.5L turbo motor. That additional power and the 2.0L’s “quick and linear” acceleration were a good match with handling that proved “light and agile, with smooth performance around curves and good response to steering input.” Meanwhile, her test car logged better average fuel consumption than Honda promised.
McIntosh also liked the long list of features Honda installed in the Accord’s base trim, including all-LED exterior lighting, dual-zone A/C, passive keyless entry, heated front seats, and a power-adjustable driver’s chair, and noted that buyers only had to move up one trim from base to get a heated steering wheel and wireless phone charging.
Brendan McAleer took the wheel of an Accord Hybrid Touring that he deemed “best of the Accord breed,” and of which he said “offers zero surprises in terms of how you use it, only that it delivers better fuel economy than the standard car.”
The car won his heart with a “nimble feeling chassis that drives more like a sporty car than a midsize sedan,” a comfortable ride, and “easily accessible” torque from the electric motor that “makes this Accord relaxing to drive even when traffic is bad.”
McAleer also praised the Accord Hybrid’s rear seat and cargo space, both of which are the same as the non-hybrid model, thanks to the battery’s position under the rear seat.
While he noted the Accord Hybrid is more expensive than its gas-only counterparts, McAleer ultimately felt that premium was worth it, given the combination of excellent fuel economy and nimble driving characteristics.
Now, let’s go back to Jerry Vo’s first drive impressions of the redesigned 2023 Accord, which he kicked off by writing that that “Honda didn’t try to fix what wasn’t broken.” In his opinion, the old Accord was the best mid-size sedan on the market, but “this redesigned version is just better.”
Key among the changes was Honda’s decision to delete the 2.0L turbo engine, leaving the 192-hp 1.5L turbo to power the entry-grade EX trim ($38,914, including freight and other pre-tax fees) and a 204-hp hybrid powertrain for Sport Hybrid ($42,914) and Touring Hybrid ($46,414) trims.
Vo notes the new Accord Hybrid is a little more efficient than the outgoing model, but once again “impeccably balances ride and handling.” Honda also ditched the old Accord’s push-button gear selector for a more conventional shift lever, but the new Google-based infotainment system did away with the convenient set of hard buttons that accompanied the old Accord’s touchscreen.
Vo also notes that the new Accord is more expensive than its key Toyota Camry rival: “It was and is still the best mainstream midsize sedan and you do get what you pay for, but you’ll be paying a bit more for a 2023 Honda Accord.”
2023 Toyota Camry
Speaking of the Toyota Camry, it finished second in the Best Family Sedan category.
Generally speaking, the Camry promises nothing like the Accord’s driver engagement, but Toyota made a move in that direction with a new-for-2020 TRD trim level aimed at injecting some cool factor into the car’s lineup. That’s the setup Road Test Editor Dan Ilika reviewed in 2022, which he said “performs like a proper sport sedan” thanks to tweaks like stiffer springs, shocks, and sway bars, upgraded brakes, and a torque vectoring system to help reduce understeer in hard cornering.
The TRD’s V6 – the same 301-hp unit used in other Camry trims – gets a snarly exhaust but mostly impressed Ilika with its “smooth and snappy” throttle response and “tons of usable forward thrust” delivered in a “controlled rather than chaotic” manner.
More emblematic of the Camry’s mission are the car’s hybrid configurations, of which Jil McIntosh tested a 2023 version in SE trim. She recorded average fuel consumption of 6.8 L/100 km in winter driving, but we can tell you from experience this car is capable of much better than that, having done an 850-km summertime drive from Maryland to eastern Ontario on one tank of gas and averaging 4.8 L/100 km – better than our XLE trim test car’s highway rating of 5.0 L/100 km.
McIntosh was more impressed with the car’s nearly undetectable transitions from gas to electricity and the responsiveness of the Camry Hybrid’s 208-hp powertrain. She also praised Toyota for its combination of hard buttons and touch controls for infotainment functions, which helped reduce driver distraction. Among the Camry Hybrid’s few downsides, in her opinion, is less-generous cargo space than its rivals.
In 2021, McIntosh also reviewed a gas-powered Camry with the available all-wheel drive option, which comes exclusively with a 202-hp gas four-cylinder engine. She felt her XSE tester was weak on value compared to the Kia K5, but came with a long list of useful features, like a well-designed wireless phone charger.
In both of her Camry test cars, McIntosh appreciated this sedan’s easy maneuverability and “confident yet comfortable” suspension.
2023 Toyota Camry pricing starts at $30,950 in SE trim. The cheapest hybrid model is the $31,950 LE configuration, and all-wheel drive starts at $32,390 in SE models. The range topper is the $40,750 XLE Hybrid, and the TRD package goes for $37,840.
2023 Kia K5
Kia introduced the K5 in 2021 as a redesigned replacement for its long-running Optima model. It’s notable for standard all-wheel drive even in its entry-level LX configuration. The only K5 that doesn’t come with AWD is the top-end GT package, whose 2.5L turbo engine and dual-clutch transmission put 290 hp to the front wheels only.
Kia hasn’t sent many K5 test cars our way, so our only driving impressions come from a first drive review by Jeff Wilson and one of Sami Haj-Assaad’s comparison tests in which he pitted the K5 against a Camry.
Wilson’s first drive put him in a GT-Line model, which gets some of the GT’s cosmetic tweaks but is powered by the car’s base 180-hp, 1.6L turbo engine. Despite the base motor’s “satisfactory amounts of oomph in daily driving,” Wilson was more pleasantly surprised by the K5’s lively steering and crisp handling responses, even without the GT’s more aggressive chassis setup.
Wilson also called out the GT-Line’s long list of standard features, which, in 2023, includes heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, navigation, and power-folding side mirrors for $37,095. And those features are on top of the heated steering wheel, a heated windshield, passive entry, wireless phone charging, and adaptive cruise that are carried forward from lesser trims.
In his K5/Camry comparo, Haj-Assaad gave the Kia higher marks in almost every category. His K5 GT-Line tester was about $1,200 cheaper than the Camry XSE AWD he drove, but went “well beyond” in terms of features, adding heated rear and ventilated front seats, navigation and a larger touchscreen the Camry couldn’t match.
Surprisingly, Haj-Assaad found the Camry more fun to drive than the Kia, thanks to the Toyota’s “stiff chassis and sporty suspension,” which he found paired well. He rated the K5 “better suited for less aggressive driving,” and more comfortable with “soft seats and better support.”
The 2023 Kia K5 starts in LX AWD trim, priced at $30,195. The priciest all-wheel drive model is the GT-Line, at $37,095. The GT and its bigger engine come in at $41,195.
2023 Hyundai Sonata
Left: 2023 and earlier Sonata, right: 2024 Hyundai Sonata
In the Hyundai Motor Group universe, Hyundai and Kia models often share some of their engineering DNA. In the Hyundai Sonata’s case, it shares a platform and some of its mechanical components with the K5.
The Kia’s turbocharged engines both appear in the Hyundai’s lineup, but Hyundai also offers a non-turbo 2.5L engine in its base trim and a gas-electric hybrid that serves as the top option in the 2023 model. The current eighth-generation Sonata was introduced in 2020, but a refreshed model with a dramatic new look will also be arriving soon.
Jeff Wilson reviewed a 2020 Sonata in Preferred Sport trim. It was powered by the 1.6L turbo motor, whose power output he described as “mediocre,” falling short of the base engines offered by most of the Sonata’s competitors.
That’s an underwhelming start, but we promise it gets better. Wilson was smitten by the Sonata’s interior, which highlights the cabin’s sense of width and is loaded with “amenities that typically require option packages on expensive German cars.” He also appreciated the Sonata’s cargo space, which is “near the top of the class.”
In 2021, Wilson tested a Sonata N Line and determined its 290-hp 2.5L turbo engine was just the thing to make him forget the 1.6L’s so-so performance.
“It’s the 311 lb-ft of torque that really raises eyebrows,” wrote Wilson. “The N Line . . . utilizes its full arsenal of power, making the Sonata ferociously quick at passing . . . and legitimately fun for squirting through mid-numbing metro traffic.” He also praised the interior as “an outstanding ergonomic effort.”
Dan Ilika was less bothered by the 1.6L engine in his top-line 2020 Sonata Ultimate test car. He certainly noted its lack of performance compared to fully loaded competitors, but ultimately called it “a smooth operator that’s eerily silent most of the time,” which lines up with his contention that the Sonata drives “closer to perfect than anything it competes with directly – and perhaps even a few premium sedans it doesn’t.” He also called Hyundai’s infotainment operating system “among the best in the business.”
AutoTrader Editor-in-Chief Jodi Lai reviewed a 2020 Sonata Hybrid, which returned “incredible” fuel economy of 4.7 L/100 km after more than 700 km of driving. She also called out the car’s available solar roof – a no-cost option – which Hyundai says can add 3.6 km of gas-free driving after six hours parked in the sun.
Not for nothing, the Sonata is one of the most striking family sedans around today, with a sleek profile and chrome trim up front that turns into LED lighting at night.
2023 Hyundai Sonata pricing starts at $29,199 in Preferred trim and peaks at $41,349 for the Sonata Hybrid.
2023 Subaru Legacy
We’ve already discussed two cars on this list that offer all-wheel drive, but the Subaru Legacy is the only family sedan that installs it in every trim level. There are fewer trims for 2023, however; Subaru has cut the Legacy lineup to three configurations from the six it offered when it introduced the seventh-generation model in 2020. The 2023 Legacy also gets refreshed styling and revisions to its infotainment system and EyeSight safety suite.
Jack Kazmierski got into the restyled 2023 model straight away at the beginning of the year, driving a top-line GT with a 260-hp 2.4L turbocharged engine he described as “eager and able to pass . . . at highway speeds, and . . . quick off the stop on city streets.” He also wrote that the sport-tuned suspension “practically eliminates body roll, and . . . handles corners like an Olympic athlete.”
Justin Pritchard tested a Legacy GT in 2020 and concluded the car “has some serious winter driving swagger,” writing that “it’s almost rude how quickly this car can leave a front-wheel drive car behind when the traffic light turns green over six inches of slush.” He also thought the Legacy’s ride quality was one of its best assets – “smooth and soft without riding like a giant glob of Cheez Whiz” – with a suspension that maintains its composure “on the roughest road surfaces you’re likely to encounter.”
Both of our reviewers found the Legacy’s infotainment system – which is built around a large vertically oriented screen in GT trim – easy to use. In Pritchard’s words, “After a few minutes, you’ll be . . . up to speed with . . . all the gadgets in your new Legacy GT.”
Pritchard also praised the Legacy’s “big, comfortable” interior with its “more than ample room in each direction” and large door openings. His one knock was that the trunk, which, while wide and long, was not as deep as he expected.
The 2023 Subaru Legacy GT is a $41,995 proposition. You can get into the base Touring trim for $32,995, which includes a 182-hp engine. In the middle is a $36,995 Limited package that combines the less-powerful engine with a few of the niceties found in the GT.