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.
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.
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.
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.
Read our complete Subaru Legacy and Outback road tests.
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.
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.
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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