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Midsize Sedans 2.0

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  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,682
    I compared all the latest mid-sized family sedans at the Greater Twin Cities Auto Show today. I spent the most time on cars I hadn't sat in yet, namely the Passat, Optima, and Kizashi, but also checked out for comparison the Malibu, Fusion, Mazda6, Legacy, and Camry.

    The Optima is very impressive and was getting a lot of traffic. I was disappointed that Kia didn't hook up power to the display cars so I could adjust the driver's seat--it was set way back and very low, so I felt I was sitting in a tub. But the interior is great--I think it would look at home in an Acura. The exterior is sharp also. I noticed they didn't have any of the Vegamatic wheels on the display models. Good decision! I was also disappointed they didn't have an LX there--just EX and SX, and a hybrid. But I've seen an LX at a dealer so I have an idea what you get at that price--and it's a lot. Kia has come a long way with the Gen 3 Optima.

    The Passat was a pleasant surprise. If one can overlook the Impala-esque C-pillar, I think the exterior is quite sharp--very clean, with some attitude in front and hints of Audi in back. The interior (a 2.5 SEL) was quite attractive, with real-looking wood trim (and maybe it was real?), padded plastics, and soft leather. And the rear seat is limo-like, a big improvement over the old Passat. So there's a lot of car for the money. The biggest knock I have is the 2.5L base engine isn't competitive in FE with most of the I4s in the class.

    The Kizashi is an odd duck. There was one model on display, a loaded one for $29k. It was nice enough inside and out, with adequate rear seat room (although the Jetta is roomier and Elantra about the same room), but for the size and price of the car, I'd rather go for something like a TSX or G25. Also $29k would by a fully-loaded "real" mid-sized car e.g. Optima Turbo.

    Based on what I saw today, I think the best value in the class is the Legacy, which offers a roomy and nicely-equipped car with AWD for $22k. Just behind that are the Mazda6i, Optima LX, and Sonata GLS. The Fusion is also a good value, especially with the big discounts my local dealers are offering. The car is aging and the interior isn't up to snuff with newer models, but still has a nice blend of ride and handling. I've never been that impressed by the Malibu, except in LTZ trim. The Altima is an ok car, but after taking Altimas on two long drives in the past month, the best thing I can say about it is, the 2.5L gets pretty good FE on the highway, and it handles pretty well. I actually prefer my Sentra (which gets better FE).

    Worst value in the class? Camry. There was an LE at the show, almost no options, cheap-looking interior, no personality whatsoever, for $23.5k. A couple of thousand more than something like an Optima LX, Sonata GLS, or Mazda6i. No wonder there was almost no one in the Toyota car display, except by the turntables with future Prius models. The Prius-C looked pretty slick. Toyota has better hurry on that one...
  • dash5dash5 Posts: 417
    Nice write up Backy thanks. I'm still in the market and will get around to test driving the Optima SX when I can. I think if that doesnt make the cut I'll have to go up market. We will have to see!
  • Thanks, backy for your review. I have been torn between the Acura TL and the Optima SX and with your analysis of the Optima being at home w/ Acura, I think I've made my final decision!
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,682
    Well, don't take my word for it! :)

    There's also the little matter of how they drive.

    I have to say I was smitten by a TSX at the auto show. I could see myself getting a gently used 6 speed when I turn in my leased car in a couple of years... if I can get used to the grille on the TSX. The Optima looks like a great sedan, but I don't really need something that big since my wife has a Sonata.
  • tlongtlong CaliforniaPosts: 4,737
    I have to say I was smitten by a TSX at the auto show.

    IMHO the previous TSX was a better car.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,682
    And that is an option for me also... and would cost less than the newer TSX. :)
  • tlongtlong CaliforniaPosts: 4,737
    And that is an option for me also... and would cost less than the newer TSX.

    I have an '05 TL and have driven both the older and newer TSX, as those are the loaner cars my dealer provides when I go in for service. The older TSX really impressed me -- so much that I've seriously considered selling my TL and buying a used couple years newer used TSX. The old TSX was compact, agile, responsive, and pretty high quality in the interior. The new TSX is bigger, softer (like almost all Honda products these days), numb-er, but with fancier electronics.
  • igozoomzoomigozoomzoom Waleska, GeorgiaPosts: 790
    Thanks, backy for your review. I have been torn between the Acura TL and the Optima SX and with your analysis of the Optima being at home w/ Acura, I think I've made my final decision!

    It's still hard for me to accept the direction Acura has taken in the last decade. To this day, I consider the 2nd generation Acura Legend (1991-1995) one of the best cars ever built! I bought a '94 Legend in 1997 and planned to drive it for at least 10 years or more. But an old man ran a red light and t-boned me while I was making a left turn. I had some fairly serious injuries and one of the paramedics noticed that I had tears in my eyes. He asked me if I needed a dose of morphine to control the pain during the 20 minute drive to the nearest hospital. He laughed at me when I told him that I was mourning the death of my Legend, not my injuries! Then he told me that he had never seen anyone walk away from such a serious accident unless the were driving a Volvo or Saab...until that day! =)

    It was one of the most perfectly engineered (over-engineered might be the best way to describe it) and felt as solid as anything MB or Lexus has ever built. It was seven years old with 172,000 miles on the clock when it was totaled. But the doors still closed with bank-vault solidity, the engine purred like a kitten and the 5-speed manual gearbox felt like it came out of a brand new NSX. It still had the factory clutch after all those miles.

    It is still one of the most beautiful cars ever made- timeless, understated but somehow sexy at the same time. Even today, after 20 years, it doesn't look the least bit dated. I've spent the last five years on the lookout for an identical replacement to my '94. Unfortunately, even though every model except the '94-'95 LS sedan was offered with a manual transmission, very few of them were actually made. =( And the vast majority of manuals that were built were Coupes and the GS high-performance sedan model. I'm looking for an L sedan, white with taupe CLOTH and 5-speed manual...

    Over the last 10 years or so, the unthinkable has happened. Thanks to multiple flaws in design, more than 100,000 CL and TL transmissions failed. More than 10,000 suffered multiple failures, requiring as many as FIVE transmission replacements in less than 60,000 miles!!! Acura eventually covered the cost of 99% of those repairs, but it took more than two years after the problem surfaced for them to take responsibility. Their smug attitude toward many of those earlier failures drove away thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of life-long Honda owners. Many of them wrote the company off for life, including yours truly! I will never buy another Honda or Acura, with the exception of the '94 Legend I hope to find someday.

    And then there's the issue with styling! To call the '96 TL and RL models ultra-conservative, dull as dishwater or simply "plain" hardly describes how truly generic these cars looked. They make a modern Corolla look sexy in comparison! The cars were completely devoid of anything resembling personality. The situation improved somewhat with the '99 TL and even more so with the '04 TL and TSX. But they were still considered the most overly-conservative premium car brand sold in the U.S...even more so than Volvo!

    Trying to create a corporate 'look' and distinguish themselves among tough competition, they made a bold move....and somehow that translated into the monstrosity that is the current Acura TL!!! It's a car so hideous that Pontiac Aztek drivers point and laugh! =) The first time I saw one was on the highway in my rear view mirror. It was doing at least 100mph and that 'plenum wtf grill' was growing bigger in my mirrors. As it flew by me in the left lane, I took in the entire shape and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the Acura badge on the freakishly-shaped trunk lid. I had to pull over and take a Valium and a few Dramamine after that encounter. Then, like a virus, it spread through the entire model line....

    Acura now builds some of the ugliest vehicles in the world and Honda isn't much better, although their cars are more homely than hideous. FIAT is returning to the U.S. market after entering into an unholy alliance with Chrysler. Hyundai and KIA are building some of the most stylish, high value and RELIABLE vehicles on the planet.....I seem to remember reading about this in Revelation. I believe the only thing left is for Chrysler and GM to turn an actual profit this year and pay back gov't loans to bring about the apocalypse! =)
  • igozoomzoomigozoomzoom Waleska, GeorgiaPosts: 790
    "IMHO the previous TSX was a better car."

    I totally agree, with the '06-'08 slightly 'refreshed' models being the best of the best!

    Back in May 2008, all of the Acura dealers here in Atlanta were selling '08 TSX inventory at below invoice prices. I'm assuming they were clearing out in anticipation of the redesigned '09 model. When the '09s arrived, I imagine it felt like it did when you were a kid and your 'eccentric' aunt knitted you a gift every year....a let down, to say the least!

    The dealership near my office was selling all non-NAV TSX models in stock for $23,995 plus ttt. I have never owned a car with an automatic transmission in my 21 years of driving. But the realities of Atlanta traffic, my daily 108-mile commute and multiple injuries to my left knee and ankle from my football days have taken their toll. I'm still driving my 2006 Mazda3 s 5-door with manual tranny, but my next car will be an automatic.

    I test drove both the 6-speed manual and 5-speed automatic '08 models, just for comparison. I wanted a real world feel for how much performance suffered with the automatic. The automatic version exceeded my expectations, which weren't very high, to be honest. Every review of the TSX with automatic that I've ever read has been less than favorable. High-revving engines with strong hp figures at high rpm don't even have the word 'torque' in their vocabulary. Low torque and automatic transmissions are like oil and water. But the TSX impressed me as long as I used a heavy foot on the accelerator when accelerating from a stop...which I had no problem doing! =)

    I decided that $23,995 was a deal I couldn't turn down....but the worst part was yet to come! I have more difficulty choosing an interior and exterior color on a car than I do choosing a new house or deciding which college to attend. And the 2008 TSX was no different. Out of the nine exterior colors available, I immediately hated five of them, fell in love with two and felt ambivalent about the other two (gray and silver). The two I loved were Milano Red and Glacier Blue, polar opposites to say the least. Milano Red could have Parchment (tan) or Ebony (black) leather and Glacier Blue could have Quartz (gray) or Ebony (black).

    Choosing an interior color isn't nearly as difficult for me, but actually locating it can be a problem. I only like dark interior colors, which usually means BLACK. Long story short, the sales manager couldn't locate a single Milano Red or Glacier Blue Automatic with Ebony interior within a 500-mile radius of Atlanta! So that was a deal breaker.

    It turned out to be a blessing in disguise...I lost my job three weeks later and didn't find another full-time position for 14 months! The payment on my Mazda was only $273/month but the TSX was going to be around $525! It wouldn't have been pretty!
  • plektoplekto Posts: 3,733
    I have an '05 TL and have driven both the older and newer TSX, as those are the loaner cars my dealer provides when I go in for service. The older TSX really impressed me -- so much that I've seriously considered selling my TL and buying a used couple years newer used TSX. The old TSX was compact, agile, responsive, and pretty high quality in the interior. The new TSX is bigger, softer (like almost all Honda products these days), numb-er, but with fancier electronics.


    There's a very good explanation for this. The "TSX" is the current model Accord in Japan. The current U.S. "Accord" is actually a model down from it. Honda charges for the "Acura" badge as expected, despite there being no "Acura" brand in Japan.

    Yet again, Honda's management seems to have a grudge against the U.S. market and gives us the shaft. (I would practically kill for the U.K. Civic to get over here) I won't even get into how they ream us concerning motorcycles.
  • luckysevenluckyseven Posts: 134
    edited March 2011
    I would not make any conclusions on car selling price after looking on auto show MSRP pricing. The fact of the matter that 4 cyl Camry LE could be easily purchased for around $19K before fees and taxes. Toyota now has $1250 cashback or 60 month 0% financing + $500 (I just looked up this info on Toyota website). I don't want to sound like toyota ad person but aggressive pricing plus proven reliability track make Camry #1 selling sedan in the US.
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/sales-midsized-sedans-february-2011/

    And with Toyota Unintended Acceleration myth being officially dead, future sales will be even better then they already are.

    BTW Current model Camry is being made from 2007 and due for redesign for 2012 model year. No surprise that Camry looks a bit dated now comparing to competition. I'm sure that Toyota put a good effort in the next Camry generation, hope to see it soon.
  • acdiiacdii Posts: 753
    It needs a major redesign as the current model is awful. I had a 2009, and it was not a very good car. Sure it was reliable, but material wise, very cheap, it was also noisy and handled like one of those old cars you see in movies now that float all over the place on shockless springs. The Fusion is a much better built car and has higher quality material compared to the Camry. The only reason it sells more is people are too blinded by the past and wont even bother to look at the Fords. I was that way even though I had good Fords in the past. I gave Ford a chance and haven't looked back, in fact like it so much I bought the Flex, and man that is a great car.
  • m6userm6user Posts: 2,952
    Everyone that can read knows you can get any car substantially below MSRP so the "news" the Camry can be had for $19k is not news of the breaking kind.

    The handling of the Camry is often denigrated by people that like a firmer response but is hardly as bad they make it out to be. Floaty like the cars of the sixties is really an huge exaggeration. It's a good car for people that want a soft, quiet ride and economical to maintain. The exterior styling is not that much different than many other midsize sedans and I've never found it to be ugly by any means. The interior, IMO, is where Toyota has really dropped the ball in recent years and not just in the Camry. They have cheapened their interiors with expanses of hard plastic and cheap switchgear to the point that it's a shame. The V6 has great power and gets very good MPG and is probably a better combo of power and frugalility than any other V6 midsizer normally discussed here.

    I've never owned one but my daughter just turned her 2009 in(company car) and during her 2.5 years and 70k miles of driving it she had 1 minor repairs under warranty, loved the JBL stereo and couldn't believe how fast it was when needed. Many people just like to slam the Camry because it's the Camry and has been number one in sales for a long time. There is no car in this group that is the best thing since sliced bread, including the Camry of course, but some would have you think so.
  • luckysevenluckyseven Posts: 134
    I don't know why you call it awful, what exactly didn't you like about it? I own 2009 Camry and have no complains about it. Does what it's supposed to do. If I'd need more thrills I'd go with BMW but we are talking about $19K car here. I really glad that Ford finally got it's act together and started producing better cars but I'm not ready to jump the boat because Toyota didn't give me a single reason to do so. My second car is second generation Highlander, and man that is a great car.
  • akirbyakirby Posts: 7,666
    I'm not ready to jump the boat because Toyota didn't give me a single reason to do so

    Lying to the public and the government and actively covering up potentially fatal safety issues isn't a good reason?
  • luckysevenluckyseven Posts: 134
    edited March 2011
    You really behind the loop on that one. All it was a government assisted effort to discredit Toyota and scare people into buying Government Motors cars. It worked! Some Toyota car owners were selling their cars at giant loss because they were scared to death (hope you're a not one of them!). Toyota's image not as shiny as it was anymore even if not NHTSA nor even NASA found a thing.

    NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- An intensive 10 month investigation into possible causes of unintended acceleration in Toyota cars found no fault with the automaker's electronic throttle control systems, the Department of Transportation announced Tuesday (Feb 8).
    http://money.cnn.com/2011/02/08/autos/nhtsa_nasa_toyota_final_report/index.htm

    But NHTSA also mentioned another possible cause: drivers pushing the gas instead of the brakes.

    Many drivers may have confused the gas and brake pedals a problem that may account for "the vast majority" of the unintended acceleration incidents the agency investigated, NHTSA deputy administrator Ron Medford said at Tuesday's NHTSA press briefing.
  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America: I70 & I75Posts: 18,048
    >All it was a government assisted push to discredit Toyota and push people to buy Government Motors cars. It backfired badly though:

    You don't cite any support for either tenet. It was Toyota caused; it wasn't government pushed. And it didn't backfire.
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 10,824
    Well, it didn't hurt Toyota sales of popular models.
    http://online.wsj.com/mdc/public/page/2_3022-autosales.html

    Hard to argue with a strong positive YTD change vs. last year.

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  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America: I70 & I75Posts: 18,048
    >positive YTD change vs. last year.

    Didn't most company's sales increase from last year?
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 10,824
    Yes, but if any "campaign" had worked, one wouldn't expect to see a higher than average increase in Toyota sales. You'd expect to see people flocking to other manufacturers.

    Interestingly, when the Toyota story broke, industry analysts almost immediately predicted that if anyone, Hyundai would be the big winner. Appears to be playing out that way.

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