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2013-2014 Midsize Sedan Comparison

Which family sedan offers the most, for the least?

 |  Jul 30 2013, 10:01 AM

2nd Place – Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium

2013-VW-Passat-front.jpg

In a surprise second place finish appears the Volkswagen Passat. For anyone who has driven one of these German sedans, this won’t really be a surprise at all. But we have said it before and will say it again; the Passat is the forgotten child when it comes to the mid-size sedan segment. Many forget this vehicle even exists, or assume it is not really a Camry/Accord competitor.

Priced right on top of the Mazda6, the Passat is an incredibly attractive package that seems to never get the attention it deserves. Mature is be the best way to describe this car with its luxurious, subdued looks inside and out; though some might call this boring. The Passat feels like a baby-Audi, which is probably not a coincidence. The interior is well appointed and the fake suede inserts in the seats drew a lot of praise, although the driver’s seat does not feature a separate height adjust for the front portion of the seat and taller drivers found it lacked thigh support.

GETTING ALL THE DETAILS RIGHT

2013-VW-Passat-interior.jpg

This large square-ish shape leads to great sightlines like we found with the Legacy. But, unlike the Subaru, the Passat also has features a massive trunk; second largest in the test. The Fender audio system sounds great, and is probably the best one here. The steering wheel itself also feels great; an item Volkswagen always seems to get right. Most of the controls are very easy to use, but the Bluetooth audio system proved to be buggy and gave a few of our reviewers issues.

See Also: 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL V6 Review

With wide tires, Volkswagen’s trademark steering feel and a solid chassis, the Passat is one of the more engaging cars to drive. The 170 hp 5-cylinder engine may trail the other cars in terms of power, but sounds a lot better under hard acceleration thanks to the growl only a 5-pot can make. The downside is that the Passat achieved the second worst observed fuel economy after the Kia and isn’t the most refined engine in this test. The 6-speed automatic though was very smooth and rarely made itself known to the driver; just what you want from an automatic.

The Passat truly is the grown-up vehicle in a segment targeting grown-ups. Next year, the Passat’s main weakness, the five-cylinder engine gets replaced by a more efficient 1.8L turbocharged four-cylinder which will only make this car better.

2013-VW-Passat-rear.jpg

Fast Facts:

  1. PRICE AS TESTED: $31,220
  2. ENGINE: 2.5L 4-cylinder, 170 hp, 177 lb-ft
  3. TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
  4. OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 25.6 MPG
  5. TRUNK CAPACITY: 15.9 cu-ft

 

 

 

 

 

LOVE IT

  • Spacious interior
  • Refined ride
  • Practical

 

 

 

 

LEAVE IT

  • Rough Engine
  • Fuel consumption

1st Place – Mazda6 Grand Touring

2014-Mazda6-front.jpg

As a brand, Mazda is miniscule compared to every other automaker in this comparison. The manufacturer is in a constant battle against a sea of Goliaths, but this time, the little guy came out on top. So what makes the Mazda6 so good?

Well, first of all, it’s gorgeous. The 19-inch wheels, front grille, curvy wheel haunches and tinted taillights make the 2014 Mazda6 look upscale and sporty. The interior is equally appealing with a simple, elegant design that again feels upscale and premium compared to a lot of the competition.

See Also: 2014 Mazda6 Review – Video

The front seats may very well be the best of the bunch and the steering wheel feels great. The Mazda6 is the only car available here with adaptive cruise control, yet did not have navigation; navigation is a standalone item that needs to be purchased on top of any trim level. Between the front seats is a knob and dial control that mimics similar systems found in BMWs and Mercedes. The only downside inside the Mazda6 is a somewhat tight backseat.

Under the hood is an all-new 2.5L four-cylinder engine that produces 184 hp. The engine is plenty powerful, but the six-speed automatic transmission requires a heavy foot to downshift into a lower gear when more power is required. Otherwise, the transmission glides along and is one of the best units here. Steering feel is superb and, like a good Mazda, the 6 handles phenomenally for family sedan.

ALL AROUND GREAT

2014-Mazda6-interior.jpg

Ok, so at this point you may be thinking we simply choose the sexy, sporty car as the winner of a comparison that should be about efficiency, practicality and comfort. Well that isn’t exactly true. What surprised us most about the Mazda6 is that it may well be the most refined car here as well. Despite having 19-inch wheels, the Mazda has one of the smoothest rides that is dead-quiet.  Nearly no NVH makes its way into the cabin. Passengers could close their eyes and think they’re in a Lexus. It also barely trailed the Accord in observed fuel efficiency, finishing second overall.

The Mazda6 does deserve the praise it has been receiving. Will it begin to challenge the Accord, Camry or Altima for the sales crown? No, most likely not. But that just adds to its appeal in our eyes; a bit more exclusivity. Either way, a family sedan’s goal in life is to be the best all-around vehicle and the Mazda6 is just that. It excels at nearly everything and is the clear winner of this comparison test.

2014-Mazda6-rear.jpg

Fast Facts:

  1. PRICE AS TESTED: $31,490
  2. ENGINE: 2.5L 4-cylinder, 184 hp, 185 lb-ft
  3. TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
  4. OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 29.4 MPG
  5. TRUNK CAPACITY: 14.8 cu-ft

 

 

 

 

 

LOVE IT

  • Looks
  • Ride
  • Engine refinement

 

 

 

 

LEAVE IT

  • Tight backseat
  • MistyGreen

    You know what would be COOL? Making a tool out of that chart that would allow users to input a different weight for each row, or mark “less important” or “more important” or something. I’m rooting for you, Autoguide. I’ve been wanting to see a review of all the competitors here for a while.

    Overall, great points in the reviews given the space allowed to talk about each vehicle. Also, I can share this because the Mazda won. :)

  • Alfie

    Um, Passat in 2nd, what are you guys smoking?

  • Waynerm002

    The Optima in the video has the 18″ wheels from the SX and is listed as an EX Luxury with a price of $32,729. I am not aware of an EX-L model in the lineup. A fully loaded US SX is $32,470, while a loaded EX is $29,520. Where are these prices coming from? Something is fishy here.

  • alanbala

    I drive a 2013 Kia Optima EX, and frankly, I can’t understand what your complaint is about the transmission, or the ride and handling. FYI the trunk is the same size as the Hyundai, and it is huge. In just shy of 10,000 miles of driving, the only complaint is that the fuel economy numbers don’t live up to the EPA estimates, and the car came with a tire inflation kit in place of a spare tire (we bought the spare tire & jack kit–maybe it’s the extra weight that lowers mpg, although I doubt it). We tested some of the other cars, and the choice was the Kia, hands down!

  • MS3 Owner

    Maybe this will finally get people to start thinking differently about Mazda!

  • smartacus

    WOW. I’m surprised the AWD Subaru is that affordable and gets that good gas mileage

  • Mike Schlee

    You are correct. We had a Optima EX with some dealer installed accessories, like the 18″ wheels. I have corrected the information and adjusted the final scores.

  • Robby G

    Yea, but did you see the interior? It looked like garbage…. no wonder it’s so cheap.

  • Paul Palumbo Jr.

    How convienient… all Jap/Foreign Cars… BS on the decline too – I think this site is biased
    I have a 2011 Chrysler 2011 and <3 it! Loaded too!

  • Phil

    …to each their own … but the accord will without a doubt be more reliable than the VW or the mazda,.. and also gets the best fuel efficiency … that’s my no.1
    (FYI i worked at both a vw and mazda dealer in the service department)

  • z2cents

    There is a reason these rankings do not reflect actual sales

  • Richard Joash Tan

    YOU ARE ALL BULLSHIT! THE WINNER IS NOT THE MAZDA NOR THE SUBARU! THE WINNER IS THE TESLA MODEL S!!!!!!!!!

  • Gavin

    People are stupid?

  • Gavin

    Typical white trash comment… Sure, a website based in North America is biased against American cars.

  • CAMRYISKING

    Actually, the Tesla Model S is a bullshit, much like the Mazda6 and Subaru.

    Long live the Camry, ruler of the sedan world!!!

  • NickB

    @mikeschlee:disqus

    I think using a non stock EX takes a bit of the fairness away from the Optima. The EX only comes with the 17″ wheels, and the 18″ SX wheels are not an “optional accessory” (neither are the SX tail lights). My issue is that the EX was designed to have 17″ wheels, and thus the ride/handling and fuel economy got lower marks than a “true” EX would have. This would have put the Optima at or above the Sonata’s rating.

    Also, what would the Kia’s price rating be without these added parts from an SX model?

  • Mike Schlee

    Most likely tied the Camry and Subaru for 6th place.

  • Richard Joash Tan

    EACH OF THEIR OWN I SAY!!!!!

  • Gavin

    You mean YOU YELL!!!!!!!

  • Gavin

    Mazda just won both Consumer Reports and KBB’s lowest cost to own awards (for non-Luxury brands), so I’m not sure how your “without a doubt be more reliable” prediction will play out. According the publications that do this for a living you should have some debt.

    The Accord and the Mazda6 were rated at 29.8 and 29.4 respectively. In an “observed MPG” test list this one that is a statistical tie.

  • Pete

    To bad Ford and Chevy didn’t show… My guess is that Ford would easily net second or third, pushing Passat out.

    Anyway, good review/comparison, Mazda 6 deserves the win in most listed categories (from looks, to handling / fuel economy); Ford must have kept Mazda’s engineers and designers locked up somewhere all these years, lol.

    No seriously, I was considering buying a new CLA, but I will have to test drive the new 6 before I fork out $30k+ for a “baby” CLS.

  • Paul Palumbo Jr.

    White Trash?!?! Wow!!!!!!!! Is that a racist comment?!
    What I’m saying/doing is called SUPPORTING AMERICA, buying Japanese cars, does NOT support America! Fool! Just because cars are made here, doesn’t mean the majority of profits go into our country! Idiot!

  • Alfie

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the CLA is awesome, but it’s full of cutbacks. The car has a hood prop… not hydraulics. I wonder where else they cut corners.

  • Gavin

    Typical STUPID white trash comment.

  • Tomas E.

    TESLA MODEL S is 120 thousand man :-) Please I prefer 4-5 Mazda6s instead of one surely nice and fast MODEL S… Drivers car is 6 so I want 6.

  • Tomas E.

    In EUROPE I mean 120.000 USD – in US it is cheaper 70-100? I guess so 3 Mazdas only :-)

  • Rick Vieira

    Id rather buy a Japanese Car made in America than an American car made in Mexico. Its a world market now. Get with the times.

  • MetalMania

    For those of you saying Mazda isn’t reliable, I don’t know where you get that. I’ve been driving a 1st generation 6 daily for 9 years and haven’t had any problems. Other than oil and filter changes the hood may as well be bolted shut. I have no fear about reliability with Mazda, they have earned my trust.

    Why are you even mentioning Tesla after a comparison like this? It’s a completely different class of car, other than having 4 wheels and seats. The Model S rocks, but when Tesla makes a more mainstream car with a 200 hp equivalent output and a 300 – 400 mile battery range costing under $35,000 loaded, then it’s closer to being a real comparison in this category.

    Every time I read a comparo like this, people start saying “oh, this site is biased” and “there’s no way that car is really better than my (brand x)”, as if the reviewer has just personally insulted you. As they said at the end of the review, there really isn’t a “bad” one in the bunch. Depending on your priorities, there’s something here for you. It shouldn’t really surprise anyone that Mazda made a great car – they had to. They are a small company fighting for survival. I’ll be the first to admit that they don’t make the universal appliance (Camry) that sells the most. That’s the point I think, they build cars for a niche that’s almost mainstream but a little bit on the enthusiast side. That’s me. Because I drive a Mazda, I suppose one of you will call me a “fanboy”. Well, I am a fan. They make cars that resonate with me and what I want and need in a car. I don’t blindly love and accept everything that they do, they are by no means perfect or the ultimate auto maker. If Accord/Camry/Altima/etc. are better for YOU then that’s great, they’re all good cars and nobody should think lesser of you for it, but don’t start crying foul when the underdog shows up and someone thinks it’s better either.

  • Paul Palumbo Jr.

    And what car are you referring to that is made in Mexico?
    Get with the times??? No, get with it PERIOD… stop supporting these overseas companies with our $$ and buying the UGLY POS cars!

  • Jay Last

    So let me get this straight: because you like your Mazda, every Mazda made is reliable? Uh huh.

  • Jay Last

    A racist is someone who still uses the phrase “Jap” in 2013.

  • Jay Last

    I own the Accord and to me the ride quality is HORRENDOUS. And I’ve been driving nothing but Hondas for the past 30+ years. They really blew it on this one.

  • Gavin

    No. But winning the Consumer Reports and KBB reliability award (for non-luxury brands, Lexus won the Luxury award) means that they probably will be.

    Just because your Accord has HORRENDOUS ride quality means all Accords do?

  • Big J

    What’s with all the techno-crap on these cars you don’t need? I’m looking to buy a new car in the next month or two and no one does a base model compro. I don’t want all that price raising crap, it’s a car, depreciation does not care if u have blind spot monitoring.

  • Phil

    its simple, publications make predictions … when you work in the shop, you see what really happens. I have no doubt.

  • Phil

    so the ride is so bad that you didn’t notice it in your test drive and you bought the car anyway…. oh and let me guess, any car hyundai makes has a phenomenal ride! lmao

  • humongous

    The Ayatolla of Road Roller!!

  • MetalMania

    No, it doesn’t mean that every one is reliable. But it doesn’t mean that the rest are junk either. I’m sure there are plenty of people that will tell horror stories about unreliable Mazdas, as well as every other make of car out there. Don’t put words in my mouth, should I take your response and say that you mean that nobody has ever had a problem with a Honda or Toyota? I don’t think so. To say that Mazdas in general are unreliable is inaccurate. So what, you want me to think I got the only good one?

  • Sage

    This is weird. I think the Edmunds review has more rigor. You can get a Honda EXL for 26K – Includes sunroof, top end music, displays. The M6 is great to look at but priced 4K higher

  • Jay Last

    Actually it does, because they are all made with the same suspension and parts.

    Go ahead and enjoy your Mazda; nobody is stopping you.

  • Jay Last

    Well that is quite the incomprehensible word-salad. Your exact words were “I don’t know where you’re getting that, I haven’t had any problems”. Therefore you have just stated that because you haven’t had any problems with your ONE car, then you don’t believe people who say Mazdas are unreliable.

    The lack of intelligence on the internet is astounding sometimes.

  • Katt2102

    In 1990 we had a new baby and bought a Mazda 626 because of its safety features, reliability, etc. Our daughter is 23 now, and driving that old Mazda. I’m a believer in this brand!

  • holly

    This quote is right on the mark:

    “One annoying quirk we noticed with both the Optima and Sonata had to do with an overly aggressive traction control system. Although it took a lot to coax the system to activate during our nice sunny evaluation period, once engaged it’s far too aggressive in cutting power to the front wheels and feels more like the car has actually stalled. In snowy weather this could prove to be infuriating if the system was constantly engaging.”

    I had a 2011 Elantra that acted the exact same way. Sometimes, when cornering a bit too fast, it actually felt like the entire car was cutting power, when in reality, it was just the traction control. Actually a bit scary, knowing that if you were trying to peel out real fast in traffic, that the car was slowing you down so much that you may not make it.

    I now drive a 2012 Nissan Leaf, and it’s much better, even in spite of the high torque.

  • Richard Joash Tan

    YOU ARE ALL BULLSHIT BECAUSE THE REAL WINNER IS THE TESLA MODEL S!!!!!!!!

  • bd005

    In all the other mid-size sedan comparisons, the Optima rates higher than both the Sonata and Camry (as well as the Altima).

  • bd005

    Based on the latest reliability surveys, Mazda has been moving on up and is better than say, Nissan.

  • bd005

    You guys are the OUTLIER – in the other comparisons of midsizers, the Optima regularly beats the Camry, Sonata and Altima.

  • sage

    that is not the point. I am buying a midsize and while I love the mazda 6, if I took out the looks/paint, I cannot see how its more value than the Honda or Altima. I dont find them exciting but they are the sensible decisions. I never buy sensible cars though!

  • MistyGreen

    It might be a bit more intelligent if you and your high horse kept to yourselves. It was a comment to say Mazda has earned his trust, and you can’t say that Mazdas are all unreliable.

  • ScoobaSteve

    As far as base models go, Mazda6 all the way.

  • MetalMania

    Obviously Jay you want to take what I said and twist it to fit what you want it to be. I’m sorry if my exact words gave you the wrong idea, but I think it’s fairly obvious the point I was trying to make. Please spare me your aloof interpretation about my “lack of intelligence” because of the imperfect comments I made about a car and my perception of its manufacturer. I didn’t think I had to craft my statement to an unconditional level of perfection, excluding any possibility of anyone making a leap to think I meant that NO ONE ever had a problem with their Mazda. If someone says they had a problem with their Mazda, I never said I don’t believe them. I’m pretty sure we can find someone who has had a problem with every make of car in the world, but it doesn’t mean that all of those manufacturers therefore should be labeled as “unreliable”. There, maybe I should have said that instead.

    The level of arrogance on the internet is astounding sometimes.

  • MetalMania

    I think we’ve reached a point in this market segment where they’re all sensible, and it comes down to which “flavor” is right for an individual buyer. “More value” can mean different things for different people, and what features are more important to them.

  • wow

    LOL buying a Japanese car built in the state doesn’t support america? lol wow first of all, government earn tax on multiple level, and pays AMERICAN worker, who also pay tax for their earnings.

  • Jeremy Oestreicher

    Except that in the Sonata there’s a switch to turn off the traction control system. I don’t get how you can complain about something you can turn off so easily.

  • bp923

    mazda should of kept the old rotary engine that was practically indestructible, i own the honda accord and it has a really good feel to but like any car it does have its flaws but overall ill give it 8.5/10

  • jmac146

    Where on earth did this person go shopping at? I bought a nearly loaded 2013 Optima SX TURBO for under $27k. Plus how is it that they say the Sonata is a value when its pretty much the exact same car as the optima with some slightly different style features? Kia and Hyundai are owned by the same company.

  • aolbites

    actually after rebate the low end S starts at 55.

  • aolbites

    You’re dumb, you don’t know what you’re talking about. American cars are put together in other countries, manufacturer’s from other countries assemble their cars here. Either way it’s supporting American workers. In the end, the highest quality car should win, not purely because the car was built in ‘murka

  • aolbites

    It is complete crap. I drove in one before buying and it sucked. It felt like I should get so much more for how much I would be paying.

  • aolbites

    Same here, 2012 Kia Optima SX, love that car. Have noticed the slightest bit of engine noise, but it’s not over the top. Plus, mine was way under the price that they paid for the EX (dunno how they did that). And I was amazed that the Sonata came in a different place when they’re essentially the same car with the Sonata being uglier IMHO.

  • aolbites

    I’d like to know the same thing. It’s hardly fair to compare the price of a loaded model vs unloaded models and gasp at the price difference.

  • turnipweed

    I guess they are listing sticker price.

  • GaryEwing

    What kind of “accessories” are you talking about on the Optima? 29K + “thousands in accessories”. Maybe the dealer you shopped at robbed you with 18″ Wheels, which don’t belong on the Optima EX, and LED taillights taken from the SX model and not available, at all from Kia, on the EX model. How can a respectable magazine compare apples and oranges and consider it fair. Maybe insist on having stock vehicles when you are comparing price, road feel, mileage. Putting 18 inch wheels on the EX can affect mileage. Paying thousands for “accessories”, well that’s not the Optima’s fault but the person who bought/reviewed the vehicle. You can get a FULLY loaded EX right now, with the current rebate and every available accessory from Kia (not junk put on by some dealer) for 28500.

    I have no faith in this comparison at all and stopped reading when I found all the issues with how they priced and judged the first vehicle. If you paid for 1000s in unneeded accessories, and compared that price against over vehicles right off the truck, that’s not the vehicle’s fault, go back to car shopping 101..

  • aolbites

    Quotes I had problems with:

    Kia: “Anyone over 6′ tall will find it hard to fit inside this vehicle” I am not small, I’m 6’4″ and a number of pounds and this vehicle is very comfortable. I’ve never felt like I would hit my head or that it was tight.

    Subaru: “Lacking any sort of style inside or out.”

    Altima: “It and the transmission rival the Subaru for the least refined and noisiest.” So, it’s noisiest but a good highway cruiser? I know I definitely enjoy hearing my loud engine while taking a long trip…

    “If you want to be coddled in high luxury (which I didn’t see) and don’t care too much about how a car drives (Why would I?!?! I’m only on a car site checking out the best cars!), the Altima is the car for you.”

    I’d have liked to have seen the reliability for all these cars factored in to the price. The gushing at the end makes this seem like a Mazda ad.

  • OptimasPrimal13

    Ok, like many others said! Your judging is horrid and or biased. I currently own the new 2014 Mazda 6 and a 2013 Kia SX. The Kia on road trips gets better gas mileage than the Mazda. Actual calculated, not what the car computer says. am 6’2 and I feel more comfortable in the Kia. The Kias feel more luxurious on the inside and drives better. I drive 80k+ miles a year for my job, I get a new car once a year. Sales and 9 state territory. If my option doesn’t matter then you need to re-evaluate your own opinions. I typically never buy the same car twice. But I am buying another Kia SX in two months when my current one reaches 85k miles. Kia has been to the shop twice. Once for an alignment and the other the waste gate failed. Service from Kia was impeccable! The Mazda, well the wife can just drive it into the dirt. Beside the fact it has 19k miles on it and its been in the shop 7 times. Electrical, transmission and abs issues. I will take the Kia Optima SX any day!!
    I have owned 30+ cars over the last 19 years. BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Chrysler, GM, Ford, Subaru, Saab, Saturn, Cadillac, Nissan, Toyota, International, and about anyone you could think of. Kia had came a “LONG” way from the past “disposable car” history. I am a proud Kia Owner! And that’s something I would of never thought I would say!!

  • jestmaty

    Hey guys… the Optima you have pictured is an SX…. the wheels tell me that it is the 275hp turbo model. Get your facts straight if you want credibility

  • Luis A. Martinez

    Chrysler 200 is base on a Mitsubishi chassis,engine and such (fiat re-design just the interior and some stuff but the main car was create by a foreign company,don’t know why you are so upset,many Escalades,Yukon,Suburban,Sunfire,Cavalier are made in Mexico and America is made of immigrants too)

  • Surly Optima

    Yep! Also, the Hyundai Sonata was redesigned in 2011, just like the Kia Optima; not in 2009 as the article states. Autoguide, you fail at writing reviews.

  • pismopal

    I am impressed with Mazda and Honda but prejudiced in favor of anything made in Japan. I realize that some Japanese cars are assembled elsewhere but the new Mazda6 is not. It is made in Japan and I like that. I keep cars for a long time and I don’t like having to repair them. No guarantee but I like the odds.

  • momo

    Every car is the same on this list except for the Subaru. Symmetrical AWD is like bringing a gun to a knife fight.

  • 4wheelpilot

    Let me throw a wrench in this entire comparo…as with some of the other members, I have driven dozens of cars from high performance coupes to luxury sedans to suvs. I recently test drove the M6 2.4 , Honda Accord 4 and v6, Ford Fusion 2.0T, Nissan Altima 4 and 6 and VW Passat and CC. I chose the 2013 Kia Optima SX Turbo. It was better overall by a significant margin (the VW CC is a great car but much more expensive when comparably equipped) including acceleration, handling and features. And was less expensive than any of the v6 cars AND less than the M6 GT with comparable features but with less power and slower paddle shifters. I have had Optima EX loaner but the SX blows it away….obviously in power but also in steering feel, suspension and handling. Autoguide lists the EX at 33k when the SX msrp maxes out at about 31k. Real world prices are 27k.

  • jctsv

    Fastest car hands down 2014 cts v sedan