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The powertrains in the base or volume trim levels of midsize sedans are rarely exciting. More often than not, they’re some form of four-cylinder with a displacement of up to 2.5 liters or a sub-2.0-liter unit with a small turbo strapped to it for better torque. The base engines found in many family sedans are more than enough for the average consumer, but these cars are still slow when compared to V-6-powered trims or engines upgraded with more powerful turbo-fours. That doesn’t mean all of the base models are slugs. A select few are quick enough to beat other class rivals equipped with the more powerful upgrade engines. Here are 10 of the quickest base or volume midsize sedans Motor Trend has tested.
2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium 0 to 60 mph: 9.2 seconds; quarter mile: 17.0 seconds
Although it’s the slowest entry here, the Subaru Legacy is the only one that comes standard with AWD across the board, so you won’t get charged extra for all-weather traction. The added weight of AWD usually means a heavier, less fuel efficient vehicle, but the Legacy bucks that trend, instead offering up to 26/36 mpg (9/6.5 L/100km) city/highway thanks to a CVT retuned for improved fuel economy.
2015 Chrysler 200 Limited 0 to 60 mph: 8.6 seconds; quarter mile: 16.6 seconds
No longer the rental lot special that it used to be, the Chrysler 200 is a big leap forward from the car it replaces. Offering up to 36 mpg (6.5 L/100km)on the highway, the car comes with a nine-speed automatic transmission tuned for maximum fuel economy.
2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport/Limited 0 to 60 mph: 8.4 seconds; quarter mile: 16.5 seconds
Sporting a more conservative evolutionary look than its predecessor, the Hyundai Sonata continues to offer a good value proposition with plenty of tech gadgets and features usually reserved for more expensive cars. When equipped with the base 2.4-liter I-4, the car is rated up to 25/37 mpg (9.4/6.4 L/100km) on the highway depending on the trim level.
2014 Kia Optima EX 0 to 60 mph: 8.4 seconds; quarter mile: 16.5 seconds
Essentially the car that led to the rise of the Kia brand, the Optima, which was designed by Peter Schreyer, offers style in spades and is one of the most attractive midsize sedans available today. A new generation arrives for 2016 with an evolutionary exterior, so it’s still recognizable as an Optima, and it comes with the same level of value expected from Kia.
2014 Chevrolet Malibu 1LT 0 to 60 mph: 8.4 seconds; quarter mile: 16.4 seconds
The Chevrolet Malibu comes standard with a 196-hp, 2.5-liter I-4 and delivers up to 36 mpg (6.5 L/100km) on the highway, so it gives you a good amount of power to work with on your daily commute. A new generation with a base 1.5-liter, turbo I-4 will hit the market before the end of 2015 and promises up to 37 mpg (6.4 L/100km).
2014 Nissan Altima 2.5SV 0 to 60 mph: 7.9 seconds; quarter mile: 16.1 seconds
Thanks to a new CVT, the Nissan Altima with the base 182-hp, 2.5-liter I-4 offers respectable acceleration for everyday driving and a class-leading 27/38 mpg (8.7/6.2 L/100km), which is the highest fuel economy rating on midsize sedans without optional fuel saving packages. Nissan has added active grille shutters and improved aerodynamics for the 2016 model year and expects the car to get an impressive 39 mpg (6 L/100km) on the highway.
2014 Volkswagen Passat TSI Sport 0 to 60 mph: 7.9 seconds; quarter mile: 16.0 seconds
No longer powered by an antiquated 2.5-liter I-5, the Volkswagen Passat now comes with a 1.8-liter, turbo I-4 with 170 hp and 184 lb-ft, giving you plenty of passing power for the highway. Your wallet won’t suffer, either, because the turbo I-4 burns regular gas instead of the premium stuff that most forced-induction engines require.
2012 Toyota Camry LE 0 to 60 mph: 7.8 seconds; quarter mile: 15.9 seconds
America’s best-selling car is also one of the most reliable, but it isn’t very interesting to drive. The Toyota Camry is the definition of basic family transportation, offering plenty of space and up to 35 mpg (6.7 L/100km) on the highway on the base I-4 engine. Should you want a little more spice in your vanilla sedan, the Camry is also offered in sportier trims with a unique suspension setup.
2014 Mazda6 Touring 0 to 60 mph: 7.7 seconds; quarter mile: 16.0 seconds
Considered the driver’s choice in the midsize sedan segment, the Mazda6 offers excellent handling wrapped in a sexy package. Offered exclusively with a 184-hp, 2.5-liter I-4, the Mazda6 is also frugal at 26/38 mpg (9/6.2 L/100km) when equipped with the six-speed automatic. A range-topping Grand Touring model hit 60 mph in 7.3 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 15.6 seconds in our tests. The available GT Technology package for the range-topping Grand Touring trim bumps fuel economy up to 28/40 mpg (8.4/5.9 L/100km), and the base Sport and midlevel Touring trim are available with a slick six-speed manual gearbox.
2013 Honda Accord EX/EX-L 0 to 60 mph: 7.6 seconds; quarter mile: 15.9 seconds
No other midsize sedan is as well-balanced as the Honda Accord, which blends space, fuel efficiency, and practicality harmoniously. In its current iteration, it’s also the quickest among midsize sedans equipped with the base powertrains thanks to a punchy 185-hp, 2.4-liter I-4 and a responsive CVT. A face-lifted model is on sale and can now be had with the Honda Sensing suite of safety aids.