Rumors of the sedan's death have been exagerated.
With all the whining from car culture about SUVs, it would be easy to believe the sedan was dead. However, what used to be the standard choice for family and commuting duty is still around, and it's better than ever. Crossovers may have shrunk the market, but it has made sure only the fittest sedans have survived. A smaller segment has also made competition fiercer than ever to remain relevant. That increase in competition has forced some brands to snap out of their complacency with their former best-selling models.
Simultaneously, the usually undisputed kings of their respective hills face competition from brands that want to take their crowns. The result is fewer sedans are on the road, but also the best sedans we've ever seen. These are the cream of the crop for 2020.
BMW has long been the king of the compact sports sedan. However, at least until the next-generation BMW 3 Series arrives, Genesis has snuck in under the radar and delivered a genuine rival. It owns its German competitors in price, then competes in quality with smooth and powerful powertrains, a lively chassis, and premium interiors exuding class and style. It's only weakness is the infotainment system but, if you value the driving experience more than that, then the G70 is worth cross-shopping with a 3 Series. We're big fans of the 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6 engine with its aggressive 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. However, the turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four shared with the Kia Stinger is not to be sniffed at.
When it comes to full rounded compact luxury sedans, we immediately think of the Mercedes C-Class. It manages to be all things to all people by blending style, luxury, practicality, and engaging driving dynamics into a reasonably priced package. The 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder producing 255 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque is spritely and smooth, but for those who want some real spice, the AMG C43's twin-turbo V6 engine brings 385 hp to the table along with some chassis tweaks. Either way, the C-Class is a luxury-family cruiser with enough fun injected in to encourage taking the long way home, which ticks all the boxes for us.
Seductive styling and exceptional handling are the hallmarks of a great Alfa Romeo, and the Giulia delivers in buckets full. It's not as polished or as comfortable, or as practical, as BMW and Mercedes offerings, but it offers such passion we can overlook its faults. Under the standard model's hood is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making a throaty 280 hp and 306 lb-ft. Driving aficionados will want the Giulia Quadrifoglio with its enhanced dynamics and feisty 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 making a grin-inducing 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque.
While BMW's 3 Series may not be the common choice for a compact sports sedan at the moment, the 5 Series remains the superior choice for midsize sedan performance and comfort. Refinement meets performance and an airy, luxurious, and technologically advanced cabin. There has been controversy about BMW dialing the driving dynamics down to make the 5 Series cushier, but they miss the point. You can choose your balance between comfort and sporting ability through the trim levels, with the M550i and its 523 hp under the hood at the top of the tree. Then, there's the mighty M5 and its 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 producing up to 617 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque and handling dynamics that put smaller sports cars to shame on the track.
The Honda Accord has been a staple of the Japanese company's range since 1976. It's always been a quietly capable sedan, blending into any environment as reliable family and commuter transport worldwide. The current generation is a response to the crossover and a demonstration of why the sedan is the better choice for people that care about driving. By day, The Accord is a sleek, comfortable, and economical sedan. By night, it's a sporty, fun, and sharp handling four-door car that endears itself to anyone that likes to carve their way through some backroads. It's no slouch when it comes to power, either, with its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine laying down 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque.
Mazda has been doing great things with interiors lately by bringing us Champagne cabins for beer money. On top of that, the Mazda 3 is as happy being navigating interstate freeways as being flung down a mountain pass. The 2.5-liter naturally aspirated SkyActive-G is no thriller, but it's smooth, economical, handsome, and suits the Mazda 3's $21,500 - $27,900 price range. It's also available with all-wheel-drive, making the Mazda 3 and Subaru Impreza the only mainstream compact sedans to offer that option.
The CT5 was introduced to replace both the ATS and CTS sedans. It slots in between the compact and midsize luxury sedans offered by the Germans. Cadillac has done an excellent job retaining the previous models driving dynamics and improving the interior and build quality. It comes with a turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine develops 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, or can be outfitted with a hefty twin-turbo V6 producing 335 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. Unfortunately, the CT5-V version is a little toothless going up against AMG and M badged German cars as the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 how's up to the fight with just 360 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque.
We're trying to highlight just one car from each manufacturer, but there's no way we can leave the Civic Si off the list. For an enthusiast, it only comes with a sweet-shifting manual transmission and delivers front-wheel-drive grins all day long. It also ticks all the boxes that make us a fan of the standard Civic, including comfort, technology, practicality, and economy. The Si is a consummate enthusiast's all-rounder and reminds us that Honda knows how to build a car everyone can love.
If you have any doubts that the Koreans can make an affordable sporty sedan, go and test drive a Kia Stinger. It's only three years old and impressed us immediately with its styling, athleticism, and delightful chassis. While it doesn't challenge the outright luxury brands inside, it does slap a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 255 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque on the table. The GT trim swaps the four-pot out for a twin-turbo 3.3-liter V6 engine that kicks out an immensely satisfying 365 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. There's also an all-wheel-drive option box to tick.
Toyota has held the mantle of Best Selling Passenger car for nearly two decades. Still, the Japanese company had to perform a significant upgrade for the eighth generation in the face of stiff competition. The Japanese company delivered and updated its frumpy image by giving it a new sharp suit. That wasn't enough to hold its own, though, and finally, we have a Camry we don't find boring to drive on a back road. Engine choices range between the mild power of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine to the potent 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque delivered by a 3.5-liter V6. For those seeking more thrills, the TRD package puts a finely honed edge to the car, and even the hybrid model is fun to drive while delivering Prius levels of fuel economy.
Nowhere has seen the sedan market culled like the US. Ford has quit the market entirely, GM has slimmed down its lineup, but the Dodge Charger stands proud as the best-selling full-size sedan in America. It blends a muscle car mentality to four-door practicality and takes that idea to the edge with a Hellcat version packing 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque under the hood. Even the V6 models make a healthy 292-300 hp and 260-264 lb-ft of torque at the bottom of the range. A 5.7-liter HEMI option creates 370 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque as a step up, while at the top of the range is a 6.4-liter V8 making 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. The interior is a little bland, but perfectly comfortable and has plenty of space, but you don't buy a charger for an exciting interior.