Not too big, not too small best describes the largest and most competitive segment in the US car market. Mid Size cars. Once upon a time, General Motors owned the segment with it’s A bodied cars the Chevrolet Celebrity, Buick Century, Oldsmobile Ciera and the Pontiac 6000. By the mid nineties Toyota’s Camry took the sales crown from GM and has held it tightly every since.
Toyota changed the rules by building a roomy, competent and reliable car. If your an automaker, and you want to play in the big leagues you’ll need to take a page from Toyota.
This year Volkswagen wanted in. The Volkswagen Passat has been around since the eighties. The Passat was well received by the press, however its US sales barely registered. It was larger than a compact and smaller and more expensive than most of the midsize cars on the market. This has changed, Volkswagen has designed a car specially for the American market and the cars are manufactured at a new plant in Chattanooga ,Tennessee. The 2012 Passat is Motor Trends car of the year. The 2012 Passat sales are up 40%.
The “H” Factor A new sales leader?
The best selling car this year and probably next year is the Toyota Camry. Beyond 2014 is anyone’s guess. Volkswagen is aggressively perusing the American market, the American manufacturers led by Ford are building better cars.
But one company, Hyundai has the entire auto industry shaking. In 2008, the company was the eight largest car maker in the world , today they are the fourth, Below, Toyota, GM and Volkswagen. and above Ford and Nissan. The Company is taking sales from all segments from Mercedes Benz and BMW to Toyota and Ford. The midsize Sonata is the company’s best selling car. The midsize Kia Optima Sales are ahead of last years. The average age of a person shopping for a Toyota Camry is 55, compared to 46 for the Sonata.
Big man Rides
If your an auto enthusiast, the mid size segment is not your first stop, your not likely to hear the word, fun tossable, a blast to drive associated with a mid size car. It’s not uncommon to hear a auto journalist call the cars in this segment appliances . The mission of a midsize car is to comfortably and reliably transport a family.
Last month, four of the top ten cars sold were midsize cars. Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu and the Ford Fusion.
In the last few months my friend and I spent considerable time in these cars. I’m 6.4 well over three hundred pounds and he is 6.2 and 220 pounds.
A four cylinder engine is the base engine, with available six cylinder and a full hybrid as an option on all three cars.
2012 Ford Fusion SEL
This is the last few months for the second generation Ford Fusion an all new Fusion will debut the fall. The 2.5 liter 170 horsepower 4 was good off the line, the six speed automatic is very smooth and well mated with the engine. This car was equipped with Ford Sync. Linking Bluetooth on Ford’s Sync required several try’s Fit and finish was excellent. The Fusion was very nice to drive. It is the best handler of the bunch, its steering was excellent, and to our ears only the Camry was quieter.
Getting in and out of the Fusion was difficult for this big man, The door opening are a bit narrow. Entering required a duck, twist and turn. Once inside, the Fusion was a nice place to be . The ride was firm and well controlled. The room in back seat was just okay, the smallest of the three. The trunk was large and nicely finished. As for reliability Consumer Reports, says the Ford is better than average. After 700 miles we averaged 30 miles per gallon.
If it weren’t for getting in and out of the car, the Ford Fusion this would be our first choice of the three cars. Its number two.
Note: With the third generation waiting in the wings, the 2012 Ford Fusion may be one of the better buys this summer.
2012 Nissan Altima 2.5
Like the Ford Fusion, this is the last year for the fourth Generation Nissan Altima. The Altima is the best selling Nissan. Last year the Altima was the second best selling car in the country behind the Toyota Camry. The 2.5 liter four with 175 horsepower gets the job done its the continually variable transmission (CVT) is was well mated to the engine. Like the Fusion steering was excellent. While the controls are functional, they are dated compared to the Ford and Toyota. My car didnt have Bluetooth. Handling was sound, but not as crisp as the Fusion. After 630 miles we averaged 33 miles to the gallon.
This big man found getting in and out the Altima easier than the Fusion and the Camry. While the Altima had more rear seat room than the Fusion and less than the Camry. Like the Fusion the trunk was large and well finished. Consumers Reports say’s reliability of the Altima is better than average. Of the trio this is the highest rated car .
With the new 2013 Altima’s slowly making their way into showrooms, Discounts up to$7000* on the 2012’s are not uncommon.
This seventh generation Camry represents a new direction, but not in good way. It seems decontenting is now making its way into Japanese cars we’ve seen this in the Subaru’s. If you traded your 2011 Camry for the new 2012 you might be initially impressed. The dash is padded with stitching, the radio controls are mounter higher. As you look around, the headliner and the materials around the door you’ll notice a cheapness not normally associated with Toyota. The finish of the trunk wasn’t Toyota like. One would think with Hyundai breathing down everyone neck, more detail and polish would have gone into this car.
After seeing this car, I’m very curious about the 2013 Altima.
The 2.5 four cylinder with 178 horsepower and 6 speed automatic transmission was flawless. The car was very quiet on the road. The ride was good and less floaty than previous Camry’s . The electric power steering had little on center feel and took a while to get used to. (my partner in crime refused to drive the car on twisted roads) The handling was okay. The radio, bluetooth controls was a mess, it was difficult to go from the radio to the CD connecting the Bluetooth took while and then the system lost its memory.
Getting in and out of the Camry required a bit of a twist for this big man, and once inside it was tight. However, rear seat was the largest of the three cars. After 670 miles with this car, it rewarded us with an impressive 36 miles to the gallon. We ranked the Camry last. Consumer Reports says, the Camry’s is very reliable ,better than average.
Cityfella w JS