Although SUVs dominate automotive sales, midsize sedans are still a practical choice given their roomy seating, respectable fuel economy and value. They’re also better able to provide sporty performance than a comparably priced SUV.
A handful of automakers have recently come out with new performance-tuned sedans that have upgraded engines and more responsive handling to make driving fun. Edmunds’ experts have selected their five favorite models under $35,000. The vehicles are sorted by manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination and handling fees.
2021 MAZDA 6
The Mazda 6 doesn’t have a dedicated sport trim level; rather, it’s got a sporty demeanor in nearly every trim level. The responsive steering and stable handling make it fun to drive around turns. And even at a standstill, the 6 is attractive and sleek. Upper trim levels can easily rival entry-level luxury sedans for interior quality.
Get the optional turbocharged engine to make the most out of the Mazda 6. This turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine produces 227 horsepower on regular gas or 250 horsepower on 93 octane gas. That’s up to 63 horsepower more than the 6′s base engine. It also comes with paddle shifters on the steering wheel, just to add to the sporty feel. This will be the final year for the Mazda 6, so get one now.
2021 KIA K5 GT
The Kia K5 offers an appealing combination of comfort, value and driving fun. The K5′s upscale cabin is fitted with lots of standard features, including helpful technology features and driver aids. We’re big fans of the K5′s highway ride quality, which is quiet and smooth.
The K5 is mechanically related to the Sonata and therefore shares many similarities. The top K5 GT is like the Sonata N Line and also has a 290-horsepower turbocharged engine. Compared to the K5′s regular versions, the GT comes with a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded brakes, upgraded front seats and styling enhancements. The K5 GT’s handling isn’t quite as dialed-in or enjoyable as the Sonata N Line’s, but this is otherwise a satisfying sedan to drive.
2021 HONDA ACCORD SPORT 2.0T
The Accord has long been a solid pick for a sporty sedan, and that’s true for the latest-generation Accord as well. The Sport 2.0T is the sportiest version among the Accord’s wide array of trim levels. It gets the Accord’s optional turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 252 horsepower, a 60-horsepower increase over the standard engine.
Even in standard non-sporty trims, the Accord is a joy to drive. It’s smooth and comfortable on the highway with impressive steering and handling. The Sport 2.0T doesn’t look much different from its lesser brethren, which could be a turnoff if you want your sport sedan to look the part too. But otherwise you’re getting an upscale midsize sedan that’s easy to drive day to day.
2021 TOYOTA CAMRY TRD
One of the most popular sedans on the road, the Toyota Camry understandably appeals to a wide variety of buyers. There are several trim levels to choose from. The midlevel SE and XSE trims add a sport-tuned suspension and some sporty exterior looks. But the sportiest trim in the Camry lineup is the TRD.
The Camry TRD comes standard with the Camry’s 301-horsepower V6 engine. It also has a further-upgraded suspension, special wheels and tires, unique upholstery, a sport exhaust and aerodynamic body trim. This trim level makes for a unique experience in an otherwise common car.
2021 HYUNDAI SONATA N LINE
With its easy-to-use infotainment interface, distinctive styling and spacious interior, the 2021 Hyundai Sonata is a great pick for a sedan in any trim level. It also comes with many standard features, including advanced driver aids, that are sometimes reserved for the options sheet among competitors.
Right at the top of the Sonata lineup is the N Line. It uses a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces a strong 290 horsepower. That’s 99 horsepower more than the Sonata’s standard 2.5-liter engine offers. The N Line also gets a quicker-shifting automatic transmission, sport-tuned suspension and steering, front seats with added bolstering, and unique exterior styling. This is a great pick for a sporty sedan, though it offers as comfy of a ride as some of the other cars here.
Whatever your desired level of performance, there’s likely a sporty midsize sedan that’s right for you. The best choices for sporty midsize sedans are the ones that have satisfying performance without any loss of comfort or convenience.
This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds.
Travis Langness is a senior reviews editor at Edmunds.
Related links: Kia K5 review; Honda Accord review; Hyundai Sonata review; Mazda 6 review; Toyota Camry review.