Trying to talk my brother into buying something different. What's a decent, driveable, good-looking used sedan that's not a Toyota Camry or a Honda Accord for around $20,000? – Barb, Calgary
The Camry and Accord are reliable, popular and hold their value. In other words, buy either and you can't go wrong. Right?
There are other plenty of other sedans with personality. We'll suggest two – one mid-size (Mazda6) and the other full-size (Chevrolet Impala).
In the Mazda's class, besides the Camry and Accord, there's also the Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, Buick Regal and Chevy Malibu.
In the Impala's class, there's also the Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus, Chrysler 300, Buick LaCrosse and Volkswagen Passat.
Consumer Reports said both the 2014 Mazda6 and 2014 Impala were dramatic improvements over their predecessors.
It gave the 2014 Mazda6 4/5 for reported reliability. The Impala got 3/5.
The cars that Consumer Reports recommends in the category? The Camry and the Accord.
- Third generation: 2014-present
- Average price for base: $19,143 (Canadian Black Book)
- Transmission/drive: Six-speed manual, six-speed automatic/front-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.5-litre inline-four
- Trims: GX, GS, GT
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.4 city, 6.4 highway (manual); 8.8 city, 6.2 highway (automatic)
It may be a family sedan, but there's still plenty of zoom-zoom.
"The Mazda6 has a reputation as a 'driver's car' – mostly meaning that it's not as boring as some mainstream models like the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry," Consumer Reports said. "It also delivers the best fuel economy in the segment, not counting hybrids."
Consumer Reports said the 6 was engaging to drive with "quick responsive steering and agile handling" and had "eye-catching looks."
Among its gripes? Inside, the 6 was loud, snugger than other mid-sized rivals and had an infotainment system that required multiple steps for basic functions.
"Where it falls a bit short is refinement and utility – while the ride is taut and well controlled, it's not as plush as you'll find in some competing cars," it said.
The lack of thirstiness is thanks to Mazda's SkyActiv assortment of fuel-saving tech. That includes, in some models, i-ELOOP regenerative braking that powers the car's electrical systems. It gets 7.3 litres/100 km, combined, compared to 7.6 for the automatic without it.
Back to the looks. GlobeDrive called the 6, "one of the two best-looking mid-size cars you can get from a mainstream manufacturer, the other being the 2013 Ford Fusion.
"The car is also well-equipped, should be reliable if you believe the latest quality studies and will hold its resale value well, based on the latest residual value studies."
There were two recalls, including a fix for a fault in the regenerative braking charging system that could lead to a stall.
2014 Chevrolet Impala
- Tenth generation: 2014-present
- Average price for base: $18,410 (Canadian Black Book)
- Transmission/drive: Six-speed automatic/front-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder
- Trims: LS, LT, LTZ
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.3 city, 7.1 highway
Up until 2014, if you told somebody you'd bought an Impala, the response would have been: "Why?"
"Given its long-standing reputation as a car to be avoided, even as a free upgrade at the rental car counter, it is easy to have low expectations for the Chevrolet Impala," Consumer Reports said. "But the 2014 redesign dramatically transformed the model from a woefully uncompetitive and outdated offering into a thoroughly modern and remarkably enjoyable car."
The base LS comes with the 195-horsepower four-banger. With the LT and LTZ, you can also get a 305-horsepower 3.6-litre V-6. Used, the V-6 will run for $20,737, on average, for the LT and $28,428 for the LTZ.
Consumer Reports said the 2014 Impala was its highest-scoring sedan. It liked the roomy interior, great rear seat and huge trunk, plush ride, quiet cabin, "surprisingly agile" handling, intuitive controls and attractively priced electronic safety features. The only gripe? Rear visibility was limited.
Review site Edmunds had similar praise, but found fault with the four-cylinder's lack of power on the base and hybrid, flimsy interior plastics and a low-res rearview camera display.
"Not only is the 2014 Chevy Impala roomy, it finally has the composed ride and precise steering you expect in a modern sedan," Edmunds said. "Perhaps more importantly, the new Impala sheds its old personality – which was about as dynamic as a sweater vest – for bigger curves, bolder lines and a bit more length."
There were eight recalls, including one to fix an electronic parking brake that might not fully release.
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