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Thursday Throwdown: 2014 Affordable Full-Size Sedans

In today’s Thursday Throwdown, we are looking at affordable full-size sedans. These are the big cars that are often the flagship of the mid-priced market for most automakers. Priced under $40,000, these are non-luxury offerings and are the largest vehicle in the manufacturer’s line of sedans. Until recently, this segment was dominated by brands from Detroit, but new entries from outside competition have upped the game in recent years.

Our top picks are chosen for their cost-effectiveness, efficiency and safety. Our chart of Top Picks below shows the average purchase price when new, fuel economy and total safety rating. These 2014 models are beginning to appear as used cars and dealer demonstration vehicles now, so be sure to check the CARFAX report for the one you might purchase, and take a look at our Used Car Listings to find one for yourself.

Side-by-Side Comparison Chart of Top Picks

2014 Full-size Sedans New $ MPG Safety (of 10)
Buick LaCrosse $37,100 25/36 9
Chevrolet Impala $31,000 21/31 9
Chrysler 300 $39,700 19/31 9
Dodge Charger $36,600 18/27 9
Hyundai Azera $31,800 19/29 8
Toyota Avalon $35,800 21/31 9

2014 Top Affordable Full-size Sedan Picks

Lowest Entry Price: Chevrolet Impala, Hyundai Azera
Best Fuel Economy: Buick LaCrosse
Quietest Ride: Chrysler 300, Toyota Avalon
Most Refined Overall: Chrysler 300, Chevrolet Impala
Most Refined Interior: Buick LaCrosse, Chrysler 300
Most Fun To Drive: Dodge Charger

2014 Buick LaCrosse

2014 Buick LaCrosse

Sharing many components with the Chevrolet Impala, the Buick LaCrosse is a slightly more premium offering with a refined, stately appeal and a comfortable interior that’s full of upscale materials. Fuel economy is best-in-class for our throwdown, thanks to the mild-hybrid eAssist system that comes standard with the four-cylinder engine. A more powerful V6 can be had at no additional charge, but it lowers the LaCrosse’s fuel economy in favor of performance. Highlights of the LaCrosse include a roomy back seat, a user-friendly infotainment system and solid driving dynamics.

2014 Buick LaCrosse
Average price paid new: $37,100
EPA MPG (city/highway): 25/36
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Chevrolet Impala

2014 Chevrolet Impala

Redesigned for the 2014 model year, the Chevy Impala is a stylish large car with a wealth of available features. The award-winning Impala is often cited as being the best of all worlds for families. The four-cylinder base Impala has good fuel economy estimates, but an optional mild-hybrid eAssist system provides an additional four mpg in both city and highway driving, which would put the Impala in the running as one of the most fuel-efficient cars in our roundup.

2014 Chevrolet Impala
Average price paid new: $31,000
EPA MPG (city/highway): 21/31
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Chrysler 300

2014 Chrysler 300C AWD - at park - AOA1200px

The 2014 Chrysler 300 has many things to offer in the large sedan segment. Its strong V6 engine, efficient eight-speed automatic transmission and available all-wheel drive make the Chrysler 300 a compelling sedan for many. Add in its refined driving experience and beautiful interior and the Chrysler 300 becomes a top choice for many buyers.

2014 Chrysler 300
Average price paid new: $39.700
EPA MPG (city/highway): 19/31
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Dodge Charger

2014-charger-concrete-2

While the 2014 Dodge Charger shares some similarities with the 300, it trades a little bit of the Chrysler’s refinement for a lot more performance and livelier handling. The Charger’s standard V6 engine is a good start, and strong driving dynamics add to its appeal. A larger Hemi V8 in the Charger R/T gives a lot more punch at the sacrifice of fuel economy. This is one of the few full-size sedans with a performance bent, and it stands alone in this price bracket for that.

2014 Dodge Charger
Average price paid new: $36,600
EPA MPG (city/highway): 18/27
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Ford Taurus

2013 ford taurus sel v-6 front view

This Taurus is a long-held staple of the Ford lineup, which once held the record for being the most popular fleet car in the business. Today, it’s a bit behind the times and long in the tooth, with dim handling and heavy body roll. The Taurus’ interior is dated and its infotainment system is clunky and confusing. However, the Taurus offers a spacious (near-cavernous) interior and a huge trunk. The V6 in the Taurus is a strong and very well-proven engine and comes with a smooth six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel efficiency-minded buyers can opt for a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that doesn’t compromise power for those fuel economy gains. A more powerful turbocharged V6 engine can be had in the SHO edition as well.

2014 Ford Taurus
Average price paid new: $33,400
EPA MPG (city/highway): 19/29
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 5-Stars

2014 Hyundai Azera

2014 Azera

The Azera is the Korean automaker’s try at a full-size sedan, which has largely been the purview of the Detroit Three. The Azera offers a good V6 engine and a stylish interior, but has a staid exterior and lackluster, cushy handling. This is coupled to a harsh ride compared with the rest of the segment. However, several features that are normally premium options are standard in the Azera, such as leather upholstery and heated front seats, making it a good value proposition for some buyers.

2014 Hyundai Azera
Average price paid new: $31.800
EPA MPG (city/highway): 19/29
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – N/A

2014 Kia Cadenza

2014 Kia Cadenza

The Cadenza headlines Kia’s commitment to offer more competitive, near-premium vehicles. It boasts a bevy of standard features for its price, but has lower-than-average fuel economy and rear seats that do not fold, which hinders its versatility. An upscale interior and respectable driving characteristics make the Cadenza a popular choice, however. Despite the huge number of standard features offered in the base Cadenza, many buyers choose the pricier Limited trim, as reflected in our average purchase price below.

2014 Kia Cadenza
Average price paid new: $37,400
EPA MPG (city/highway): 19/28
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – N/A

2014 Toyota Avalon

2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid - peach wall AOA1200px

The Avalon is smaller than most of the full-size sedans on our Throwdown lineup. Standard features are plentiful in the 2014 Avalon, which also has a comfortable interior and a standard V6 engine that’s coupled with a smooth-shifting transmission. Its fuel economy is slightly better than average, and the Avalon is also available as a hybrid model with best-in-class fuel economy. The Avalon is one of the quietest cars on the road, especially in this class, thanks to excellent aerodynamics and careful use of sound deadening materials.

2014 Toyota Avalon
Average price paid new: $35,800
EPA MPG (city/highway): 21/31
Crash Test Rating: IIHS – Good, NHTSA – 5-Stars

About the Safety Ratings

Safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are given for each vehicle on our list.

NHTSA

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is tasked with crash testing vehicles for the federal government. It evaluates vehicles with an overall rating of up to five stars, which is comprised of the results from front- and side-impact crash tests, as well as rollover tests. You can find out more about NHTSA’s testing procedures here.

IIHS

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is a not-for-profit cooperative among automotive insurers. IIHS tests vehicles in order to guide insurance rates, evaluate risks for vehicles and to give consumers a better understanding of the safety of the vehicles they purchase.

IIHS scores on five separate tests which measure crash worthiness and crash avoidance. Scores are rated as Good, Acceptable, Marginal or Poor. We present these as G, A, M, P or N (not tested) in the IIHS presentation standard in order of testing:

  • Moderate Overlap Front
  • Small Overlap Front
  • Side Impact
  • Rear Crash Protection
  • Roof Strength

You can find out more about the IIHS’s testing here.

In the CARFAX Thursday Throwdown, we compare vehicles in a particular class on important merits including safety, performance, and look and feel. Our goal is to highlight not only the excellence that automakers bring to the table in various categories, but also how these vehicles compare and how they appeal to different buyers within their markets. 

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