In the 70+ years since World War II the 4-door sedan was Plan A when shopping for a car, and for most there was no Plan B; the sedan, whether from Chevy, Ford, Dodge or Renault, was what you parked in the one-stall garage. That, of course, was when Chevy’s Suburban was driven only by tradesmen, and you saw a pickup only when visiting your grandparents’ farm. Today, Honda’s Accord and Toyota’s Camry represent the top-selling cars in the marketplace, but their hold on the podium is perilous, as car-based crossovers and truck-based SUVs have grabbed the market momentum. If the sedan’s attributes – decent accessibility, a more modest footprint and better efficiency – remain attractive, those shopping for a deal can probably find it when shopping for a sedan. Drivetrains are, for the most part, front-wheel drive, and while hybrid powertrains are increasingly commonplace, you’re more likely to find performance variants of the sedan than you are to find green variants of this traditional, 4-door platform. The sedan still makes a lot of sense for everyday driving or the cross-country trip. And with fold-down rear seats gaining in popularity, many sedans can accommodate larger and/or longer cargo.

Exterior – Automotive design has evolved, and with its evolution has come the arrival of the often sexy, occasionally svelte sedan. With so much sheetmetal invested in the design and manufacture of SUVs and crossovers, it only makes sense – in providing a design contrast and meeting government standards for fuel economy – to tighten up and lighten up the few remaining sedans in an automotive lineup. But given the increasing girth of Americans, along with their penchant for features and options, the sedan’s weight may be shrinking but its footprint – the amount of driveway or garage the vehicle occupies – probably isn’t.

Interior – A sedan’s interior, almost by definition, is accessible. With an inside environment accommodating five people, four of those have their own door. Once inside, sedans are offered in as many variations as there are customers. Entry-level sedans such as Hyundai’s Accent and Nissan’s Versa are intentionally minimalistic, offering few upgrades in combination with their bare-bones trim. Move up to compact and midsize sedans, however, and the number of trim levels multiply, as do the tech and infotainment enhancements. Of course, with those enhancements comes a cost. The base Accord or Camry that might transact at $22,000 can – with options – go well past $32,000 before it’s in your drive.

Powertrains – With the vast majority of sedan offerings using front-wheel drive, the menu is repeated throughout virtually all price categories, from basic entry-level to enhanced near-luxury. You’ll generally find a transversely mounted four cylinder mated to an automatic transmission driving the aforementioned front wheels. All-wheel drive might be optional and a turbocharged four or V6 may be available, but the vast majority of sedans boast 4-cylinder, front-wheel drive platforms. The one notable outlier in the ‘affordable’ segment is FCA, with its Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 continuing to supply rear-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive in the North American market. For those with sensitivity to environmental issues, the number of hybrid sedans is also increasing, while Tesla has produced the luxury benchmark, its Model S EV.

Safety - Unlike their crossover or SUV counterparts, there is little in the sedan menu to be off-putting for anyone, from young families to empty nesters. Given what is typically their lower profile outward visibility might be compromised, but the reduced ride height also suggests a lower center of gravity and better inherent stability. There is a more family-centric culture revolving around the design and build of a sedan, and to that end the nanny features you’ve come to expect on a crossover or SUV will in all likelihood find their way into a sedan. These include, but are not limited to, blind spot warning, lane change monitoring and adaptive cruise control. And for those sedans coming from the factory with performance mods to the engine, suspension or braking, know there are fewer better ways to experience that performance than within the relative security of a high performance, 4-door envelope.  

Technology – Today, if a manufacturer opts for an introduction at a major auto show the offering is more typically devoted to newly-introduced technology within the product than the outside sheetmetal or under-the-hood enhancements.   Of course, automotive technology can take many forms, including those intended to improve the aforementioned safety, efficiency, connectivity or entertainment. With its Tech of the Year Award in 2016, Autoblog recognized Apple CarPlay for its user-friendliness and “overall impact on bringing our connected lives into the car.” If you’re an iPhone user, the control of apps is done via a familiar interface on an infotainment screen while adding features that weren’t originally installed at the factory. Android Auto was second in the voting, delivering to the user essentially the same capabilities via Google’s phone OS.

With automotive technology’s trickle down, you can expect in-car WiFi to enjoy greater availability, and its integration into a ‘media hub’ increasingly common. Of course, what happens in the dash is not all that’s happening with the operation of the sedan. For those that obtained their license without parallel parking, the optional parking assist available from an increasing number of manufacturers will park the car for you. Rearview cameras are the norm, and 360-degree cameras are increasingly available on both luxury and more moderately priced cars.