Crossovers have conquered the car market. Sedans, once America's default car, have become quaint and outmoded, like guitar rock or baggy cargo shorts. Manufacturers hide their body style with sloping rooflines; PR releases shun the dreaded S-word. Heck, Ford stopped producing sedans entirely to focus on vehicles like the new Maverick. Even many car enthusiasts will try to sell you on a hatchback or wagon before a sedan.
There's no doubt the sedan segment is diminishing as people chase more flexibility and cargo space to suit their purportedly active lifestyles. But, a bit paradoxically, there has never been a better time to buy a sedan than right now.
Sedans, you see, are better-performing, more practical and more versatile than they have ever been. They provide the best value on the market. They are at the forefront of the electric vehicle revolution. And, yes, you can still find some robust and sporty options with a manual transmission.
Sedans are better and more versatile than ever
American automakers aren't abandoning sedans because there's no market for them. They are leaving because the competition is fierce. Toyota and Honda own the compact (Corolla, Civic) and midsize (Camry, Accord) segments. Hyundai, with the NACTOY car of the year Elantra and equally excellent Sonata, is chasing them down. Winning there would require more effort from Ford than it would be worth.
As with full-size trucks, competition breeds excellence. Those aforementioned sedans have all been overhauled during the past few years. And they sell well because they give buyers whatever they want. The base models are affordable, reliable and reasonably well-appointed. You can get legitimately sporty versions with punchy 250-300 horsepower engines. You can get super-efficient hybrids earning around 50 mpg. Toyota will give you all-wheel drive on a Camry, or even tart up a garish boy-racer version for you.
And, perhaps in response to the SUV competition, these sedans have gotten spacious. Front seats offer space to stretch out, while rear seats easily accommodate little ones in car seats. Trunks fit golf clubs and luggage. These sedans can be more practical for everyday life than the small crossovers replacing them.
Luxury sedans can provide incredible value
If you're willing to buy used — which is better for the environment — a luxury sedan is the best way to get into a premium marque for less. And you can be confident it will be in good shape; ne'er-do-wells who would thrash a lease car probably aren't buying an Audi A6.
An iSeeCars.com study looked at which cars depreciate the most over the first three years, the length of a standard car lease. Eight of the top 10 were sedans. Seven were from upmarket manufacturers. The strongest value play in the automotive world may be swooping into that Mercedes, BMW or Volvo sedan after the depreciation hits.
If you don't care about brands but just want bargain price luxury, check out the Genesis G80 sedan. Hyundai's luxury arm produces some of the most elegant cars on the road. But its reputation has not quite caught up with how outstanding their cars are. Even in these times of bonkers used car prices, you can still score a low-mileage 2018 G80 for less than $30,000.
Sedans are at the forefront of EV performance
The automotive world is going electric, and spearheading that shift are sleek, sexy four-door sedans. Tesla set the tone for the EV marketplace with two standout sedans, the Model 3 and the Model S. Porsche's revolutionary new electric sports car, the Taycan, is a four-door sedan. Mercedes is leading off its EV onslaught with the EQS, a swoopy flagship equivalent to its iconic S-Class.
The best performing EV on the market will soon be the absurd Lucid Air Dream Edition, a 1,000-plus horsepower, 500-plus mile range, exceptionally luxurious and comfortable sedan. Fret not; the crossovers and pickup truck EVs will catch up eventually. But they aren't there yet.
Sedans are keeping the manual transmission alive
The manual transmission is on life support, and sedans have not been immune from the attrition. Audi, once a manual transmission stalwart, no longer offers them. The Honda Civic sedan and the Accord lost their stick shifts in their current generations, which hurts. But the pool of sedans on offer still offers some compelling, manually rowed options.
BMW kept the manual transmission alive on the all-new M3. It's not the fastest M3, but we suspect many drivers will sacrifice a few ticks of lap time for the driving engagement. Cadillac chose to include stickshifts with the new CT4-V and CT5-V Blackwing super sedans. The latter will let you row your own while playing with its gargantuan 668 horsepower.
Need a sporty but more affordable option? There are sedans for you, too. Volkswagen's Jetta GLI can be optioned with a manual. Honda's sportier Civic Si should be back soon as a sedan and may only come with a manual. The new Subaru WRX is likely to offer a manual too.