Few 2006 midsize passenger cars fit the bill for bread-and-butter business sedans better than the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata.
New on the market is the bold, muscular simplicity of the striking Ford Fusion. Its roomy interior belies a sporty attitude that lets you turn on a dime. Priced from $17,795 to $22,360, the Fusion is Ford's response to Toyota's Camry and other imports in its category. A good, solid interior provides room for five, and the cockpit cabin is straightforward and well-organized. Look for a hybrid version coming in 2008. Engine: I-4 or V-6. Trunk volume: 15.8 cubic feet. Miles per gallon: 24 city/ 32 highway.
The newly restyled and refreshed six-model Accord sedan lineup, including a hybrid, is priced from $18,225 to $29,300 and continues to be the benchmark in its class. The near-luxury interior; quieter, sound-deadening cabin; and beautifully turned leather on the upscale version add up to an impression of a far more expensive car. The contemporary front- and rear-exterior redesign is sleek and elegant. Small details such as the maintenance minder, rear window tray and fold-down back seat are practical tools. The car's five-star U.S. safety rating for frontal impact, side-curtain air bags and 100,000-mile tune-up can ease an entrepreneur's concern for drivers. Air and cruise control are standard. Engine: I-4 or V-6. Trunk volume: 14 cubic feet. MPG: 26 city/34 highway.
Hyundai has steadily and remarkably improved its vehicles over the past few years, and the Sonata is one of the best-equipped and largest sedans in its class. Strict attention to quality, design and performance results in a stunning car that has many more standard features than most: ABS/traction/stability control, six air bags and the best warranty in America. It's available in three versions priced from $17,895 to $22,895, with a rear defroster, two power outlets and a split rear seat. Engine: I-4. Trunk volume: 16.3 cubic feet. MPG: 24 city/ 34 highway.
Editor and consultant Jill amadio has been reporting on the automotive industry for 27 years.