Buyer's Guide: 2003 Autos

Ease on down the road: In an era of SUV worship, traditional sedans still offer safety, status, and comfort.

October 1, 2002

The sedan is back. Well, it never really went away. Consumers took a detour, instead, paying a disproportionate share of attention to the sport utility vehicle. But, for more than half of the American population, sedans remain the best of the automotive breed.

That’s especially true for real estate professionals, 81 percent of whom own a passenger car, according to REALTOR® Magazine’s 2001 Reader Profile, MRI Custom Division. Sedans are still the most effective solution for your job—comfortable for clients, easy to get into and out of, and usually a better value than a comparably sized SUV, especially when it comes to fuel economy and roominess. Trunk space, for instance, is a particular advantage for storing For Sale signs and other cargo.

The practicality of the traditional sedan is probably why a number of major automakers, including Chrysler and General Motors, have announced plans to put more resources back into passenger car development. It’s certainly the reason the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry continue to top American sales charts.

The Camry went through a major update barely a year ago. And the big news for 2003 is the launch of the next-generation Accord. Honda’s midsize mainstay has always been a solid contender, though critics have faulted it for its plain vanilla design. Not anymore. The ’03 is stylish and decidedly distinctive.

There’s plenty more happening across the sedan segment. Some folks might not place the Chrysler PT Cruiser in the sedan category. Heck, the government has a hard enough time categorizing this quirky segment-buster, listing it as a passenger car for safety considerations and a light truck for fuel economy. But the design is that of a retro sedan. And it’ll be a faster four-door model come 2003, with the introduction of the PT Turbo.

At the luxury end of the spectrum is the all-new Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which has undergone a significant update. At first glance, you might confuse it with the even more expensive S-Class.

One of the few full-size sedans left, the Lincoln Town Car, has gone through a quiet revolution. The automaker has fixed some problems with the last model, restoring lost cabin and cargo space and significantly improving the ride and handling. It’s not an Autobahn burner, but the new Town Car is just about the roomiest vehicle on the road.

Imports offer plenty in the sedan segment, whether you consider the modest Toyota Corolla, the sporty new Infiniti G35, or Saab’s reborn 9-3, which moves from hatchback form to a more mainstream sedan body.

As you embark on your next auto purchase, take a look below at what the smart sedan buyer will be considering in 2003.

2003 sedans

Model/MSRP* Seating Comfort features Powertrain/safety features Cargo capacity Why buy
Toyota Corolla www.toyota.com $13,855 to $15,965 5, with front bucket seats and a rear bench seat in cloth or leather. Rear passenger room (in.): head, 37.1; leg, 35.4; shoulder, 53.5 Rear heating ducts, front and rear cup holders include slots for cups with handles 1.8-liter 4 cylinder

Four-wheel anti-lock brakes; driver, passenger, and dual side-impact air bags

13.6 cubic feet, with optional split rear bench seat for additional hauling capacity Like Honda, Toyota’s seeking to pump more passion into its brand, and the new Corolla is a good example of where that’s taking the Japanese automaker. Compact, maneuverable, and affordable, the Corolla has consistently proved a strong seller. You can also comfortably count on this sedan to always keep you going.
Honda Accord www.hondacars.com $15,500 to $25,300 5, with front bucket seats and a rear bench seat available in cloth or leather. Rear passenger room (in.): head, 36.5; leg, 37.9; shoulder, 56.1 Four-position electronically adjustable front seats, front and rear side-door pockets, and front and rear cup holders 2.3-liter I-4 or 3.0-liter V6 Four-wheel disc brakes; anti-lock braking system; traction control system; driver, passenger, and dual side-impact air bags 14.1 cubic feet, with optional split rear bench seat providing additional hauling capacity Honda is back with an all-new sedan for 2003 with more rear passenger room. The new car, surprisingly stylish for the Accord line, is no longer likely to get lost in the crowd. It will offer the same level of comfort and convenience, reliability, and quality that has made it the nation’s No. 1-selling passenger car.
Chrysler PT Turbo www.chrysler.com $17,185 to $26,675 5, with rear seats that can be removed or folded down in 65/35 split for increased cargo capacity. Rear passenger room (in.): head, 39.6; leg, 40.9; shoulder, 53.9 Rear ventilation, front and rear seat storage pockets 2.4-liter, 16-valve I-4 Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, traction control, “next-generation” driver and front passenger air bags (reduced power prevents injury) 19 cubic feet, which increases to 64.2 cubic feet with removal of rear seats The PT Cruiser has found a cult following. Technically, it qualifies as a subcompact. But the unique seating layout isn’t only flexible—with most seats folding to expand cargo space—but roomy. The PT lineup swells for ’03 with the arrival of the PT Turbo, which offers plenty of extra performance.
Chrysler Sebring LXi www.nar.chrysler.com $18,720 to $23,975 5, with front bucket seats and a rear bench seat that folds down in a 60/40 split for additional hauling capacity. Leather optional. Rear passenger room (in.): head, 35.8; leg, 38.1; shoulder, 54.7 Rear heating ducts, hands-free cell phone holder 2.4-liter, 16-valve 4 cylinder; 2.7-liter, 24-valve V6; or 3.0-liter, 24-valve V6 Four-wheel anti-lock brakes, driver and passenger “next-generation” air bags, side-impact curtain 16 cubic feet Chrysler’s Sebring is a great example of the automaker’s unique approach to packaging. It’s not only stylish, but incredibly roomy, especially for rear passengers. And it’s decidedly affordable.
Chrysler Concorde LXi

www.nar.chrysler.com $23,510 to $32,120

5 or 6, depending on the configuration. An optional front-seat bench permits six passengers. Leather optional. Rear passenger room (in.): head, 37.2; leg, 41.6; shoulder, 58.4 Front-seat cup holders and rear-seat–specific AC and heat 2.7-liter, 24-valve V6 or 3.5-liter, 24-valve V6 Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, low-speed traction control, driver and passenger “next-generation” air bags, side-impact curtain 18.7 cubic feet, including a center seat pass-through The most traditional of the Chrysler midsize sedans, the Concorde, nonetheless, is anything but conservative. It features the sophisticated styling flair that the American automaker has become known for. The cab-forward seating layout offers both front and rear passengers living room–size space. There’s a massive trunk, as well.
Saab 9-3 www.saabusa.com $26,525 to $37,210 5, with front buckets and molded back bench in cloth or leather. Rear passenger room (in.): head, 37.5; leg, 35.1; shoulder, 55.1 Customizable driver preferences, cup holders, rain-sensitive auto wipers, automatic climate control 2.0-liter, turbo-charged I-4 Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, traction control system 15 cubic feet Saab has often been saddled with an image of being, well, quirky. The new, more stylish 9-3 is likely to shift that notion, in part by adopting a more mainstream sedan body style. It handles better than earlier models, is more sure-footed in all weather conditions, and includes larger rear seats.
Infiniti G35 www.infiniti.com $27,645 to $35,425 4, leather, complete with dual reclining rear seats for passenger comfort. Rear passenger room (in.): head, 40; leg, 36.2; shoulder, 56.2 Rear AC ducts for back-seat passenger comfort 3.5-liter V6 Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, driver and passenger air bags, side-impact curtain protecting front and rear passengers 14.8 cubic feet This all-new Infiniti could prove a catalyst for Nissan’s upscale division. The G35 is decidedly sporty in appearance and performance, but it’s also lavish and well-appointed, a definite image car that will make a lasting impression on those who own it—or ride in it.
Chrysler 300M www.nar.chrysler.com $29,245 to $32,120 5, with leather buckets in front, and rear contoured bench that folds down in a 60/40 split for additional hauling capacity. Rear passenger room (in.): head, 37.7; leg, 39.1; shoulder, 58.7 Remembers seating positions for two drivers 3.5-liter, 24-valve V6 Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, low-speed traction control, driver and passenger “next-generation” air bags 16.8 cubic feet With its European flair, the 300M has been a head-turner since it first rolled into the showroom. It’s a bit shorter than Chrysler’s other midsize sedans, but don’t let its size fool you. A creative configuration means it offers a nearly full-size interior and a cavernous trunk capable of carrying all the signs and equipment you need.
Lincoln Town Car www.lincoln.com $41,040 to $53,198 6, with a front-seat option for a third seat or a middle armrest. Rear passenger room (in.): head, 37.9; leg, 46.9; shoulder, 59.9 Front and rear cup holders, personal controls for rear-seat heat and AC, 12-volt outlet for rear passengers 4.6-liter, 16-valve V8 Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, all-speed traction control, driver and passenger staged air bags 21 cubic feet The all-new Town Car, with more cargo capacity than the previous model, is again about as big a road cruiser as you can find anywhere—plush, comfortable, and able to carry five passengers and a month’s luggage with ease. Even better, this is the best-handling Town Car yet.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class www.mercedes.com $49,115 to $72,015 5, with leather bucket seats in front, bench seat in rear. Rear passenger room (in.): head, 37.2; leg, 36.1; shoulder, 57.1 Heated front seats, front and rear cup holders, back seat climate control 3.2-liter V6 or 5.0-liter V8 Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, traction control, driver and passenger staged air bags, head protection curtain 15.3 cubic feet Mercedes’ midsize E-class has always been the German automaker’s most popular model. It’s likely to become an even bigger seller with the arrival of an all-new model that’s sleeker and more sophisticated, bearing a surprising resemblance to Mercedes’ top-of-the-line S-Class. It offers a mix of luxury, room, and image.

*MSRP = Manufacturer’s suggested retail price excluding destination charge. All prices listed are base prices. These figures can vary substantially, depending on upgraded model lines, option packages, and other accessories.

For more information from any manufacturer, visit the company’s Web site. This list isn’t comprehensive; NAR doesn’t evaluate or endorse these products and isn’t responsible for changes in company information.


This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of the products in this category. NAR doesn’t evaluate or endorse these products and isn’t responsible for changes in product info. Prices are the vendors’ suggested retail prices and are subject to change.

Paul A. Eisenstein is publisher of The Detroit Bureau. He has more than 30 years of experience covering the auto industry for a broad range of print, broadcast, and electronic media.

Notice: The information on this page may not be current. The archive is a collection of content previously published on one or more NAR web properties. Archive pages are not updated and may no longer be accurate. Users must independently verify the accuracy and currency of the information found here. The National Association of REALTORS® disclaims all liability for any loss or injury resulting from the use of the information or data found on this page.

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