Automobiles are the primary means of passenger transportation worldwide, logging over three trillion miles (five trillion kilometers) per year. They provide a high level of personal mobility, making it possible to travel wherever and whenever one wants, without worrying about the unpredictability or hassle of public transit or finding a ride. For many people, a car has become an indispensable part of their daily lives and the foundation for their work, family life, social interactions and leisure activities.
In recent decades, automobile manufacturers have produced hundreds of models, competing to attract the most buyers and win market share. Some manufacturers offer new designs almost annually. Passenger cars account for the bulk of production, with a variety of sizes and configurations ranging from economical small sedans to large luxury SUVs. Most are powered by internal-combustion engines using a volatile fuel. Modern cars have evolved into complex technical systems, with thousands of subsystems designed for specific functions and driven by advances in materials such as steel, aluminum, and high-strength plastics; in electronic computers; and in manufacturing processes such as computer-aided design and robotic assembly.
The automobile has brought profound changes to American industry and technology, as well as to everyday life. It gave people more freedom to move around and connect with the world, changing where families lived and what they did for a living. It created the suburbs, reshaped city planning, and brought urban amenities—like schools, hospitals and shopping malls—to rural areas. It fueled the growth of industries that made and used automobiles, such as petroleum and gasoline, rubber and then plastics, and provided services like gas stations and convenience stores.
Some historians have called the automobile one of the greatest inventions in human history. It has made a major contribution to globalization, by bringing together distant cultures and economies in ways that previously were impractical or impossible. Today, it is nearly inconceivable to live in America without a car.
A midsize car offers a good balance of cargo space, legroom for passengers and ease of driving. The best midsize cars offer a smooth ride, advanced technology and responsive handling. Our picks include the Honda Accord, which ranks second in J.D. Power’s 2023 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, as well as the Kia K5, which wins praise for its sleek styling and user-friendly tech features. We also included the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition, both of which are highly rated by Consumer Reports for their rugged durability and towing capabilities. The Hyundai Santa Fe and the Chevrolet Blazer round out our list of top midsize SUVs, each offering a comfortable ride and user-friendly features.