The midsize car segment is a competitive one with every mainstream manufacturer except Mitsubishi having a presence there. And no wonder too: the best-selling car in America is the midsize Toyota Camry, just one of several models that define a segment loaded with front-wheel-drive, five-passenger family cars.
We’ve charted the midsize segment changes for 2016 and have listed them in order, from models that have made a generational change to those with a refresh, and have concluded with vehicles that have undergone the least amount of updates.
The eighth-generation Chevrolet Malibu struggled to find its footing in a competitive segment when it was introduced in 2013 and immediately withered under intense competition. Complaints of a snug back seat had General Motors making refinements as quickly as the next model year, but sales still fell far short of expectations. After just three years, Chevrolet gets an all-new Malibu.
The latest model is a complete overhaul, with the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu placed on the latest rendition of GM’s Epsilon platform. The Malibu sits on a wheelbase stretched by nearly four inches, translating into a much improved space for rear-seat passengers. Further, greater use of lightweight materials shaved 300 pounds off from the previous model.
The ninth-generation Chevrolet Malibu delivers an estimated 37 mpg on the highway and is now powered by a standard 1.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 160 horsepower. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is available. The new Malibu comes equipped with 10 air bags, OnStar 4G LTE connectivity, and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Also new for 2016 is a full-fledged hybrid variant, leveraging technologies from the Chevrolet Volt to reach an estimated 48 mpg in the city.
Kia has made great strides with its Optima sedan, transforming it from an also-ran to a highly competitive performer by 2011. For 2016, the fourth-generation Kia Optima comes in fractionally longer, wider and taller than the outgoing model. The new countenance parallels that of some of Europe’s finest sedans with its sweeping lines, aggressive nose and raised rear deck.
In keeping with Kia’s theme of offering “class above” interiors, the 2016 Optima brings in a number of refinements, including the extensive use of soft-touch materials and metal accents throughout the cabin. An upgraded UVO infotainment system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while a 360-degree surround-view monitor and adaptive bi-xenon headlights are available.
An all-new 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine is available with the LX edition and comes paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that’s a first for the Kia brand. Two other four-cylinder engine choices are also available.
As the number three seller in this segment, Nissan keeps the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord in its crosshairs. For 2016 Nissan rolls out extensive updates on the midsize Altima, including a refreshed exterior that parallels changes to the most recent Murano SUV and Maxima sedan. These revisions include a new V-motion grille, a new hood and updates to the bumpers.
Inside, the center stack has been modified, the front seats reshaped and the front cup holders were redesigned. Siri Eyes Free and NissanConnect are now standard. New and updated technologies include predictive forward collision warning, forward emergency braking and intelligent cruise control.
For 2016, the Nissan Altima gains an SR edition that features smoked headlights, 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and paddle shifters. The SR edition is powered by the larger of the Altima’s two engines, a 3.5-liter V6.
Last redesigned for the 2011 model year, the 2016 Volkswagen Passat receives its most extensive update to date. The Passat gets new front and rear fascia designs, including new front fenders, a new hood and updated front and rear bumpers. Slimmer headlights, a more pronounced grille and new LED lights front and back are also present.
An R-Line edition debuts, which is a sporty model with rocker panel embellishments, a stylized front bumper, 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and a modified rear diffuser. An upgraded infotainment system with a tabletlike screen is included. In the Passat, Volkswagen provides three smartphone integration platforms — MirrorLink, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
As for safety features, an automatic post-collision braking system is standard across the model line. Also available is adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and park assist.
The Honda Accord is the only midsize model available in sedan and coupe body styles. The current generation made its debut in 2013 and for 2016 both models are extensively refreshed.
Changes to the front fascia are evident with new LED fog lights added for the Sport trim and above. A new LED taillight design brings up the rear. Upgraded wheels and garnishment changes are also evident.
Inside, a new 7-inch touch-screen display audio system debuts in EX and above trims. HondaLink Assist is standard across the model line and both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity are possible. Honda says that the body and chassis are stiffer, the electric power steering has been retuned and new dampers and bushings are present. Heated rear seats come to the Touring edition.
Last updated in 2014, the Mazda6 receives moderate changes, with the Grand Touring edition reflecting a greater number of the updates. Specifically, the Mazda6 Grand Touring edition gains a new bumper and grille design, new LED lights front and back, and a sport mode button. A head-up display, redesigned gauges and a larger 7-inch Mazda Connect display are provided.
Last updated in 2013, the 2016 Ford Fusion receives a new center stack with an improved Sync screen and mechanical buttons. Additional changes for the model year include a new S appearance package and an SE cold weather package, while all-wheel drive is now available with the SE edition.
The Toyota Camry is coming off of a redesign for 2015, but several changes of note have been made in a bid to keep this hot seller on top. A new Special Edition model joins the product line, bringing with it new 18-inch wheels and a pair of fresh color choices. Inside, the Special Edition adds a power tilt-and-slide moonroof, unique interior trim and Qi wireless charging for smartphones.
The current generation Hyundai Sonata made its debut in 2015. The changes for 2016 are minor and are composed mostly of trim revisions. Nevertheless, Hyundai is keeping pace with its competitors in all things technology, by adding Android Auto compatibility. Aluminum suspension components have replaced steel in certain areas to provide improved handling.
The last major overhaul for the Chrysler 200 took place in 2015, therefore the alterations for 2016 model are minor. The major exception is a special 90th anniversary edition to mark the brand’s milestone, available with the Limited edition only. The special package brings in convenience group items as well as a 90th anniversary logo.
The Subaru Legacy is the only model in this segment offering standard all-wheel drive. Ford and Chrysler make all-wheel drive available, while the remaining competitors are exclusively front-wheel drive. Subaru last refreshed the Legacy in 2015, therefore the changes are small, including a retuned steering system and a new on/off switch that unites headlight and wiper operation.
For buyers in this segment looking for more extensive premium features, the Buick Regal should also be considered. Prices for mainstream models begin in the low $20,000 range with fairly well-equipped models retailing for about $26,000. If you prize a fully-loaded midsize sedan, you’ll pay about $30,000 to obtain one.