2016 Could Be a Big Model Year for Midsize-Sedan Buyers
The redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Malibu coming to the 2015 New York auto show is going to have some reinvigorated competition when it goes on sale by the end of 2015. The 2016 model year could be huge for the still-hot midsize-sedan market, providing consumers a number of new or refreshed options — or, alternatively, with some great deals on outgoing 2015s.
From Volkswagen and Chevrolet to Nissan and Mazda, updates are coming to the segment, and you can count on Motor Trend to bring you the best in instrumented tests and comparisons, such as this six-car battle from last year. So join us as we take a tour through what the midsize-sedan segment holds for the 2016 and 2017 model years, from the lightly updated to the completely redesigned.
On the following pages, cars are listed in order of sales from the first two months of 2015.
|2016 Midsize Sedans: What to Expect|
After a thorough 2015 model-year refresh, the Camry enters 2016 with a special-edition model that sports striking blue paint, unique 18-inch wheels, and wireless charging, among other features. The Camry remains available with a 2.5-liter I-4, 3.5-liter V-6, or a four-cylinder hybrid.
What we said about the 2015 Toyota Camry I-4:
“While Toyota didn’t touch the drivetrain, a lot of work was done to make the car drive better and it’s paid off handsomely. The chassis feels more solid thanks to additional welds and the retuned suspension improves body control without sacrificing ride quality. The Camry rides as smoothly as ever, but now feels more buttoned down and confident over bumps and in curves.”
Nissan is hungry. This could be the year the automaker passes Honda in sales. Rumors suggest that a heavily refreshed Altima could lead that charge. Already the fuel economy leader in the non-hybrid segment for cars under $30,000, the Altima could get updated with an improved interior and some active safety tech if Nissan wants to upgrade the car’s IIHS Top Safety Pick status to a Top Safety Pick +, which requires an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.
What we said about the 2014 Nissan Altima I-4:
From a six-car comparison test in which the Altima placed fifth: “Despite second-best averaged efficiency, a second-best value proposition, and a sizeable rear seat, the Altima just didn’t capture our hearts like the four cars ranked ahead of it. A sluggish CVT, heavy-feeling dynamics, and worst-in-group steering drove that point home.”
Like the Nissan Altima, the Honda Accord was new for the 2013 model year. Although it’s not clear what Honda has planned for the 2016 model year, a refresh could keep the car up to date in the face of fresh competition. A revised infotainment system is likely, as is a nine-speed automatic on the Touring V-6 trim. Don’t be surprised to see engine stop-start tech to reach the non-hybrid 2016 Accord lineup.
What we said about the 2014 Honda Accord Sport:
From a six-car comparison test in which the Accord placed fourth: “While we’re not typically enamored with CVT transmissions, the shift paddles on the Honda, along with programming that mimics a conventional auto fairly well, made all the difference. ‘Even with the CVT, the Accord had a very peppy ride,’ said Detroit editor Scott Burgess. ‘It was quick off the line, and the CVT was hardly noticeable.’ “
Yet another midsize sedan that was new for 2013, the Ford Fusion has been lauded for its good looks and available all-wheel drive but not so much for its infotainment system, which has undergone a few changes over the past couple model years. Decades ago with the Taurus, Ford owned the midsize-sedan segment in the U.S. With updates for 2016 or 2017, could Ford continue eating into the Camry, Accord, and Altima’s market shares?
What we said about the 2013 Ford Fusion 2.0 EcoBoost AWD:
“Though it plows into corners, there’s a nice amount of grip once the chassis settles and all 240 horses and 270 lb-ft find their way to the pavement. Ford’s all-wheel drive system splits power 70/30 percent between front and rear wheels in normal driving situations, but once traction is lost, the split can change to a maximum 60/40 percent using torque vectoring via the ABS.”
With the Dodge Avenger now gone, the new-for-2015 Chrysler 200 is the Chrysler Group’s only midsize sedan entry, and it’s an ambitious car with vastly improved styling plus a distinctive center console and dashboard layout. The Chrysler 200 won’t see a mid-cycle update until the 2017 model year at the earliest.
What we said about the 2015 Chrysler 200 I-4:
From a six-car comparison in which the 200 placed third: “… The Chrysler feels like it’s striving for greatness — though it doesn’t quite achieve it. The Tigershark four-banger we’ve loved so much in other applications is a bit underpowered in this class, but the new nine-speed gearbox is a segment first and works well, and we were impressed with the attention to detail Chrysler put into the design of the car, especially the cabin’s innovative styling and storage solutions.”
The redesigned-for-2015 Hyundai Sonata wasn’t as bold as some were expecting, but a refresh for the 2017 model year could change that. New Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid models (pictured here) join the lineup for the 2016 model year.
What we said about the 2015 Sonata Limited I-4:
“…The Limited 2.4 is a good option for when upscale options and rear-seat legroom are more important than class-leading efficiency or acceleration, and the car shows how good a mid-pack performance in this segment has become.”
The outgoing Chevrolet Malibu underwent a hasty refresh to address some of the complaints about the 2013 model (a post-refresh model is shown here). Chevrolet may not have the same issues on the new 2016 Malibu, which debuts at the 2015 New York auto show. The car will have a wheelbase nearly 4 inches longer than the 2015 model, Chevrolet says, and will be much lighter, too.
What we said about the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu I-4:
From a six-car comparison test in which the Malibu placed sixth: “Its emergency refresh didn’t improve the two weakest points of the car: a noisy, poor-sounding engine and a flat, cramped rear seat. The Chevy was weak in value and questionable in fuel economy given its lowest averaged combined mpg figure.”
The new-for-2011 Optima marked the beginning of a brand turnaround that propelled Kia forward. Even when matched against newer models, the Optima still placed a respectable second place in a 2014 comparison of six midsizers. With the mechanically related Hyundai Sonata already redesigned for the 2015 model year, expect a new Optima for 2016 or 2017.
What we said about the 2014 Kia Optima I-4:
From a six-car comparison test in which the Optima placed second: “With its luxurious features list, impressive-looking cabin, and gorgeous exterior design that most of us named best-in-group, the Kia is one seductive midsizer. Unfortunately, uninspiring driving dynamics kept it out of the top spot this time.”
The 2012 Motor Trend Car of the Year, the Volkswagen Passat is ready for a refresh, and we’re told the 2016 model will be “a big step” forward. Considering the Passat recently updated its base engine to a turbocharged, 1.8-liter I-4, we’re expecting the refreshed model to focus on styling improvements and new active-safety tech options.
What we said about the 2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T Sport:
“On the road, the 1.8T engine proves up to the task, providing strong, smooth power moving away from stoplights, and a sporty, if subdued, engine note to boot — it’s basically a 2.0T Lite. Our six-speed automatic tester shifted smoothly and kept revs low on the freeway for quiet cruising, and the paddle-shifted manual mode was also reasonably responsive when called upon for highway passing and a bit of back-road fun.”
The Mazda6 enters the 2016 model year refreshed with an improved interior that’s said to be quieter than before. The car is offered with one four-cylinder engine (the on-again, off-again diesel model is still on hold), but the pre-refresh model has emerged at the top of two Motor Trend comparison tests. The staff favorite, which sells at a fraction of the larger brands’ entries, also impressed us in a one-year test of a manual-transmission model.
What we said about the 2014 Mazda6:
From a six-car comparison test in which the Mazda6 placed first: “When we asked ourselves which vehicle we’d purchase with our own money, we unanimously voted for the Mazda. Its combination of good looks, strong fuel economy, excellent road manners, roomy rear seat, and engaging powertrain give the Mazda the one element that all its competitors seem to lack: a real personality.”
The new 2015 Subaru Legacy was improved inside and out with fresher styling and a better infotainment system to accompany the all-wheel drive that unlike the only two other midsize sedans to offer all-wheel drive (Ford Fusion and Chrysler 200) comes standard. A refresh should arrive by the 2017 or 2018 model year.
What we said about the 2015 Subaru Legacy I-4:
“From the moment you roll on the throttle mid-corner, the lack of torque steer reminds you the Legacy is no front-driver. Combine that with the much-better-than-average steering, and my initial reaction was, ‘Hey, this is like a big WRX!’ Fast-forward a few days and I expressed that opinion to our race car-driving buddy Randy Pobst as he used the Legacy 2.5i to dust off the Streets of Willow before some sportier cars got on track. ‘There’s some WRX dirt in there somewhere,’ Randy said. ‘But this is much more luxurious. More like a WRX Town Car.’ “
Mitsubishi Midsize Sedan
We know Mitsubishi has interest in re-entering the midsize sedan segment, but after talks exploring the potential of using a Renault platform fell through, it’s unclear whether a Mitsubishi four-door based on a Nissan or other brand will ever see our shores. The midsize Mitsubishi Galant was discontinued after the 2012 model year.