Though their popularity has waned a bit over the last few years as American buyers shift to crossover SUVs in ever-greater numbers, midsize cars still account for a significant portion of U.S. sales. The Toyota Camry is typically the best-selling car in America, and the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima aren’t too far behind.
Because midsize cars have traditionally been so popular, virtually every major mainstream manufacturer offers one. Some even offer two. In all, the class contains 13 contenders.
Considering those numbers, there really aren’t many variations available in the class. The majority of the cars are only offered as 4-door, front-wheel-drive sedans. However, there is one wagon to be found, and there are four vehicles available with all-wheel drive.
Powertrains are slightly more diverse. Four-cylinder engines dominate, but there are also a few sixes available. There are also seven models that offer a hybrid.
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2019
The Nissan Altima is redesigned, gaining available all-wheel drive, new technology features, and new powertrains. The base engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that makes 188 horsepower—note that availability of the new all-wheel-drive system is restricted to this engine. The previous Altima’s V6 engine is replaced by an innovative variable-compression-ratio turbocharged 2.0 4-cylinder that makes 248 horsepower. Both engines are paired to a CVT automatic transmission. New tech features include Rear Automatic Braking and Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist driver-aid system. The Altima’s sportier stablemate, the Nissan Maxima, receives a mild styling update and some new safety features under Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 banner.
The Chevrolet Malibu gets freshened styling, a sport-styled RS model, a new infotainment system, and a color 8-inch driver information center. The Ford Fusion gets new front and rear fasciae and adds the Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of safety features as standard equipment; plus, the turbo 1.5-liter engine is now standard in SE models. The Kia Optima gets a mild exterior styling refresh and revised UVO infotainment systems, among other minor updates. The Volkswagen Passat model line is pared down to two trim levels—Wolfsburg Edition and SE R-Line—and the V6 engine is dropped.
There was no information available on the 2019 Honda Clarity or Mazda 6 as of this writing, but we are not expecting any significant changes. The rest of the midsize-car class is either unchanged or sees minor revisions such as updated infotainment systems and/or changes in standard equipment and option packages. The Ford C-MAX is discontinued, and Ford has announced that the Fusion will be phased out after the current-generation model runs its course.
MODELS THAT OFFER SOMETHING UNUSUAL
With several of the cars available in hybrid form, it’s hard to call any of them “out of the ordinary.” However, the Ford Fusion and Honda Clarity offer plug-in hybrids, and the Clarity is also available with a hydrogen-fuel-cell or pure-electric powertrain. The Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, and Subaru Legacy sedan and Outback wagon all offer all-wheel drive. The Volkswagen Passat formerly claimed the only diesel-engine offering in the class—though due to VW’s diesel-emissions-rigging scandal of 2015, the engine was pulled from the market; it’s unlikely to be offered again anytime soon, if ever.