Though their popularity has waned a bit over 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, most major mainstream manufacturers offer one. Some even offer two. In all, the class contains 12 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 five vehicles available with all-wheel drive.
Four-cylinder engines dominate the class; in recent years, turbocharged 4-cylinder engines have taken the place of 6-cylinder engines as the optional higher-horsepower powerplants of choice. The only midsize cars currently offering a V6 engine are the Nissan Maxima and the Toyota Camry. Fuel-saving hybrid powertrains are a bit more numerous; there are four models available as hybrids.
HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2021
The midsize-car class sees one redesigned—and renamed—model for 2021: Kia’s midsize sedan is all-new, and sheds its Optima badge in favor of K5 (the name Kia uses on this car in other global markets). The K5’s base powertrain is a 180-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder with an 8-speed automatic. Most trim levels are front-drive only, but all-wheel drive is optional on LXS and GT-Line models. A performance-oriented K5 GT model gets a 290-hp turbo 2.5 four with an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The rest of the class sees modest updates. The Chevrolet Malibu gets a Sport Edition appearance package and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. The Honda Accord loses its previously available manual transmission but gains freshening styling, an updated infotainment system with available wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, and a Sport SE trim level. The Hyundai Sonata gets a new N Line performance model powered by a 290-hp turbocharged 2.5-liter four. The Mazda 6 adds Apple CarPlay (wireless on Grand Touring) and Android Auto, as well as a Carbon Edition appearance package. The Nissan Maxima adds a 40th Anniversary Edition, and the Subaru Legacy and Outback now come with standard steering-linked LED headlamps. The Toyota Camry has revised front-end styling and freshened interior trim; Camry’s base L model is no more, but the Hybrid is now available in XSE trim. The Volkswagen Passat is no longer offered in top-line SEL trim. The Ford Fusion has been discontinued.
MODELS THAT OFFER SOMETHING UNUSUAL
With its station-wagon body style and SUV design elements, the Subaru Outback is probably the most conceptually unique vehicle in the class. The Nissan Maxima aims for an upscale sports-sedan feel that makes it stand out as well. The Honda Clarity is an eco-focused vehicle that comes only in plug-in-hybrid, pure-electric, or hydrogen-fuel-cell forms. The Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, and Toyota Camry all offer hybrids. The Kia K5, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy sedan, Outback wagon, and Toyota Camry all offer all-wheel drive.