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The Future of Midsize Family Sedans

A constantly changing segment.

Todd LassawriterPatrick M. Hoeyphotographer

In the cutthroat world of mild-mannered front-wheel-drive midsize sedans, maintaining product freshness is key. Most midsize sedans run five-year product cycles, which segment-leaders Toyota and Honda extended from four years a couple of decades ago. South Korean brands Hyundai and Kia have countered the Toyota/Honda move by accelerating to four-year product cycles on most of their products.

Whichever brand you're considering, a product cycle typically means all-new sheetmetal and interiors, often with reworked engines -- adding, say, direct injection or some other emerging technology. Platforms and engines typically are replaced or significantly updated every two product cycles.

Minor to major refreshes, including redesigned front and rear clips, new trim, updated interiors and information/entertainment systems that include the latest connectivity technology, come between product cycles, every two to three years.

Keeping all of this straight can be helpful when buying a mainstream FWD midsize family sedan, whether you're looking for the latest, greatest model, or you want to catch an aging model just before its replacement in order to make an exceptional bargain. The rule of thumb in this segment, regardless of product age, is never pay retail. Here is our guide to what you can expect from these models in the next five years.

Model Year 2016
Mazda6 - minor refresh
Chevrolet Malibu - all-new
Kia Optima - all-new
Ford Fusion - minor refresh
Nissan Altima - minor refresh
Volkswagen Passat - minor refresh
Honda Accord - minor refresh

Model Year 2017
Mazda6 - long-delayed diesel engine reaches the U.S.

Model Year 2018
Honda Accord - all-new
Toyota Camry - all-new
Chrysler 200 - minor refresh
Hyundai Sonata - moderate refresh

Model Year 2019
Mazda6 - all-new
Ford Fusion - all-new
Nissan Altima - all-new
Volkswagen Passat - all-new

Model Year 2020
Hyundai Sonata - all-new
Subaru Legacy - all-new
Chrysler 200 - all-new