By on March 27, 2019

2018 Mazda 6 Signature front quarter

Changes come to Mazda’s midsize 6 sedan slowly, with mild — some might say imperceptible — styling refreshes and content changes usually occurring halfway through the model year. Last year saw a big and long-awaited addition to the slinky sedan: an available turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four aimed at silencing, once and for all, enthusiasts’ cries of moar powah.

That mill brought 277 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque to a model often regarded as the most engaging midsize on the market, though buyers couldn’t pair it with the base model’s six-speed manual transmission. For 2019, however, it looks like no one will get their hands on a stick. (Read More…)

By on March 23, 2019

Image: Tim Healey/TTAC

Revealed what seems like ages ago, Volkswagen’s upcoming flagship car will arrive in the U.S. as a 2019 model — halfway through 2019. Bearing the inelegant name Arteon, the new range-topper had its boat trip delayed by a new European test cycle that impacted the certification and release of numerous German vehicles.

It could be argued that, in the 13 months since the Arteon’s big reveal, consumer interest in midsize sedans — even ones with liftbacks — has eroded even further. No matter. VW’s going to give its CC replacement a shot. A sign of the Arteon’s impending arrival comes from just-released EPA fuel economy figures that won’t blow anyone’s minds. (Read More…)

By on February 26, 2019

America’s appetite for intermediate sedans is disappearing, as the queasiness consumers feel when faced with the prospect of buying a family sedan seems to be settled only by the consumption of crossovers.

They go down smooth.

This isn’t news, of course. TTAC began a close, monthly watch of the U.S. midsize sedan sector in August 2016. Since then, the demise of individual midsize nameplates has continued, and the numbers associated with the segment’s sales performance – as we chronicled earlier this month – have grown more frightening.

Yet there are signs that, at least on the retail front, the midsize sedan segment’s American decline could be levelling off. And that moderation is coinciding with something you might not have anticipated: rising average transaction prices. (Read More…)

By on February 19, 2019

2017 NAIAS 2018 Toyota Camry launch - Image: Toyota“Can we stop the shrinking of the segment?” American Honda boss Jeff Conrad said when launching the 10th-gen Accord. “We think we can at least slow it down.”

“When you get into next year and you look at 2018,” Toyota’s Jack Hollis said two years ago when discussing the arrival of an all-new Camry, “I believe with these three products and the excitement they bring back to that segment, I don’t see it falling anymore.” In fact, said Hollis, “When you have new entries and you have a full-year of those sales next year, I think you will see flat to slightly up.”

Meanwhile, Hyundai anticipated that a mere refresh of the Sonata for the 2018 model year would “reinvigorate” the nameplate.

The arrival of the 10th-generation Honda Accord did not slow down the shrinkage. Toyota was incorrect – the midsize segment was not “flat to slightly up” in 2018. And no, the Hyundai Sonata has in no way been reinvigorated.

The rate at which sales of midsize sedans are falling suggests fewer than 1 million of these vehicles will be sold in America within two years, equal to a 58-percent drop in just half a decade.  (Read More…)

By on January 14, 2019

Volkswagen introduced the new 2020 Passat at the Detroit auto show on Monday, but calling it “new” might not be entirely fair. While the midsize sedan has undergone a complete visual overhaul and received some new technology in the process, its mechanical bits have gone mostly unchanged versus last year’s model.

For 2020, Volkswagen modernized the Passat’s image by stretching the grille and adopting smaller headlamps. The prominent crease seen on the Jetta runs from stem to stern. That means some will continue confusing the two models well into the next decade but, for those who appreciate reserved styling and have a keen eye, the Passat is the more dapper of the pair. Still, like we said, this is pretty much the same car VW has been slinging for the last eight years — just newer looking.  (Read More…)

By on September 28, 2018

2019 Nissan Altima

Midway through my drive in the 2019 Nissan Altima, I was ready to pronounce it a bit “meh” – decidedly improved over the previous-generation car, but lacking in verve. That’s been a Nissan hallmark of late – a conservatism has descended upon the brand, taking out of some of the sportier cachet it was once known for.

Instead, we’ve been getting good-looking vehicles that cruise the highway just fine but lack a little bit of charm and character. This, from the brand that once called a large sedan a four-door sports car with a straight face?

My outlook changed a bit after we left lunch behind. Pulling out of the parking lot of one of California’s myriad beaches, I punched it to get up to speed. The acceleration from the 2.0-liter variable-compression turbocharged four-cylinder wasn’t life-changing or anything of the sort – we’re talking about a mid-size sedan, here, remember – but it was enough to make me remember, for the umpteenth time, that power cures a lot of ills.

(Read More…)

By on September 17, 2018

Image: Nissan

In the lead-up to the current-generation Toyota Camry’s launch in late summer, 2017, company brass predicted this model would change things. This Camry, in addition to the new-for-2018 Honda Accord and redesigned 2019 Nissan Altima, would arrest the segment’s downward plunge, said Jack Hollis, Toyota’s U.S. VP of marketing. He predicted a sales increase in 2018.

Well, while the Camry is more than likely drawing more buyers from a shrinking pool, the segment has not grown in 2018. The sales surge that followed the 2018 Camry’s release didn’t last, with the model posting declining year-to-date sales starting in July.

It seems there’s a severe lack of optimism in the segment, and with good reason. But Nissan North America chairman Denis Le Vot isn’t having any of it. The decline stops riiiiight now, he predicts. (Read More…)

By on August 16, 2018

2018 Toyota Camry SE white rear - Image: Toyota

Toyota resisted the urge for some time. However, the reality of falling sales numbers meant the automaker had to finally pull out its wallet and start incentivising the country’s best-selling midsize sedan.

We told you earlier this month that Camry sales aren’t enjoying the same buoyancy seen after the release of the new-for 2018 model in the latter part of last year. Possibly as a result, Toyota’s discounts, initially available only to Camry lessees, now migrate to buyers.  (Read More…)

By on August 3, 2018

Image: Toyota

Last year’s release of the radically revamped 2018 Toyota Camry lent buoyancy to a model seen as the troubled midsize sedan segment’s most resilient nameplate. It has history, name recognition, and a stigma for no-nonsense comfort and reliability. Could you ask for anything more?

And so, as other sedans, including the equally fresh Honda Accord, started falling away, the Camry retained its sales volume, finishing the first half of 2018 with a slight year-to-date increase. July brought bad news, however. While the Toyota brand performed worse than the industry average last month — sales fell 6 percent, year over year — it was passenger cars that earned the brand its volume loss.

And even the Camry’s partly to blame. (Read More…)

By on June 18, 2018

Image: Brian Williams/Spiedbilde

If sales stats tell us anything, it’s that Hyundai’s latest refresh of the Sonata sedan didn’t seem to resonate with buyers. Despite the addition of a large and aggressive new grille for the 2018 model year, complimented by a sharper rear deck and nicely canted taillights, Sonata sales — like that of so many other traditional passenger cars — continued a downward path. So much for fixing the styling issues of the previous refresh.

After hitting a high water mark of 230,605 vehicles sold in 2012, Sonata volume sunk to 131,803 units in 2017. Sales over the first five months of 2018 fell 33.8 percent.

Given the sales trajectory, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see Hyundai drop the model after the current generation runs its course, but the automaker seems intent on generating as many sales as it can across the segment spectrum. Thanks to these spy shots from Las Vegas, it looks like there’s a new Sonata in our future. (Read More…)

By on May 31, 2018

Image: Ford

We’ll miss it when its gone. The Ford Fusion Sport debuted as a pleasant throwback to an era of attainable muscle, just as the passenger car death plunge got underway in earnest. By taking a sensible family sedan, stuffing it with the largest mill its engine bay could handle, sending a propshaft to the rear wheels, and upgrading the sedan’s wheels and suspension, Ford crafted a blistering bargain that easily handles the daily duties of modestly-sized families. It’s an unlikely blast.

But soon it’ll be dead and you can have an Edge ST instead.

As all Fusions prepare for the afterlife, Ford’s new trim and content strategy (less of the former, more of the latter) means prices are on the upswing for 2019. The greatest hike in the Fusion lineup is reserved for the Sport. (Read More…)

By on May 23, 2018

Image: Nissan

Desperate times in the passenger car segment call for desperate publicity measures, so Nissan’s trying to make a splash ahead of the release of its next-generation 2019 Altima.

Among the brand’s conventional cars, the Altima’s 2018 sales slide (down 21.7 percent over the first four months of the year) is only topped by that of the larger Maxima (down 25.1 percent). Not altogether surprising, given the market and the older model’s age. However, now that there’s a fairly edgy replacement waiting in the wings, Nissan’s doing what it can to generate buzz ahead of the launch.

Enter the “Altima Edition ONE.” (Read More…)

By on March 20, 2018

Image: Ford

Squint harder. Yes, there are changes afoot in the 2019 Ford Fusion’s visage, though you’ll be forgiven if you can’t spot them from across the Lowe’s parking lot.

The automaker released images and information for the lightly refreshed model on Tuesday, ahead of its official debut at the upcoming New York Auto Show. Besides styling tweaks designed to keep things young and pert, all 2019 Fusion trim levels boast one of Ford’s new Co-Pilot 360 suite of driver assist features — even the lowly S model. For green car aficionados, the Blue Oval added an extra helping of electrons to the plug-in hybrid Energi model. Expect to burn ever so slightly fewer gallons of gas in a given year.

For now, Ford isn’t saying what others have: that this might be the last Fusion we ever see. (Read More…)

By on March 20, 2018

Image: Honda

The epic battle known as Honda Accord vs. Toyota Camry won’t end until we’re all sitting in the backseat of a driverless electric Ford shuttle bus, content in knowing we’re doing the right thing for society. Future cities, man.

Until then, there’s cars to sell, and nothing motivates buyers like price. As re-skinned and improved 2018 Honda Accord Hybrids head to dealer lots, the automaker has clearly staked itself out as the value green buy, slashing $4,505 from the previous model’s entry price. That puts the hybrid’s chief rival in an unenviable position. A base Camry hybrid now retails for considerably more, but, if overall sales numbers tell us anything, Toyota probably won’t break into a sweat after reading this news. (Read More…)

By on March 8, 2018

Image: Nissan

The early-to-mid 2000s wasn’t an era of great automobile design. Frankly, most automakers should be ashamed of themselves. However, among all of the Tauruses and Malibus and bloated Accords, one midsize, low-priced sedan stood out from its peers: the Nissan Altima of 2002, which propelled the former also-ran from visual dud to eye candy stud.

The Altima’s clean, dignified design made buyers stop and look, propelling sales to new heights. Even a decade-and-a-half later, it’s still a good-looking car that — rust aside — aged well. Unfortunately, rounded, forgettable styling later drained some of the model’s appeal.

As sales of all midsize cars fall, the Altima included, Nissan hopes a radical redesign can slow the descent. (Read More…)

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