A Few of Our Favorite Things (About Midsize Cars We’ve Compared)

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When Motor Trend does large multivehicle comparison reviews, called Big Tests, there’s often a lot that goes unsaid. We try to sum up some of the standout features in the Notable Features section of the review, which contains a diverse spread of features such as shift levers, interiors, and seats. We took a look back at the standouts from out Midsize Sedan Big Test to see if the sentiment still stands. This retrospective will be accompanied by a look forward. Do we still appreciate the feature? Chevrolet Malibu Chevrolet’s Malibu placed sixth out of six in our comparison, but it’s not because it was a terrible sedan. We had trouble with the finishing order, saying, “There just simply wasn’t a car in the group that could be classified as ‘bad.’ ” Then: “A lackluster engine, cheap interior, cramped rear seat, and poor efficiency seal Malibu’s fate.” Chevrolet Malibu Despite the lackluster finish, we appreciated Chevrolet’s attempt to keep cellphones out of the cupholders. Fore and aft of the pair of cupholders in the center stack are small cubbies designed to keep your devices in place and easily accessible. Now? Chevrolet believes in the idea so much that it’s been included on the 2016 Malibu and will integrate wireless charging (if so equipped) to allow you to drop your phone into the slot, charge it, and go about your day without fumbling with wires. Read about the 2016 Malibu here. Nissan Altima The Nissan Altima placed fifth in our comparison, earning accolades for its bargain price, reasonable feature cost, and sizable rear seat. Then: “Good value and space; shame about the lethargic powertrain and poor steering response.” Nissan Altima We called out the so-called Zero Gravity seats, which have been designed to reduce the fatigue and stress put on the human body when sitting and driving for extended periods. Now? We agree they’re comfortable, with La-Z-Boy comparisons, but we’re torn on whether that is a good or bad thing. Don’t expect the nifty seats to go anywhere soon. They seem to be here to stay. The Altima has been refreshed for the 2016 model year; read about it right here. Honda Accord The Honda Accord Sport clinched the fourth-place spot. It was described as the sportiest sedan of the bunch but also one of the roomiest. Then: “If all you need is space and speed, look no further. A rough ride might be solved by a non-Sport model.” Honda Accord We called out the massive rear seat, noting that it might be “just the ticket” for families. Now? Little has changed in the back seat (that’s a good thing!), but opt for the V-6 if you want a true sleeper. Check out our First Look of the refreshed 2016 Accord here. Chrysler 200 When the Chrysler 200 edged out the Honda Accord, we commented that it strove for greatness but just missed the mark. Then: “Chrysler gets an A for effort but is let down by a lethargic powertrain, less-than-roomy cabin, and lack of refinement.” Chrysler 200   We highlighted the nine-speed rotary-knob-shifted transmission because of its wide spread of gear ratios and unique (for the segment) gear-selection method. Now? With the rotary shift knob making its way into Ram pickups and the Chrysler 300, we imagine the convenient packaging will be a staple of future Chrysler products. With more and more fully electronic transmissions, we’re bound to see more experimentation in this area, too. (We’re looking at you, Acura.) Kia Optima Kia’s podium finish was no accident. It’s playing for keeps. The Optima is a solid choice in the segment, especially if you don’t put as much priority on sporty driving as we do. Then: “A solid second-place finish for a comfortable, stylish, value-packed option that is also highly efficient.” Kia Optima We called out the heated and ventilated front seats and their heated outboard rear seat cushions. Although this isn’t new for Kia, it is a standout in the segment. We noted, “The Kia’s interior feels and looks a class above the rest.” Now? Kia continues to pack the handsome Optima full of content, and although not massively changed, the 2016 Kia Optima continues to be an exceptional deal. Read about the redesigned 2016 Optima here. Mazda6 We can get on board with roomy, practical, value-packed sedans (we did put the Optima on the podium), but straying too far from our enthusiast roots just isn’t in our wiring. Mazdas are known for their driving demeanor and zoom-zoom character, which pair nicely with the roomy interior and excellent road manners. The Mazda6 is one we’d spend our own money on. Then: “Roomy, composed, quick, and fun to drive, the Mazda’s victory was unanimous among our judges.” Mazda6 We particularly loved the shift lever-actuated manual mode for the six-speed automatic, which helped to make the most of the rev-happy powertrain. Now? Although our ringing endorsement didn’t vault the Mazda6 to the top of the midsize sedan segment, it remains the go-to choice for those who need to heed the call of reality but don’t want to give up driving enjoyment. Check out our 2016 Mazda6 First Test review here.