DETROIT – General Motors is hoping that a hurry-up makeover of the Chevrolet Malibu will move it from also-ran to a top performer in the key midsize car segment.

The company unveiled the 2014 version of the car Friday, hoping it will catch on in the heart of the U.S. auto market now dominated by Toyota’s Camry, Honda’s Accord and Ford’s Fusion.

The rapid revamp comes just a year after the current version of the Malibu reached U.S. showrooms. But it shows how increasing competition is forcing automakers to quickly make changes if their cars don’t catch on with consumers. In midsize cars, the largest piece of the U.S. auto market, the Malibu looks old when compared with new versions of the Fusion and Accord.

Sales of the 2013 Malibu are down 12 percent through April, while Accord and Fusion sales have risen more than 25 percent. The drop comes even though GM is discounting Malibus more than any of its competitors. In April, the average Malibu sold for $23,685, almost $2,000 less than the Accord and Fusion, according to the auto pricing site.

The 2014 Malibu will reach showrooms in the fall. It will feature a new engine in the base model that boosts gas mileage, more back-seat legroom, a restyled front end, an updated interior, and suspension changes that will improve the car’s handling, GM engineers said Friday as they unveiled the new model.

The changes are in response to consumers who told GM that the 2013 Malibu had bland styling, a cramped back seat, and its fuel economy wasn’t as good as the leading cars in the segment.

GM began work on the 2013 version just before the company went into bankruptcy protection in 2009, said Mark Reuss, the company’s North American president. The bankruptcy delayed its development, and even before it emerged from the process, GM began to upgrade styling that wasn’t progressive enough to beat the competition, Reuss said.

The quick change, he said, is a sign that the new GM is serious about fixing problems.