This can be confusing to the public, and even motoring writers, as there are no sharply defined parameters on what constitutes a major facelift or full model change.
Automakers tend to make generational changes once every six or seven years, although the pace of major updates or revisions are getting faster in the face of keen rivalry and fast-changing consumer tastes.
We are seeing more creature comforts being offered in entry-level cars such as more USB ports, automatic air-conditioning, touchscreen displays with voice command, and even driver assistance systems like automatic braking.
In Europe, car electrification is well underway thanks to ever tighter emission regulations and this is changing the way that automakers are designing and selling cars.
Carsifu takes a look at five cars that have undergone significant generational changes and facelifts over the years.
Since the first-generation Toyota Vios was launched in Malaysia in 2003, the B-segment sedan has been a runaway bestselling model for UMW Toyota Motor.
It was launched at prices ranging from around RM74,000 to RM82,000 and powered by a 1.5-litre DOHC engine with VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing with intelligence), mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission.
This powertrain developed a reputation for reliability which helped to boost sales, and continued to be used in the second-generation Vios which was introduced in Malaysia in late 2007.
The 2008 second-generation Vios is slightly taller and has a longer wheelbase and more interior space, as well as a bigger 475-litre boot (400 litre previously) and new kit included a electric power steering which replaced the previous hydraulic system, and a glass imprinted antenna for better aerodynamics.
Five years later, the third-generation Vios arrived in Malaysia in October 2013, with the familiar 1NZ-FE 1.5-litre DOHC engine featuring VVT-i again, mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.
Boot space increased to 506 litres and standard safety features include dual airbags, ABS (anti-lock braking system), electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, reverse sensors, ISOFIX points for rear seats, and seatbelts incorporating pre-tensioners.
The 2014 third-generation Vios offered better fuel efficiency, increased cabin room, a larger trunk, and improved noise insulation.
In the last four years, the Vios has received many updates as the ageing third-generation model strived to compete in an increasingly intense B-segment car arena.
These included a major update with the old powertrain finally phased out in October 2016, with a new 1.5-litre 2NR-FE engine with Dual VVT-i and a CVT (Continuously-Variable Transmission).
The 2017 Vios also had vehicle stability control (VSC) and traction control, and Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) as standard on all variants.
This 2017 Vios uses iridium spark plugs, and can achieve 18% better fuel economy compared with its predecessor.
In January 2019, the Vios received another facelift with a sportier design and standard safety kit now includes seven airbags and hill-start assist control.
The Proton Perdana four-door D-segment executive sedan started life in early 1995 as a re-badged seventh-generation Mitsubishi Eterna with a 2.0-litre engine outputting 135hp and 176Nm of torque.
Almost four years later, in late 1998, it received a major facelift with a new and more powerful 2.0-litre Mitsubishi V6 engine with 148hp, inputs from Lotus for better ride and handling, as well as a new front grille and improved interior features.
Five years later, in 2003, Proton launched the second-generation Perdana which saw extensive exterior and interior improvements including a sportier-looking body and a European-inspired frontal design, a re-tuned suspension and higher local content.
Still, it did not have airbags and the same Mitsubishi DOHC V6 engine remained in use.
The Mitsubishi-engined Perdana continued to be sold for another seven years, until demand fell due to changing market dynamics and Proton stopped the production of the Perdana in 2010.
But the Malaysian government's Perdana fleet was rapidly ageing and in late 2012, Proton entered into a collaboration with Honda Motor.
In late 2013, the third-generation Perdana, essentially a re-badged eighth-generation Honda Accord with 2.0 and 2.4-litre engines, was launched for the use of government officials.
It had a production run of some 3,000 units before a fourth-generation Perdana, also based on the eighth-generation Accord platform, was unveiled in June 2016.
However, unlike the third-generation Perdana, it’s not just a simple rebadge job for the fourth-generation Perdana as this is meant for public sales.
Proton gave the 2017 Perdana a massively exterior re-styling, with a sporty fastback design and size-wise, at five metres in length, it’s just marginally longer than the previous Accord.
Exterior highlights include stylish headlamps with connecting chrome finish to the Proton “wings” front grille, chromed door window surrounds, an aerodynamic shark fin antenna, rear combination lamps with LED lights, and a sporty lower diffuser.
The interior is mostly unchanged, with the exception of a Proton supplied 6.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
More than a million Myvi units have been produced since its launch in May 2005, making it the top manufactured Perodua car.
The popular compact five-door hatchback is only in its third generation after 14 years, and demand has been extraordinarily high for the Myvi which has a reputation for being reliable, fuel efficient and economical to run.
The Myvi is a collaboration between Perodua and Daihatsu, and it was based on the Japanese automaker's Boon which is also called the Sirion in some markets.
A second-generation model was introduced in 2011, six years after the first Myvi was launched.
The 2011 Myvi offered 1.3 and 1.5-litre engine options, electronic power steering, dual airbags and ISOFIX child seat points which were deemed attractive features for an entry-level car by Malaysians back then.
Four years later, in January 2015, the second-generation Myvi received a mid-life facelift with a new grille styling and better features such as a reverse camera for the top variant, headlamps with daytime running light strip, front parking sensors, and an anti-snatch theft hook first seen in the Perodua Axia.
Still, nearly three years later, in November 2017, it was the third-generation Myvi that broke new ground for entry-level compact cars by offering a low-profile styling and an impressive list of comfort and safety features, including automatic braking.
Standard kit on the third-generation Myvi are LED headlamps with follow-me-home function and headlamp leveling, LED rear combination lamps with light guides and Smart Entry with Push Start.
All 2018 Myvi variants get ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC).
The 2018 1.5-litre Myvi variants have six airbags while four airbags are standard on 1.3-litre variants.
Thus, it's no surprise the 2018 Myvi became an instant sales chart topper and 15 months after its launch, Perodua announced it had hit a new milestone with deliveries of over 100,000 units.
It's been more than six years since Volkswagen's seventh-generation Golf was introduced in Malaysia.
The Golf is the most successful European car, with over 35 million units sold since March 1974.
So it's understandable if Volkswagen wants to make sure the eighth-generation Golf is built and designed to meet market demands for the next seven or eight years, before its expected public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.
Meanwhile, a mid-life revision was done for the seventh-generation Golf, and this imported model was launched here in early 2016.
The mid-life revised Golf was offered in base Comfortline and range-topping Highline trims, with its 1.4-litre TSI turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 150PS - which is 10PS higher - while maximum torque remained at 250Nm and the seven-speed DSG dual clutch transmission was also retained.
It's also notable that Volkswagen Malaysia also lowered the prices of the 2016 revised Golf, compared with its predecessor, by some RM14,000 to RM149,888 for the Comfortline and RM4,000 to RM159,888 for the Highline.
Of course, the big drop in the price of the Golf Comfortline meant that premium kit like automatic bi-xenon headlights and Climatronic dual-zone climate control had to be dropped.
Two years later, the Golf was updated again and this late life revised model was launched in Malaysia in Sportline (RM155,990) and R-Line (RM169,990) trims.
The 2018 revised Golf gets exterior updates, redesigned bumpers, LED tail lights and extra features.
Notable safety features include Manouvre Braking, which helps to automatically brake the car when it senses objects up to 10kph to minimise minor damage during parking.
There’s also Automatic Post Collision Brake System, which triggers automatic (emergency) braking down to a vehicle speed of 10kph, once a collision is detected.
Also standard is the a large 12.3-inch high definition Active Info Display (AID) which replaces the typical analog meter display; the new AID looks brilliant and is in tune with today’s digital technology.
The new eighth-generation Golf should arrive in Malaysia in 2020, after its Frankfurt debut later this year.
The fifth-generation Mitsubishi Triton pick-up truck has seen two major updates since its launch in Malaysia in May 2015.
The Triton is known for settting new benchmarks in the pick-up truck segment, and the fifth-generation certainly did not disappoint by having first-in-class segment features such as engine push-start button, keyless operation, xenon HID headlamps with integrated daytime running lights, tilt and telescopic steering and paddle shifters.
Back then, it was fitted with a class-leading 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine with an intercooled Variable Geometry Turbo (VGT) that produced 176hp of power at 4,000rpm and 400Nm of torque at 2,000 rpm - 50Nm more torque than its predecessor.
Still, less than one-and-a-half-year later, in September 2016, the Triton received a new engine, namely a 2.4-litre MIVEC turbo diesel unit with VGT (variable geometry turbo) intercooler.
Compared with the previous 2.5-litre engine, the new MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic control system) engine is more powerful and fuel efficient.
The Triton is the first pick-up here to have variable valve timing technology and also, an aluminum alloy engine.
Power increased to 181ps at 3,500rpm and 430Nm of torque at 2,500rpm while fuel consumption is lower by up to 15%.
Mitsubishi says noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) has also been improved, thus providing a quieter and comfortable drive.
Also, together with the introduction of the 2.4-litre MIVEC turbo diesel engine, all Triton VGT variants were fitted with automatic bi-xenon HID Headlamps with integrated LED daytime running lights and rear fog lamps as standard.
Earlier this year, the Triton received a facelift with a bold new Mitsubishi Motors Dynamic Shield look, and a design and engineering concept with four pillars - 4Sure Power, 4Sure Control, 4Sure Agility and 4Sure Safety.
The 2019 facelifted Triton has five variants, priced from RM100,200 to RM135,200.
While the 2.4-litre MIVEC turbo diesel engine remains, power is delivered via a new 6-speed automatic transmission which replaces the previous five-speed automatic.
The 2019 facelifted Triton also has a new Super-Select 4WD II system which has a Off-road Mode for off-road conditions such as gravel, mud, sand and rock.
Buyers will also be pleased by class-leading advanced active safety and driver assistance systems that include Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM) and Blind Spot Warning with Lane Change Assist (BSW with LCA); Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Auto High Beam system, and Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System (UMS)