2020 Nissan Altima vs. 2019 Chevrolet Impala

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Nissan Altima have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Chevrolet Impala doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.

In the past twenty years hundreds of infants and young children have died after being left in vehicles, usually by accident. When turning the vehicle off, drivers of the Altima are reminded to check the back seat if they opened the rear door before starting out. The Impala doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Altima SV/SL/Platinum has standard Rear Automatic Braking that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The Impala doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

The Altima offers all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The Impala doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

The Altima Platinum has a standard Around View Monitor to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Impala only offers a rear monitor and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the front or sides.

The Altima’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Impala doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Altima and the Impala have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front and rear side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, rearview cameras, available daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

A significantly tougher test than their original offset frontal crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH small overlap frontal offset crash tests. In this test, where only 25% of the total width of the vehicle is struck, results indicate that the Nissan Altima is safer than the Impala:

Altima

Impala

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Restraints

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Head injury index

59

89

Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L

0%/0%

0%/0%

Lower Leg Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Tibia index R/L

.53/.45

.68/.32

For its top level performance in IIHS driver-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, rear impact and roof-crush tests, with its optional front crash prevention system, its “Good” rating in the new passenger-side small overlap crash test, and its available headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Altima the rating of “Top Pick” for 2019, a rating granted to only 88 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Impala was not even a standard “Top Pick” for 2016.

Warranty

The Altima’s corrosion warranty is unlimited miles longer than the Impala’s (unlimited vs. 100,000 miles).

Reliability

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Nissan vehicles are more reliable than Chevrolet vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Nissan 9 places higher in reliability than Chevrolet.

Engine

The Altima’s optional 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 9 lbs.-ft. more torque (273 vs. 264) than the Impala’s optional 3.6 DOHC V6.

As tested in Car and Driver the Nissan Altima 2.0 VC turbo is faster than the Chevrolet Impala V6:

Altima

Impala

Zero to 60 MPH

5.9 sec

6 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

14.7 sec

15.5 sec

Quarter Mile

14.5 sec

14.8 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

99 MPH

97 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Altima gets better fuel mileage than the Impala:

MPG

Altima

FWD

S/SV/SL 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

28 city/39 hwy

SR/Platinum 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

27 city/37 hwy

2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

25 city/34 hwy

AWD

S/SV/SL 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

26 city/36 hwy

SR/Platinum 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

25 city/35 hwy

Impala

FWD

2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

22 city/29 hwy

36 DOHC V6

19 city/28 hwy

Flex-Fuel 3.6 DOHC V6

18 city/28 hwy

Regardless of its engine, the Altima’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) Chevrolet only offers an automatic engine start/stop system on the Impala 4 cyl.

Environmental Friendliness

In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Nissan Altima higher (7 out of 10) than the Chevrolet Impala (3 to 7). This means the Altima produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Impala every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

The Altima has a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT). With no “steps” between gears, it can keep the engine at the most efficient speed for fuel economy, or keep it at its peak horsepower indefinitely for maximum acceleration. The Impala doesn’t offer a CVT.

Brakes and Stopping

The Altima stops shorter than the Impala:

Altima

Impala

70 to 0 MPH

172 feet

178 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

118 feet

124 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

The Altima has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The Impala doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Altima is 1 inch wider in the front and 1.2 inches wider in the rear than the track on the Impala.

The Altima Platinum handles at .91 G’s, while the Impala LT pulls only .82 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Altima Platinum executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the Impala Premier (26.3 seconds @ .68 average G’s vs. 27.1 seconds @ .68 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the Altima S’ turning circle is 2.7 feet tighter than the Impala’s (36.1 feet vs. 38.8 feet). The Altima SR/SV/SL/Platinum’s turning circle is 1.4 feet tighter than the Impala’s (37.4 feet vs. 38.8 feet).

Chassis

The Nissan Altima may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 350 to 500 pounds less than the Chevrolet Impala.

The Altima is 8.4 inches shorter than the Impala, making the Altima easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The front grille of the Altima uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The Impala doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

Passenger Space

The Altima has .3 inches more front shoulder room, .4 inches more rear hip room and .2 inches more rear shoulder room than the Impala.

Ergonomics

The Altima SV/SL/Platinum’s front power windows both open or close with one touch of the switches. The Impala’s front passenger window doesn’t close automatically.

If the windows are left open on the Altima the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Impala can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The Altima’s speed-sensitive wipers speed up when the vehicle does, so that the driver doesn’t have to continually adjust the speed of the wipers. The Impala’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The Altima’s available headlights were rated “Acceptable” by the IIHS, while the Impala’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the Altima detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The Impala doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Altima owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the Altima with a number “1” insurance rate while the Impala is rated higher at a number “3” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Altima is less expensive to operate than the Impala because it costs $300 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Altima than the Impala, including $234 less for a water pump, $222 less for a muffler, $62 less for front brake pads, $49 less for a starter, $104 less for fuel injection, $100 less for a fuel pump, $115 less for a timing belt/chain and $3 less for a power steering pump.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Nissan Altima will be $889 to $5259 less than for the Chevrolet Impala.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Nissan Altima and the Chevrolet Impala, based on reliability, safety and performance.

The Altima was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2019. The Impala has never been an “All Star.”

The Nissan Altima outsold the Chevrolet Impala by almost four to one during 2018.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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