2020 Nissan Altima vs. 2019 Ford Taurus

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 Ford Taurus 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 Taurus doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

The Altima has standard Automatic Emergency Braking, which use forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The Taurus offers an available collision warning system without the automated brake feature that would prevent or reduce the collision if the driver fails to react.

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 Taurus doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

The Nissan Altima SR/SV/SL/Platinum has Daytime Running Lights to help keep it more visible under all conditions. Canadian government studies show that driving with lights during the day reduces accidents by 11% by making vehicles more conspicuous. The Taurus doesn’t offer Daytime Running Lights.

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

Both the Altima and the Taurus have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact 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 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 Taurus:

Altima

Taurus

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Restraints

GOOD

GOOD

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Steering Column Movement Rearward

4 cm

4 cm

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Max Chest Compression

19 cm

20 cm

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L

0%/0%

0%/0%

Lower Leg Evaluation

GOOD

MARGINAL

Tibia index R/L

.53/.45

1.19/.41

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 Taurus was not even a standard “Top Pick” for 2016.

Reliability

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Nissan vehicles are more reliable than Ford vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Nissan 15th in reliability. With 9 more problems per 100 vehicles, Ford is ranked 16th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Nissan vehicles are more reliable than Ford vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Nissan 4 places higher in reliability than Ford.

Engine

As tested in Motor Trend the Nissan Altima 2.0 VC turbo is faster than the Ford Taurus V6:

Altima

Taurus

Zero to 60 MPH

6.1 sec

6.6 sec

Quarter Mile

14.6 sec

15.1 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

97.4 MPH

95 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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

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

Taurus

FWD

3.5 DOHC V6

18 city/26 hwy

AWD

3.5 DOHC V6

17 city/24 hwy

SHO 3.5 turbo V6

16 city/24 hwy

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Altima’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Taurus doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

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 Ford Taurus (3). This means the Altima produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Taurus every 15,000 miles.

The EPA certifies the Nissan Altima as a “Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle” (SULEV). The Ford Taurus is only certified to “Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle” (ULEV) standards.

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 Taurus doesn’t offer a CVT.

Tires and Wheels

The Altima SR/Platinum’s tires provide better handling because they have a lower 40 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Taurus Limited’s 45 series tires.

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 Taurus doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

The Altima Platinum handles at .91 G’s, while the Taurus Limited 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 1.3 seconds quicker than the Taurus SEL (26.3 seconds @ .68 average G’s vs. 27.6 seconds @ .64 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the Altima’s turning circle is tighter than the Taurus’:

Altima

Taurus

S

36.1 feet

39.4 feet

SE/SEL/Limited

SR/SV/SL/Platinum

37.4 feet

39.5 feet

SHO

Chassis

The Nissan Altima may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 700 to 850 pounds less than the Ford Taurus.

The Altima is 10 inches shorter than the Taurus, making the Altima easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The design of the Nissan Altima amounts to more than styling. The Altima has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .26 Cd. That is significantly lower than the Taurus (.32 to .33) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the Altima get better fuel mileage.

The Altima SL/Platinum uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The Taurus doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

As tested by Car and Driver while at idle, the interior of the Altima Platinum is quieter than the Taurus SHO (40 vs. 47 dB).

Passenger Space

The Altima has .2 inches more front headroom, .3 inches more front shoulder room and .2 inches more rear shoulder room than the Taurus.

Ergonomics

The Altima SV/SL/Platinum’s front power windows open fully with one touch of the switches, and the driver’s window also automatically closes, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Taurus’ passenger windows don’t open or 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 Taurus can only close 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 Taurus’ standard 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 Taurus’ headlights are rated “Poor.”

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Altima is less expensive to operate than the Taurus because typical repairs cost much less on the Altima than the Taurus, including $315 less for a water pump, $371 less for a muffler, $372 less for a timing belt/chain and $60 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 $7342 to $8052 less than for the Ford Taurus.

Recommendations

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

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

The Nissan Altima outsold the Ford Taurus by almost six to one during 2018.

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

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