2020 Nissan Altima vs. 2019 Subaru Legacy

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 Subaru Legacy 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 Legacy doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

The Altima Platinum has a standard Around View Monitor to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Legacy only offers a rear monitor.

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 Legacy doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Altima and the Legacy 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, crash mitigating brakes, rearview cameras, available daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

Warranty

There are over 72 percent more Nissan dealers than there are Subaru dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Altima’s warranty.

Reliability

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Nissan vehicles are better in initial quality than Subaru vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Nissan 7th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 27 more problems per 100 vehicles, Subaru is ranked 25th, below the industry average.

Engine

The Altima’s optional 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 26 lbs.-ft. more torque (273 vs. 247) than the Legacy 3.6R Limited’s optional 3.6 DOHC 6 cyl.

As tested in Consumer Reports the Nissan Altima 2.4 4-cylinder is faster than the Legacy 2.5i 4-cylinder:

Altima

Legacy

Zero to 30 MPH

3.1 sec

4.1 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

7.6 sec

10.2 sec

45 to 65 MPH Passing

4.5 sec

6.2 sec

Quarter Mile

15.9 sec

17.8 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

92 MPH

82.3 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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

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

Legacy

AWD

2.5i DOHC 4-cyl.

25 city/34 hwy

3.6R DOHC 6-cyl.

20 city/28 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 Legacy doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

Brakes and Stopping

The Altima stops shorter than the Legacy:

Altima

Legacy

70 to 0 MPH

172 feet

179 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

118 feet

123 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Altima SR/Platinum’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Legacy (235/40R19 vs. 225/55R17).

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 Legacy Sport/Limited’s 50 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Altima SR/Platinum has standard 19-inch wheels. The Legacy’s largest wheels are only 18-inches.

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 Legacy doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Altima’s wheelbase is 2.9 inches longer than on the Legacy (111.2 inches vs. 108.3 inches).

The Altima Platinum handles at .91 G’s, while the Legacy 3.6R Limited pulls only .79 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 Legacy 2.5i Limited (26.3 seconds @ .68 average G’s vs. 27.6 seconds @ .6 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the Altima S’ turning circle is .7 feet tighter than the Legacy’s (36.1 feet vs. 36.8 feet).

Chassis

The Nissan Altima may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 250 to 300 pounds less than the Subaru Legacy.

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 Legacy 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 Legacy 3.6R Limited (40 vs. 44 dB).

Passenger Space

The Altima has .9 inches more front legroom and .1 inches more front shoulder room than the Legacy.

Cargo Capacity

The Altima has a larger trunk than the Legacy (15.4 vs. 15 cubic feet).

Servicing Ease

A maintenance reminder system is standard on the Altima to save the owner time and money by calculating maintenance intervals for oil changes and tire rotation based on odometer mileage. This takes the guesswork out of keeping your vehicle in top condition and helps it last longer. Subaru doesn’t offer a maintenance reminder on the Legacy.

Ergonomics

The Altima Platinum’s standard easy entry system glides the driver’s seat back when the door is unlocked or the ignition is switched off, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The Legacy doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

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 Legacy 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 Legacy’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

On extremely cold winter days, the Altima’s optional (except S) heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The Legacy doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

Model Availability

The Altima is available in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations. The Legacy doesn’t offer a two-wheel drive configuration.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Altima is less expensive to operate than the Legacy because it costs $236 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost less on the Altima than the Legacy, including $104 less for a water pump, $118 less for a starter, $24 less for a fuel pump and $93 less for front struts.

Recommendations

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

The Altima was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2019. The Legacy hasn’t been picked since 2006.

The Nissan Altima outsold the Subaru Legacy by over five to one during 2018.

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

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