2020 Nissan Altima vs. 2019 Toyota Camry

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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 Camry doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

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

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 Camry doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Altima and the Camry have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front and rear side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front and rear seatbelt pretensioners, 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, around view monitors and rear cross-path warning.

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 Toyota vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Nissan 7th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 4 more problems per 100 vehicles, Toyota is ranked 8th.

Engine

The Altima’s optional 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 6 lbs.-ft. more torque (273 vs. 267) than the Camry XSE/XLE’s optional 3.5 DOHC V6.

As tested in Consumer Reports the Nissan Altima 2.4 4-cylinder is faster than the Toyota Camry 4-cylinder:

Altima

Camry

Zero to 30 MPH

3.1 sec

3.2 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

7.6 sec

8 sec

45 to 65 MPH Passing

4.5 sec

5.2 sec

Quarter Mile

15.9 sec

16.3 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

92 MPH

91 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Altima FWD 2.0 turbo gets better fuel mileage than the Camry XLE V6 (25 city/34 hwy vs. 22 city/33 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 Camry doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Nissan Altima uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended with the 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. engine for maximum performance). The Camry XSE/XLE requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

The Altima AWD’s standard fuel tank has 1.5 gallons more fuel capacity than the Camry L’s standard fuel tank (16 vs. 14.5 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

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 Camry doesn’t offer a CVT.

Brakes and Stopping

The Altima stops shorter than the Camry:

Altima

Camry

70 to 0 MPH

172 feet

175 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

118 feet

125 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Altima has larger standard tires than the Camry (215/60R16 vs. 205/65R16).

The Altima S’ standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 60 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Camry L’s standard 65 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 Camry doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

The Altima has vehicle speed sensitive variable-assist power steering, for low-effort parking, better control at highway speeds and during hard cornering, and a better feel of the road. The Camry doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

The Altima SR handles at .89 G’s, while the Camry XLE pulls only .80 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The Altima Platinum executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1 seconds quicker than the Camry XLE (26.3 seconds @ .68 average G’s vs. 27.3 seconds @ .62 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the Altima S’ turning circle is 1.3 feet tighter than the Camry L/LE’s (36.1 feet vs. 37.4 feet). The Altima SR/SV/SL/Platinum’s turning circle is .6 feet tighter than the Camry SE/XLE/XSE’s (37.4 feet vs. 38 feet).

Chassis

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 Camry doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

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 Camry 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 Camry SE (40 vs. 41 dB).

Passenger Space

The Altima has .9 inches more front headroom, 1.7 inches more front legroom, .5 inches more front shoulder room and 1.4 inches more rear shoulder room than the Camry.

Cargo Capacity

The Altima has a larger trunk than the Camry (15.4 vs. 15.1 cubic feet).

The Altima’s standard rear seats fold to accommodate long and bulky cargo. The Camry L doesn’t offer folding rear seats.

Ergonomics

When two different drivers share the Altima Platinum, the memory seats and mirrors make it convenient for both. Each setting activates different, customized memories for the driver’s seat position and outside mirror angle. The Camry doesn’t offer a memory system.

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 Camry doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

Consumer Reports rated the Altima’s headlight performance “Good,” a higher rating than the Camry’s headlights, which were rated “Fair.”

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 Camry doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

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 Camry is rated higher at a number “5” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Altima is less expensive to operate than the Camry because typical repairs cost much less on the Altima than the Camry, including $196 less for a water pump, $2 less for front brake pads, $232 less for a starter, $124 less for fuel injection, $76 less for a fuel pump, $86 less for front struts, $861 less for a timing belt/chain and $413 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

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

Motor Trend performed a comparison test in its May 2018 issue and they ranked the Nissan Altima SR two places higher than the Toyota Camry XLE.

The Altima was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2019. The Camry hasn’t been picked since 1997.

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

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