2020 Nissan Altima vs. 2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

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 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 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 Jetta GLI 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 Jetta GLI doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

The Altima’s optional lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The Altima Platinum has a standard Around View Monitor to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Jetta GLI 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 Jetta GLI doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Altima and the Jetta GLI 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, blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

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 Jetta GLI has not been tested, yet.

Warranty

The Altima comes with free roadside assistance for 3 years 36,000 miles. Nissan will send help if you run out of gas, need a jump-start, lock your keys in or need any assistance on the road. Volkswagen doesn’t give free roadside assistance for the Jetta GLI.

There are over 66 percent more Nissan dealers than there are Volkswagen 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 Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Nissan 7th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 27 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 25th, below the industry average.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Nissan vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Nissan 2 places higher in reliability than Volkswagen.

Engine

The Altima’s optional 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 20 more horsepower (248 vs. 228) and 15 lbs.-ft. more torque (273 vs. 258) than the Jetta GLI’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

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

MPG

Altima

FWD

Auto

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

Auto

S/SV/SL 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

26 city/36 hwy

SR/Platinum 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

25 city/35 hwy

Jetta GLI

FWD

Manual

2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

25 city/32 hwy

Auto

2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

25 city/32 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.) Volkswagen only offers an automatic engine start/stop system on the Jetta GLI Auto.

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 Jetta GLI requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

The Altima AWD’s standard fuel tank has 2.8 gallons more fuel capacity than the Jetta GLI (16 vs. 13.2 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups. The Altima FWD’s standard fuel tank has 3 gallons more fuel capacity than the Jetta GLI (16.2 vs. 13.2 gallons).

Transmission

The Nissan Altima comes standard with an automatic transmission, for driver comfort, especially in the city. Automatic costs extra on the Jetta GLI.

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 Jetta GLI doesn’t offer a CVT.

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Altima SR/Platinum’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Jetta GLI (235/40R19 vs. 225/40R18).

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Altima SR/Platinum has standard 19-inch wheels. The Jetta GLI’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 Jetta GLI doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Altima’s wheelbase is 5.6 inches longer than on the Jetta GLI (111.2 inches vs. 105.6 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Altima is 2.5 inches wider in the front and 2.8 inches wider in the rear than the track on the Jetta GLI.

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 Jetta GLI 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 Jetta GLI doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Passenger Space

Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the Altima a Mid-size car, while the Jetta GLI is rated a Compact.

The Altima has 6.1 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Jetta GLI (100.8 vs. 94.7).

The Altima has .7 inches more front headroom, 2.7 inches more front legroom, 2.3 inches more front shoulder room and 3.1 inches more rear shoulder room than the Jetta GLI.

Cargo Capacity

The Altima has a much larger trunk than the Jetta GLI (15.4 vs. 14.1 cubic feet).

A standard locking glovebox (which can’t be accessed with the valet key) keeps your small valuables safer in the Altima. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer locking storage for small valuables.

Ergonomics

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 Jetta GLI can’t use the remote to operate the windows.

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 Jetta GLI doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

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 Jetta GLI doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

Both the Altima and the Jetta GLI offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the Altima SV/SL/Platinum has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the Altima SV/SL/Platinum has a standard Intelligent Cruise Control, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The Jetta GLI doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

The Altima SL/Platinum’s standard GPS navigation system has a real-time traffic update feature that plots alternative routes to automatically bypass traffic problems. (Service not available in all areas.) The Jetta GLI’s available navigation system doesn’t offer real-time traffic updates.

Recommendations

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

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

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

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