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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 Passat 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 Passat doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests front crash prevention systems. With a score of 6 points, IIHS rates the Automatic Emergency Braking optional in the Altima as “Superior.” The Passat scores only 3 points and is rated only “Advanced.”
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 Passat 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 Passat 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 Passat only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the 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 Passat doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.
Both the Altima and the Passat have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front wheel drive, 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.
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 125 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Passat was last qualified as a “Top Pick” in 2017.
Nissan’s powertrain warranty covers the Altima 1 year and 10,000 miles longer than Volkswagen covers the Passat. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Coverage on the Passat ends after only 4 years or 50,000 miles.
The Altima’s corrosion warranty is unlimited miles longer than the Passat’s (unlimited vs. 100,000 miles).
There are over 67 percent more Nissan dealers than there are Volkswagen dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Altima’s warranty.
A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the Altima’s reliability 18 points higher than the Passat.
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 2019 Auto Issue reports that Nissan vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Nissan 16 places higher in reliability than Volkswagen.
The Altima’s optional 2.5 DOHC 4-cylinder produces 8 more horsepower (182 vs. 174) than the Passat’s 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder. The Altima’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4-cylinder produces 14 more horsepower (188 vs. 174) than the Passat’s 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder. The Altima’s optional 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder produces 74 more horsepower (248 vs. 174) and 67 lbs.-ft. more torque (273 vs. 206) than the Passat’s 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder.
On the EPA test cycle the Altima FWD CVT turbo 4 cyl. gets better fuel mileage than the Passat (25 city/34 hwy vs. 23 city/34 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 Passat doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.
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 Passat doesn’t offer a CVT.
The Altima stops much shorter than the Passat:
70 to 0 MPH
Car and Driver
60 to 0 MPH
60 to 0 MPH (Wet)
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 Passat doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.
For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Altima is 1.1 inches wider in the front and 2.2 inches wider in the rear than the track on the Passat.
The Altima Platinum handles at .91 G’s, while the Passat 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 1.8 seconds quicker than the Passat R-Line (26.3 seconds @ .68 average G’s vs. 28.1 seconds @ .59 average G’s).
The design of the Nissan Altima amounts to more than styling. The Altima has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .26 Cd. That is lower than the Passat (.29) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the Altima get better fuel mileage.
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 Passat 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 Passat doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.
The Altima has .9 inches more front headroom, 1.4 inches more front legroom, 1.3 inches more front shoulder room and .1 inches more rear shoulder room than the Passat.
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 Passat 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 Passat can’t use the remote to operate the windows.
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 Passat’s 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 Passat’s headlights are rated “Poor.”
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 Passat doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.
The Altima will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the Altima will retain 42.51% to 43.88% of its original price after five years, while the Passat only retains 33.69% to 34.46%.
According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Altima is less expensive to operate than the Passat because typical repairs cost much less on the Altima than the Passat, including $201 less for a water pump, $320 less for a muffler, $416 less for a starter, $80 less for a fuel pump, $147 less for front struts and $302 less for a timing belt/chain.
Consumer Reports® recommends both the Nissan Altima and the Volkswagen Passat, based on reliability, safety and performance.
J.D. Power and Associates rated the Altima first among midsize cars in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The Passat isn’t in the top three.
The Altima was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2019. The Passat has never been an “All Star.”
The Nissan Altima outsold the Volkswagen Passat by almost 15 to one during 2019.
© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.
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