2020 Volkswagen Passat vs. 2020 Nissan Altima

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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The Passat has a standard Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The Altima doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

Both the Passat and the Altima have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, 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 lane departure warning systems and rear parking sensors.

Warranty

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The Passat comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Altima’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

The Passat’s corrosion warranty is 2 years longer than the Altima’s (7 vs. 5 years).

Volkswagen pays for scheduled maintenance on the Passat for 2 years and 20,000 miles. Volkswagen will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Nissan doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Altima.

Reliability

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The Volkswagen Passat’s engine uses a cast iron block for durability, while the Altima’s engines use an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

To reliably power the ignition and other systems and to recharge the battery, the Passat has a 140-amp alternator. The Altima’s standard 120-amp alternator isn’t as powerful.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Volkswagen vehicles are more reliable than Nissan vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Volkswagen 12th in reliability, above the industry average. With 6 more problems per 100 vehicles, Nissan is ranked 15th.

Engine

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The Passat’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 28 lbs.-ft. more torque (206 vs. 178) than the Altima’s optional 2.5 DOHC 4 cyl. The Passat’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 26 lbs.-ft. more torque (206 vs. 180) than the Altima’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4 cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

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To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Volkswagen Passat uses regular unleaded gasoline. The Altima with the 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. engine requires premium for maximum efficiency, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

The Passat has 2.5 gallons more fuel capacity than the Altima AWD’s standard fuel tank (18.5 vs. 16 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups. The Passat has 2.3 gallons more fuel capacity than the Altima FWD’s standard fuel tank (18.5 vs. 16.2 gallons).

Brakes and Stopping

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For better stopping power the Passat’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the Altima:

Passat

Altima

Front Rotors

12.3 inches

11.65 inches

The Passat stops shorter than the Altima:

Passat

Altima

70 to 0 MPH

169 feet

176 feet

Car and Driver

Tires and Wheels

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The Passat’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 55 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Altima S’ standard 60 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Passat has standard 17-inch wheels. Smaller 16-inch wheels are standard on the Altima S.

Passenger Space

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The Passat has .9 inches more rear headroom and 3.9 inches more rear legroom than the Altima.

Cargo Capacity

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The Passat has a larger trunk than the Altima (15.9 vs. 15.4 cubic feet).

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Passat SEL’s trunk can be opened just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The Altima doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its trunk, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Towing

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The Passat has a 1000 lbs. towing capacity. The Altima has no towing capacity.

Servicing Ease

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The Passat uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Altima uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

Ergonomics

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The power windows standard on both the Passat and the Altima have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Passat is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Altima prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

The Passat’s front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Altima’s standard passenger windows don’t open or close automatically. With the Altima SV/SL/Platinum’s power windows, only the front windows open or close automatically.

The Passat SE/R-Line/SEL’s standard wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically according to the amount of rainfall on the windshield. The Altima’s intermittent wipers change speed with vehicle speed, but can’t turn on and off or change speed based on changing rainfall.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the Passat R-Line/SE/SEL to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The Altima doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

To help drivers avoid possible obstacles, the Passat SEL has standard cornering lights to illuminate around corners when the turn signals are activated. The Altima doesn’t offer cornering lights. The Passat SEL also has standard adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle.

The Passat’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Nissan charges extra for heated mirrors on the Altima.

Both the Passat and the Altima offer available heated front seats. The Passat SEL also has standard heated rear seats to keep those passengers extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated rear seats aren’t available in the Altima.

The Passat SEL’s Park Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The Altima doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Economic Advantages

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Insurance will cost less for the Passat owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the Passat will cost $620 to $2855 less than the Altima over a five-year period.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Passat is less expensive to operate than the Altima because it costs $37 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost less on the Passat than the Altima, including $16 less for front brake pads, $85 less for fuel injection and $30 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/01/27

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

Motor Trend selected the Passat as their 2012 Car of the Year. The Altima has never been chosen.

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

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