2021 Toyota Prius vs. 2020 Nissan Altima

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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The Prius has standard Active Headrests, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Headrests system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The Altima doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

Both the Prius and the Altima have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee 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, driver alert monitors, available all wheel drive, blind spot warning systems, rear parking sensors and rear cross-path warning.

Warranty

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Toyota pays for scheduled maintenance on the Prius for 2 years and 25000 miles. Toyota will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Nissan doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Altima.

There are over 15 percent more Toyota dealers than there are Nissan dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the Prius’ warranty.

Reliability

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The Altima’s redline is at 6000 to 6200 RPM, which causes more engine wear, and a greater chance of a catastrophic engine failure. The Prius has a 4000 RPM redline.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Toyota vehicles are more reliable than Nissan vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Toyota second in reliability, above the industry average. With 29 more problems per 100 vehicles, Nissan is ranked 15th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2019 Auto Issue reports that Toyota vehicles are more reliable than Nissan vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Toyota third in reliability. Nissan is ranked 11th.

Fuel Economy and Range

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

MPG

Prius

FWD

Eco 1.8 DOHC 4-cyl.

58 city/53 hwy

AWD

1.8 DOHC 4-cyl.

51 city/47 hwy

Altima

FWD

2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

28 city/38 hwy

AWD

SR 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

27 city/37 hwy

Regenerative brakes improve the Prius’ fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Altima doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

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

Environmental Friendliness

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certifies the Toyota Prius as a “Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle” (PZEV). The Nissan Altima is only certified to “Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle” (SULEV) standards.

Brakes and Stopping

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The Prius stops shorter than the Altima:

Prius

Altima

70 to 0 MPH

175 feet

176 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

115 feet

119 feet

Motor Trend

Suspension and Handling

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The Prius Limited handles at .90 G’s, while the Altima SV AWD pulls only .84 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The Prius Limited executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.4 seconds quicker than the Altima SV AWD (26.3 seconds @ .64 average G’s vs. 27.7 seconds @ .61 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the Prius’ turning circle is 2.6 feet tighter than the Altima S’ (33.5 feet vs. 36.1 feet). The Prius Limited/XLE FWD’s turning circle is 2 feet tighter than the Altima SR/SV/SL/Platinum’s (35.4 feet vs. 37.4 feet).

Chassis

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The Toyota Prius may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 200 to 250 pounds less than the Nissan Altima.

The Prius is 1 foot shorter than the Altima, making the Prius easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The design of the Toyota Prius amounts to more than styling. The Prius has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .24 Cd. That is lower than the Altima (.26) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the Prius get better fuel mileage.

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the Prius L Eco is quieter than the Altima SR AWD:

Prius

Altima

At idle

26 dB

45 dB

Full-Throttle

71 dB

77 dB

70 MPH Cruising

66 dB

70 dB

Passenger Space

© 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 2020/10/25

The Prius has .2 inches more front headroom and .5 inches more rear headroom than the Altima.

Cargo Capacity

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To allow full utilization of available cargo room, the Prius’ hatch uses gas strut supported hinges that don’t intrude into the cargo area. The Altima’s useful trunk space is reduced by its intrusive beam hinge.

Ergonomics

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The Prius (except L/LE) offers an available heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Altima doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The Prius’ 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 Prius XLE/Limited’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.

To improve rear visibility by keeping the rear window clear, the Prius has a standard rear wiper. The Altima doesn’t offer a rear wiper.

To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the Prius (except L/LE) offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The Altima doesn’t offer cornering lights.

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

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Toyota Prius XLE/Limited has a standard wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The Altima doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

The Prius LE/XLE/Limited’s Intelligent Parking 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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The Prius will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the Prius will retain 49.09% to 50.62% of its original price after five years, while the Altima only retains 40.1% to 42.03%.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Prius is less expensive to operate than the Altima because it costs $400 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost less on the Prius than the Altima, including $5 less for front brake pads and $73 less for front struts.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Toyota Prius will be $4530 to $8528 less than for the Nissan Altima.

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 2020/10/25

The Toyota Prius has won recognition from these important consumer publications:

Prius

Altima

Consumer Reports® Recommends

Top Pick

TRUE

Car Book “Best Bet”

TRUE

FALSE

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