|15.7||Trunk Space (cu.ft.)||15.4|
|38.1 inches||Rear Legroom||35.2 inches|
Although the midsize sedan has been falling out of favor as more people turn to SUVs, savvy drivers know that these cars still have many benefits over the larger vehicles. Not only are they more fuel-efficient and represent more value for your dollar than SUVs, but sedans also offer a superior driving experience with better all-around performance. But with so many options to pick from, which should a sedan shopper choose? Well, one of the most common comparisons in the midsize sedan segment is the 2020 Chevy Malibu vs 2020 Nissan Altima, and by looking at how these two popular sedans compare, you may be able to answer the previous question.
Both of these cars are outwardly similar vehicles, and it may appear challenging to choose between them at first glance. However, a more in-depth comparison will reveal many differences; differences that can help you decide which to purchase. Overall, the 2020 Malibu offers superior performance, larger interior space, and more available features, while the 2020 Altima stands out for its optional all-wheel drive system and greater number of standard features on its lower trims. And while the Nissan Altima’s advantages may make it appeal to some drivers, the Chevy Malibu is generally the superior car - especially when you consider its lower price tag.
Both of these midsize sedans offer two powertrain configurations. These consist of a less-powerful and more fuel-efficient base engine and significantly more powerful engines in the top trims.
For the 2020 Nissan Altima, this base engine is a naturally aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder producing 188 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque. Chevrolet chose a different route and outfitted the base 2020 Chevy Malibu with a 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder producing 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. While the numbers may appear to favor the Altima’s 2.5L engine, you will likely find the Malibu’s 1.5L feels more powerful.
This feeling is rooted in the fact that the Altima’s naturally aspirated engine only reaches peak torque at 6000 RPM while the Malibu’s turbo hits peak torque at just 2500 RPM. So unless you are manually forcing the transmission to shift at higher RPMs, you will never actually unlock all of the Altima’s power while the Malibu will generally live in its powerband.
When it comes to the more powerful engines, both cars use 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engines. The 2020 Chevy Malibu Premier gets 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, while the 2020 Nissan Altima Platinum VC-Turbo and SR VC-Turbo have 248 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. But again, the numbers do not tell the full story.
As with the base engines, peak torque arrives earlier for the Malibu’s 2.0L - around 2000 rpm instead of 4000 rpm for the Altima. But more importantly, Nissan paired the Altima’s top engine with the same decidedly unsporty Xtronic continuously variable transmission found with its base engine.
Chevrolet, on the other hand, upgraded the Malibu Premier with a modern nine-speed automatic transmission. When combined with roughly 200 pounds of weight savings over the Altima, this is a significant improvement. So with all aspects considered, looking further than the numbers, it is evident that the Malibu performs better than the Altima.
When it comes down to picking a car that you are going to drive for the next few years, or even a decade, it is crucial that the vehicle provides you with all the comfort you need. Whether it be extra space or additional convenience features, the interior of a car matters, with that said, let's look inside the Malibu and the Altima.
When comparing the dimensions of the 2020 Chevy Malibu vs the 2020 Nissan Altima, you will find that the two cars are almost identical in size. However, overall the Malibu is the slightly larger vehicle with 102.9 cubic feet of passenger space and 15.7 cubic feet of trunk space against 100.8 cubic feet of passenger space and 15.4 cubic feet of trunk space for the Altima.
Further, Chevrolet made better use of the interior space in the Malibu, giving it far more usable rear seats with 38.1 inches of legroom while the second row in the Altima has a cramped 35.2 inches of legroom. But most impressively, despite being the larger vehicle, the Malibu actually weighs around 100 to 200 pounds less than the Altima depending on the trim. This weight savings translates directly into superior performance, as we learned earlier.
When it comes to interior features, the 2020 Nissan Altima offers more standard features while the 2020 Chevy has a wider variety of available features. Both cars come standard with keyless entry and push-button start, but the Altima has a standard remote start system while this is only an option on the Malibu. All trims of the Altima also come with an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, while the lower trims of the Malibu have a manually-adjustable seat. However, the Malibu has an available six-way power-adjustable passenger seat while the Altima only has a four-way power-adjustable seat.
And while both cars offer a heated steering wheel and heated front seats, only the Malibu can be had with vented front seats and heated rear seats. And in another small victory, all trims of the Malibu have four express-down power windows while the Altima only gets a passenger side one-touch power window, and even that is only on its top trim. Altogether, the interior of a base trim Altima will be slightly more comfortable than that of a base trim Malibu, but the higher up you look in regard to the trims, the more the balance swings in favor of the Chevy.
There is no denying the importance of technology in today’s vehicles. Technology can be used for entertainment and to ensure safety in the car. Both of these sedans have a variety of these technology features to offer. And although American cars tend to come out ahead of Japanese cars when it comes to infotainment, the systems in the 2020 Malibu and 2020 Altima are surprisingly almost identical.
Both sedans are built around a standard 8” touch screen in all trims and have the option of either a base six-speaker audio setup or a premium nine-speaker Bose sound system in the top trims. The infotainment software is also rather similar, with both coming standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The higher trims of both cars also improve on the base system by adding built-in navigation and SiriusXM satellite radio. However, there are some differences.
The Malibu offers a 4G LTE wireless hotspot to keep you connected on the go, and the top trim sports a 120-volt power outlet for charging larger electronics and a wireless charging system for your phone. In contrast, the Altima offers a pair of standard USB-C ports for connecting smaller devices, and its top trim has active noise cancellation to keep the cabin quiet. But despite these minor differences, which infotainment system is better is mostly a matter of personal preference.
When it comes to driver assistance technologies, however, the Altima is the winner. All trims of the Nissan come standard with automatic emergency braking and can be upgraded to include automatic high beams, blindspot and rear cross-traffic alert, and rear automatic braking. Higher trims also offer standard lane-keep assist and pedestrian detection, while the top trim sports a surround vision system.
However, this is not to say the Malibu is entirely outclassed, and the Chevy even has some systems not available on the Nissan. Standard equipment on all trims includes a rear seat reminder and Chevrolet OnStar. This latter system will provide timely emergency services, even automatically calling for help in the event of an accident. The top trim of the Malibu also offers the same automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blindspot and rear cross-traffic alert, automatic headlights, and lane-keep assist found on the Altima. But it also offers an advanced parking system with front and rear obstacle detection that will automatically steer you into a parking space. So really, in terms of safety, it depends on the specific features you, as a buyer, are looking to have.