In the increasingly crowded world of the midsize sedan, there are many excellent options to choose from, including the popular 2016 Nissan Altima and the newly redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Malibu. If you have those two models on your shopping list, you might be wondering which one is better and which one you should buy. To help you figure it out, we’ve created a close comparison between the 2016 Malibu and the 2016 Altima that should answer your questions, but first let’s see what’s new with both the Malibu and the Altima for the latest model year.
2016 Chevrolet Malibu
The Chevrolet Malibu is fully redesigned for 2016. In addition to its totally new design inside and out, the Malibu offers a long list of new features and, coming soon, an efficient new hybrid variant designed to take on other popular hybrid midsize sedans. See all 2016 Chevrolet Malibu models available near you
2016 Nissan Altima
The Altima makes big changes for 2016. Although it isn’t fully redesigned like the Malibu, it boasts a freshened exterior design and a host of advanced new safety features designed to keep it in competition with newer rivals. See all 2016 Nissan Altima models available near you
Although the latest Malibu has not yet been rated for dependability by J.D. Power, the outgoing version earned a much better-than-average score. With that said, we’re not sure if the same excellent rating will carry through to the new version. Meanwhile, the Nissan Altima earned an above-average rating, though it wasn’t quite as strong as the Chevy Malibu’s score.
As for warranty coverage, both the Altima and the Malibu offer the same plans: 3 years or 36,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and 5 years or 60,000 miles of powertrain coverage. As a result, this category is a little too close to call.
The Altima offers two powertrains. Most models use a 182-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, which is mated solely to a fuel-saving continuously variable automatic transmission and returns up to 27 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. Drivers looking for more power can upgrade to a brawny 3.5-liter V6, which touts 270 hp and up to 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy.
The Malibu offers three engine choices. Base models use a 160-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which returns up to 27 mpg city/37 mpg hwy. Power-hungry midsize-sedan shoppers can get a 250-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which returns 22 mpg city/33 mpg hwy. Finally, the upcoming Malibu Hybrid hasn’t yet been rated by the Environmental Protection Agency, but Chevy says it will get around 47 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
So which is best? Both the base-level and upgraded powertrains are pretty similar, so if you want great gas mileage, you’ll have to go for the Malibu Hybrid. Despite promises to the contrary and even a short-lived Altima Hybrid in years past, there’s no Altima Hybrid on the market today.
Both the Altima and the Malibu have earned a perfect 5-star overall crash-test rating from the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Only the Altima has been rated by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which gave the midsize Nissan its highest accolade of Top Safety Pick+.
As for safety features, both the Altima and Malibu offer a wide array of modern features. Indeed, the two sedans come standard with anti-lock brakes and side-curtain airbags while offering a wide range of safety options that includes a backup camera, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring systems, forward-collision warning and automatic braking. With that said, the Malibu has a slight advantage over the Altima, offering GM’s useful OnStar system, along with lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist — two features that you can’t get in the Nissan. To us, that gives the Malibu a slight leg up over its Nissan rival.
When it comes to technology, we think the all-new Malibu has an advantage over the recently refreshed Altima. While we admit that the latest Altima is more impressive than ever thanks to a slew of new safety features, it’s still missing out on a couple options (such as the aforementioned lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist systems).
We also find the Malibu’s MyLink infotainment system more intuitive than the Altima’s NissanConnect system, and the Malibu offers a few other benefits too, such as a larger touchscreen, a remote ignition, ventilated front seats and a mobile Wi-Fi connection. As a result, we think the Malibu is a better choice for technophile shoppers who are interested in a cutting-edge midsize sedan.
Today’s midsize-sedan segment is so competitive that it’s difficult for one model to score a major victory over another in terms of value. Indeed, the Altima and Malibu are separated by less than $1,000 in base price — a difference that stays relatively similar as you progress through the trim levels.
Equipment levels are also pretty close, suggesting that shoppers choosing to buy a car based particularly on value will have a difficult time choosing between the Altima and the Malibu. This renders this category a tie, though strong incentives from Nissan or Chevy might be enough to sway you one way or another — depending on just how strong they are.
Although we’re impressed with significant updates to the 2016 Nissan Altima, they don’t quite go far enough to bring it into close contention with the recently redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Malibu. Indeed, the Malibu offers a more modern design, more features, more technology, more safety equipment and (soon) an available hybrid version with better gas mileage. Indeed, we’d only suggest the Altima if you can find one for a much better deal than a comparably equipped Malibu.