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2021 Nissan Altima vs. 2021 Honda Accord: Which Is Better?

Although buyers increasingly are turning away from mid-size sedans, the cars themselves are better than ever. Two top contenders are the 2021 Nissan Altima and the 2021 Honda Accord. Which is better?

Quick Facts

  • The Nissan Altima is available with all-wheel drive.
  • The Honda Accord is currently in its tenth generation.

2021 Nissan Altima

2021 Nissan AltimaBase Price: $23,945 / Read our 2021 Nissan Altima Review

What we like: Available AWD, low starting price, optional turbo engine, included active-safety features

What we would change: The turbo engine is not available with AWD, no high-mpg hybrid variant

Overview: Long a segment mainstay, the 2021 Nissan Altima stays relevant by offering more than the usual features, a comfortable cabin, and a choice of two engines. The base unit is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with 188 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and front- or all-wheel drive. AWD is available with the standard engine on all but the base trim and is included on the Platinum. Nissan’s Xtronic is well-tuned for a CVT, and acceleration is adequate. Fuel economy varies by trim, at 27–28 mpg city and 37–39 mpg highway, with AWD subtracting 1 or 2 mpg. The step-up engine offering is an unusual variable-compression 2.0-liter turbo. It makes 236 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, significantly more than the base engine, yet still returns 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. Frustratingly, Nissan only offers it in a single trim level, the sporty SR, with front-wheel drive. SR trims also get a firmer suspension and retuned steering for better handling at a cost of some ride comfort. The Altima’s interior is roomy and the seats comfortable, but the cabin environs are unremarkable.

What’s new for 2021: Nissan has dropped the 2.0 Platinum, which means the turbo engine now comes only in SR trim. The 2.5 trims have been reordered, with the SV now second after the base S. The now lower-spec SV adds an optional Premium Package, and the S now offers a Driver Assist Package that brings blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and a power driver’s seat.

Features and technology: The Nissan Altima is offered in 2.5 S, SV, SR, SL, and Platinum trims plus the turbocharged 2.0 SR. All include forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and lane-departure warning. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are optional on the S and standard elsewhere. Nissan’s ProPilot Assist, which combines adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability and semi-automated lane centering, is on the SL, Platinum, and 2.0 SR. All but the base S have an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Leather arrives at the SL trim level, which also boasts heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and navigation, while a 360-degree-view monitor is exclusive to the Platinum.

What does the future hold: The shrinking offerings of the 2.0 version make us wonder if Nissan might drop that engine from the Altima altogether. See 2021 Nissan Altima models for sale near you

2021 Honda Accord

2021 Honda Accord Touring 2.0TBase Price: $25,725 / Read our 2021 Honda Accord Review

What we like: Engaging driving demeanor, spacious interior, reputation for reliability, available Hybrid version, standard active-safety features

What we would change: Make AWD available, switch to a traditional gearshift, bring back the manual!

Overview: The Honda Accord is in its 10th generation, and Honda’s long experience with this model is evident in its general excellence. The Accord is engaging to drive with a lively and responsive chassis that deftly controls body motions. Note, though, that ride quality deteriorates with the available larger wheels. The 192-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged base engine is mated with a CVT, while the 252-hp 2.0-liter turbo uses a 10-speed automatic. The Hybrid pairs a 2.0-liter four and an electric motor for a total of 212 horsepower and 232 lb-ft of torque. Gear selection is via an oddball arrangement of buttons and switches. The base engine’s combined fuel economy is 32–33 mpg (depending on trim level), while the 2.0-liter turbo returns 26 mpg. The Accord Hybrid, meanwhile, boasts a 48 mpg EPA combined rating (43 mpg for the Touring). This latest Accord features swoopy, coupe-like styling, yet despite the sleek roofline, Honda has carved out a cavernous interior. Rear-seat legroom is expansive — though passengers will need to duck their heads getting in. Trunk space is best in class. Up front, narrow pillars and a low dash make for good visibility.

What’s new for 2021: A new Sport SE trim replaces the previous EX 1.5T. The base LX upgrades to the 8-inch touchscreen used by the other models. A new Rear Seat Reminder system is added, and Touring trims get a low-speed auto-braking feature. Both turbo engines have revised throttle mapping, and the brakes are said to deliver smoother engagement. Finally, Honda has dropped the manual transmission from the Accord, a sad move but not a surprising one.

Features and technology: The Accord is offered in LX, Sport, Sport SE, EX-L, Sport 2.0T, and Touring trim levels. All trims now have an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (wireless in the top three trims). Unlike some earlier Honda touchscreens, the Accord units are supplemented by knobs for volume and tuning. Navigation is optional on the EX-L and standard on the Touring, which also gets a Wi-Fi mobile hotspot, wireless device charging, and a head-up display. The long list of standard active-safety features includes forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beams, and a driver-attention monitor. Most trims also come with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

What does the future hold: With the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima now offering AWD, we could see the Accord adding that feature at some point. See 2021 Honda Accord models for sale near you

Altima vs. Accord: Strengths comparison

Nissan Altima Benefits: Available all-wheel drive; low starting price; seat comfort; available ProPilot Assist

Honda Accord Benefits: Engaging to drive; stylish exterior; available fuel-sipping Hybrid; longstanding reputation for reliability

Altima vs. Accord: Which is better?

The 2021 Nissan Altima is competent and capable but isn’t really a standout, although its available AWD will be compelling for shoppers in the Snow Belt. Budget-minded buyers likely will find that the Altima can be had for less. The 2021 Honda Accord, however, remains the standard-setter in this category. Its driving demeanor is a class above, the rear seat is ultra-spacious, the optional engine’s 10-speed automatic is more sophisticated, and it also offers a Hybrid model with exceptional fuel economy. See 2021 Nissan Altima models for sale or See 2021 Honda Accord models for sale

2021 Nissan Altima 2021 Honda Accord
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.5-liter flat-4 1.5-liter turbo I-4
Horsepower 188 hp  at 6,000 rpm 192 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque 180 lb-ft at 3,600 rpm 192 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
Transmission Continuously variable Continuously variable
Fuel Economy 32 mpg (28 city/39 hwy) 33 mpg (30 city/38 hwy)
Also Available AWD; 2.0-liter turbo I-4 2.0-liter turbo I-4; hybrid
Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety 5 stars 5 stars
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 111.2 inches 111.4 inches
Overall Length 192.9 inches 192.2 inches
Width 72.0 inches 73.3 inches
Height 56.7 inches 57.1 inches
Turning Diameter 37.4 feet 38.1 feet
Headroom, Front 39.2 inches 39.5 inches
Headroom, Rear 36.9 inches 37.3 inches
Legroom, Front 43.8 inches 42.3 inches
Legroom, Rear 35.2 inches 40.4 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 58.2 inches 58.3inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 57.1 inches 56.5 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 100.8 cu. ft. 105.6 cu. ft.
EPA Cargo Volume 15.4 cu. ft. 16.7 cu. ft.

Joe Lorio
Joe Lorio
Joe Lorio is an author specializing in automobiles. He says, “I have been into cars ever since I started with Matchboxes, and have been sharing my opinions about them for almost as long. Granted, I was pretty young at the time, but my parents really should have listened to me when I told them not to buy an Austin Marina.”

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