2021 Toyota Camry vs Nissan Altima
Despite the unstoppable rise in popularity of the SUV, some people will always prefer a sedan. They are easier to park, typically more fuel-efficient, and arguably more stylish. Both the 2021 Toyota Camry and the 2021 Nissan Altima are midsized sedans that are aimed at families. They are similar in size and do many of the same things well.
In 2021, the Toyota Camry discontinues the L trim, leaving the LE model at the bottom of the trim ladder. An available 9-inch tablet-style touchscreen makes its debut, and the advanced driver aids get refined to be even more effective. There are also some styling changes, as well as new paint colors and wheel designs to check out.
The Nissan Altima also changes its trim options in 2021. The more powerful engine, which was previously available on the top-of-the-line Platinum model, is now reserved for the sporty SR. The SV trim, which used to be above the SR, loses features and drops down in price. To get the SV model back up to where it used to be on the luxury scale, drivers can add the SV Premium package.
Which of these two sedans is the better buy in 2021? Their starting prices are within &1,000 of each other. This means that a detailed comparison of the features of both options is needed to determine which is the right call.
The majority of 2021 Camry models draw power from a four-cylinder engine that creates 203-horsepower. When this engine is underneath the hood of the XSE, it manages to squeeze out 206-horsepower. This is plenty of power for a midsize sedan to get around. For the TRD model, the Camry goes with a V6 that is able to make 301-horsepower.
All models have an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard as well, but all-wheel drive is available on models with the base engine. Unfortunately, this means that the TRD and its V6 engine are not eligible for AWD. Drivers should be aware that going with AWD means sacrificing a little horsepower because these models top out at 203 rather than 206.
A 2.5L four-cylinder engine is standard for the 2021 Altima. It creates 188-horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. Although this is not as much power as the Camry, the Altima's standard engine is satisfactory for everyday driving. The optional engine for the Altima SR is a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder. It makes up to 248-horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque with premium gas. With regular gasoline, this engine gets 236-horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque.
The Altima uses a continuously variable transmission for all models. It is considered smooth and efficient by most critics. Although front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is an option on any model with the base engine. Like the Camry, the Altima cannot be had with the better engine and all-wheel drive.
With front-wheel drive and the standard engine, the 2021 Camry is good for 28mpg in the city and 39mpg on the highway, excellent numbers for this segment of the market. Unfortunately, going with all-wheel drive significantly lowers these estimates. An AWD 2021 Camry can get 25mpg city and 34mpg highway. The V6 engine is good for 22mpg city and 33mpg highway.
The 2021 Altima with its base engine and front-wheel drive gets 28mpg city and 39mpg highway, just like the Camry. However, the Altima does better when buyers go with all-wheel drive, with estimates sitting at 26mpg city and 36mpg highway. The more powerful Altima engine gets 25mpg city and 34mpg highway, which is better than the Camry's V6.
When comparing reliability ratings from the J.D. Power, the Camry does better. It received 3.5 stars out of five. The Altima received three stars, which is considered average for a midsize sedan. These two vehicles both come with a three-year or 36,000-mile basic warranty along with a five-year or 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Drivers will be impressed by the ride and handling of the 2021 Camry. All models are fun to drive, and select trims add performance-enhancers. The TRD is particularly exhilarating, giving buyers larger brakes, stiffer shocks, and an exclusive suspension. Both the SE and XSE have a sport-tuned suspension to enhance their drivability as well.
All in all, the Altima is also enjoyable to drive. It corners well and absorbs road bumps. While the standard engine is adequate, those after a thrill will much prefer the SR trim with the turbocharged option. With either engine, the Altima is not quite as engaging as the Camry.
Upscale materials and a simple yet sophisticated design help to make the Camry an appealing choice. The 2021 Nissan Altima also has a luxurious cabin, although it is not as nice as the Camry's. This is mostly due to the number of hard plastics used inside the Altima.
The cabin of the Camry is spacious and should provide ample space for most passengers. Eight-way power-adjustment for the driver's seat is a standard feature. The Altima is also incredibly comfortable, offering what Nissan calls Zero Gravity seats. It is also roomy.
Trunk sizes are close when comparing the Camry and the Altima. For the Camry, there are 15.1 cubic feet. The Altima's is a bit larger, measuring 15.4 cubic feet. This number is closer to the average for midsized sedans. Both have standard 60/40 split-folding rear seats for hauling longer items.
Behind the technology features in the Camry is the Entune 3.0 infotainment system. Although many people will enjoy the tablet-style 7-inch touchscreen, there are also physical knobs to help control the tech. Amazon Alexa, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay are all standard features, along with a Wi-Fi hotspot and two USB ports.
Satellite radio and a six-speaker audio system come standard for the Camry. Select models will go up to nine speakers and throw in HD radio as well. Other available features include a 9-inch touchscreen and wireless device charging.
The Altima comes with NissanConnect. It does not run as smoothly as the Entune system found in the Camry. Also working against the Altima is the fact that Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are not included on the base model. That said, the Altima also includes handy physical controls. The standard touchscreen size is 7-inches, and the available upgrade is 8-inches. Just like the Camry, the Altima comes standard with a six-speaker audio system and satellite radio and can be upgraded to a nine speaker premium setup.
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The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration gives vehicles an overall rating, along with a rating for frontal collisions, side impacts, and rollovers. The 2021 Camry got the top score of five stars across the board. It has also been named a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Scores for the 2021 Altima are almost as impressive. It, too, received five stars from the NHTSA overall, along with five stars for side crashes and rollovers. The Altima got only four stars in frontal collisions, however. The 2021 Altima is also a Top Safety Pick+, according to the experts at the IIHS.
The Toyota Camry has a longer list of standard advanced safety features. It has lane departure warning, lane trace assist, and lane keep assist. Also included are forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, forward automatic emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, and automatic high beams. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic is available on select models. Other available driver aids include a surround-view camera system and head-up display, along with reverse automatic emergency braking.
Buyers will find the standard safety list for the Altima is more modest but still respectable. All models include lane departure warning, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, driver drowsiness monitoring, and forward automatic emergency braking. Adaptive cruise control is available rather than standard. Higher Altima trim levels also get a 360-degree camera system, blind-spot monitoring, and traffic sign recognition.
Which Has the Best Value?
Choosing to go with the entry-level model of either the 2021 Camry or 2021 Altima will set buyers back around the same amount. The Camry starts at $24,950, while the Altima starts at $24,300. Buyers who want the performance-oriented Camry TRD will be paying at least $32,185. As for the top trim of the Altima, it costs $34,100.
Just because these two vehicles cost roughly the same for their base model does not mean they offer the same value. The Camry has Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and adaptive cruise control. These are all missing from the entry-level Altima. The entry-level Camry also offers more horsepower while being just as fuel-efficient as the Altima, provided that buyers do not upgrade to all-wheel drive.
Comparing the top two trims of these vehicles is interesting. The Altima Platinum costs $2,000 more but comes standard with all-wheel drive. As for the Camry TRD, it is unavailable with AWD but has the more powerful engine. While the TRD aims for performance, the Altima Platinum aims for luxury. It has things such as ambient interior lighting and driver's seat memory settings, features missing from the TRD.
The next step in determining the best value is looking at the five-year true-cost-to-own numbers. Estimates for the 2021 Camry have not been released yet. Looking at the 2020 Camry LE can still give buyers a good idea of what they are in for if they choose the 2021 model. The 2020 Camry is estimated to cost $33,267 in five years. Of this, $17,818 is out-of-pocket expenses. This includes fuel, maintenance, repairs, insurance, and more. The remaining $15,449 comes from a loss in value.
Those numbers can be compared to those of the 2021 Altima S. Over five years, this sedan will cost around $33,495. Buyers will be spending an estimated $18,095 out-of-pocket and dealing with $15,400 in depreciation.
When it comes to value, these two vehicles are incredibly close. The Camry will cost drivers around $0.44 per mile to drive, while the Altima will cost $0.45. That minor difference is unlikely to be a decision swayer for most buyers.
Which is Better?
Those who value performance will definitely prefer the Camry, and the TRD trim in particular. Its V6 engine provides much more power than the available turbocharged four-cylinder for the Altima. It also has a variety of enhancements aimed at increasing the handling of the vehicle. Of course, the flip side of this is the fact that the Altima with the upgraded engine is more fuel-efficient than the comparable Camry.
For most people, the decision between the 2021 Toyota Camry and the 2021 Nissan Altima is not an easy one. They both have impressive fuel economy numbers and spacious cabins. However, when factoring in standard safety features and the predicted reliability, the Camry gains the advantage. It also has the more upscale-feeling cabin, further cementing its place on top.