2017 Honda Accord vs. 2017 Nissan Altima: Compare Cars

December 5, 2016
2016 Honda Accord Sedan

2016 Honda Accord Sedan

While sedans are currently overshadowed by utility vehicles as family-haulers, there’s still a lot of appeal in today’s crop of affordable mid-size sedans. Among those, the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima are two of the most popular choices.

How do these two models compare, head-to-head and side-by-side? It’s worth perusing all the details in our full review pages on each; but for the quick rundown, follow along with us here.

MORE: Read our reviews of the 2017 Honda Accord and 2017 Nissan Altima

We give the Accord big marks for its overall polished feel; it rates a solid 8.2 out of 10, among the highest scores we've assigned to a mid-size sedan. The Altima, on the other hand, comes in at a more lackluster 6.8, due in part to its less impressive ride and handling and its comparatively meager standard and optional safety tech. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Design-wise, we’re going to have to call it a wash. Neither of these models is jaw-dropping. The Altima looks like it’s trying to fit in with luxury cars, while the Accord aims for functionality and especially hits its high notes inside.

2016 Honda Accord Sedan

2016 Honda Accord Sedan

2016 Honda Accord Sedan

2016 Honda Accord Sedan

2016 Honda Accord Sedan

2016 Honda Accord Sedan

In its current generation, the Accord has if anything become a little sportier again in its current version. We like what we see, as there’s a little more greenhouse (glass), with a lower beltline and a little more wedginess enhanced by side sculpting. It’s expressive, for sure, and it embraces the Accord’s heritage. As for the Altima, it has more flair to its sheet metal, and a fresh revamp adds some Maxima-like cues to the front end. Not all of us would call it a sporty direction, though—it’s more handsome and reserved.

Inside, too, the Altima strikes us as especially conservative; even though the finishes are better this time around, it’s rather utilitarian. Going back to the Accord, inside it’s the one with more flair. Even in its most affordable models its multi-level dash design carries more sporty charm and attitude; it’s less generic, for sure.

These two models are pretty much neck-and-neck with respect to performance—although we think that the Accord holds a small but significant edge in just about every dynamic respect. A well-tuned chassis and confidence-inspiring steering are just part of that.

Both of these models now offer a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) across most of their model lineups—although with the Accord V-6 you get a traditional 6-speed automatic. The base 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine moves the Accord as well as just about anyone will need, and the CVT here does a good job avoiding the rubber-band sensations and flat spot that plagues some such transmissions. The same goes with the Nissan’s powertrain, although we think it’s not quite as smooth or quiet when pressed.

2016 Nissan Altima

2016 Nissan Altima

2016 Nissan Altima

2016 Nissan Altima

2016 Nissan Altima

2016 Nissan Altima

The V-6 Altima is somehow the least appealing in the lineup; where the V-6 Accord succeeds, there feels like there’s something missing this time around in the V-6 model, which feels heavier and more sluggish in its responses, even if it’s a lot quicker in straight-line acceleration. V-6 versions of the Honda Accord feel refined and responsive, as a flagship model should, and they could just as well carry an Acura badge.

The Accord is no longer the fuel-economy leader outside of its available hybrid model. Its base engine has ratings up to 27 mpg city, 36 highway, 30 combined with the 4-cylinder and up to 21/33/25 mpg with the V-6. Meanwhile, the Altima's highway numbers are up to 39 mpg on the EPA cycle, and in the real world, we've come very close to that number.

Interior comfort and layout is where the Accord has an undeniable edge. Honda’s focus on interior space and designing the car from the inside out has really paid off in back, were there’s now plenty of legroom and headroom for adults; likewise, in front, the seats are nice and upright, and the seating height is ideal for most drivers. The Altima’s front seats are quite good, but in back there’s barely enough head room to keep taller passengers from rubbing the headliner. The Nissan rides with a little more body motion while concurrently seeming less isolated from the road, and the materials in the Altima aren’t entirely impressive once you stray away from the dash area. The Accord isn’t without its disappointments either; one of them is the lack of a split-folding back seat.

In safety, it’s another case of these two models achieving the same point value, as we tally them, but one car posting a slight advantage (yes, that would again be the Accord). The Altima has certainly done well in crash-tests; it’s a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS and it earns a five-star NHTSA rating. Meanwhile the Accord has one four-star blemish in its federal results (it’s still five-star overall) and is also a Top Safety Pick+. The Accord also has a standard rearview camera, and we like the handy LaneWatch Blind Spot Display, which provides a wide view of the passenger side when you flick the turn-signal lever. One thing to note is that the Accord makes automatic emergency braking available on almost every trim level, while Nissan restricts this important technology to only the range-topping SL. 

In features, the Accord’s also ahead. Part of the reason is that at last, this time around, Honda has aimed to make the Accord a well-equipped car and a strong value for the money, even on the affordable end of the lineup. There’s a pretty impressive audio system with Pandora capability and SMS text-messaging, as well as dual-zone automatic climate control, even on base LX model, while step-up features like premium audio, LED lamps, and the active-safety items are more widely offered. The Altima is also packaged with a lot of features; but there are some odd omissions like satellite radio and rear-seat air vents and a rearview camera on base models; go down the list and it ends up a little bit short compared to what you get in the Accord at roughly the same trim level and price.

The mid-size sedan segment is one of intense rivalry, so we recommend shopping as many models as possible. In this matchup, there's a clear winner for us—and that's the 2017 Honda Accord. 

Summary

7.2
Expert Rating
The 2017 Nissan Altima remains a fine mainstream choice, but rivals with newer designs offer far more technology.
7.7
Expert Rating
The 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid remains a handsome mid-size sedan with excellent fuel economy; with Honda promising better availability, it should be a strong competitor.

Styling

7.0
Expert Rating
Thoroughly inconspicuous, the Nissan Altima does little to stand out from the crowd.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
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Performance

6.0
Expert Rating
Though the V-6 is fast, no Altima is especially entertaining.
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6.0
Expert Rating
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Comfort & Quality

8.0
Expert Rating
The Altima's interior is capacious and high-grade models feel almost luxurious inside.
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7.0
Expert Rating
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Safety

7.0
Expert Rating
The Altima aces its crash tests, but advanced safety tech requires opting for a high-zoot model.
Read More
10
Expert Rating
Read More

Features

7.0
Expert Rating
There are many ways to slice your Altima cake.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
Read More

Fuel Economy

8.0
Expert Rating
Most Altimas are rated at an impressive 39 mpg highway.
Read More
9.0
Expert Rating
Read More

MSRP

from $22,500
from $22,455

Invoice

from $21,348
from $20,556

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

31
30

Engine

Regular Unleaded I-4, 2.5 L
Regular Unleaded I-4, 2.4 L

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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