Nissan Altima vs. Hyundai Sonata

By

Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


, Automotive Editor - February 6, 2019

The Nissan Altima and Hyundai Sonata are both power players in the world of family sedans. Both aim squarely at value-minded buyers who want comfort and wide feature sets. Now that sedans are being eclipsed by larger vehicles, these two titans are fighting for a shrinking piece of the pie. Which is worth the money? Read on for our take.

See a side-by-side comparison of the Altima & Sonata »

What the Altima Gets Right

The Nissan Altima’s biggest advantage is optional all-wheel drive, which is new for 2019. A $1,350 option, all-wheel drive is available only with the base engine. For buyers who need confidence in inclement weather, this feature alone may end the debate.

The Altima also wins out on active safety tech. Although both sedans have strong crash-test ratings, the Altima comes standard with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. The Sonata comes with blind-spot monitoring, but more advanced features require buying an add-on bundle.

Although the Altima doesn’t offer any progressive new powertrains, its gas engines are thrifty. The base Altima gets an EPA-estimated 28 miles per gallon city, 39 mpg highway, and 32 combined. A garden-variety Sonata will only manage 29 mpg combined.

What the Sonata Gets Right

The Sonata’s first advantage over the Altima is price. After destination fees, a base-spec Sonata starts at $23,220, while the cheapest Altima will set buyers back at least $24,795. The Altima’s higher trims are also more expensive, extending all the way up to the $35,000 Platinum trim.

Although the trims are cheaper, the Sonata offers more customization, particularly with regard to powertrain. The Altima has only two engine options: base and turbocharged. The Sonata comes with no fewer than five available powertrains for varying degrees of sportiness and fuel economy. Even better, the gas engines are all mated to automatic transmissions. Some buyers don’t mind the drone of a continuously variable transmission like the one in the Altima, but many prefer the traditional feel of a true automatic.

But the Sonata’s biggest edge comes in the last two powertrains, a Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid. Both pair a small gas engine with batteries and motors for a smooth and conventional driving experience with exceptional fuel economy. The Sonata Hybrid gets up to 42 mpg combined, and the Sonata Plug-In Hybrid gets 28 miles of range on electricity alone and 39 mpg combined.

Which Flavor of Vanilla?

Neither of these cars will win any fashion shows or drag races, but both are sensible options for value-minded buyers. Making a decision comes down to which practical details matter most. If all-wheel drive is important, the Altima is the one. If hybrid power is a must, the Sonata wins out. The Sonata offers more powertrains at a slightly lower price, but the Altima is the more refined package.

Our Verdict: Nissan Altima

This one’s close, but because most buyers will wind up with the base engine anyway, we give the victory to the Altima. Standard safety tech and good gas-engine fuel economy set it apart, and the addition of all-wheel drive extends its versatility. The Altima is among the most popular sedans in the country, and we suspect it'll stay that way.

Take a closer look at the Nissan Altima »

Take a closer look at the Hyundai Sonata »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


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