Nissan Altima vs. Mazda Mazda6

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

Mazda has always boasted about the zippy handling of its mainstream vehicles, but the sales didn’t always match the hype. Lately, however, the brand has drawn acclaim for polished packages in everything from compact sedans to full-size SUVs. The 2019 Mazda6, however, runs straight into stiff competition. Even among other Japanese imports, the Mazda6 faces the likes of the Honda Accord, the Toyota Camry, and the eternally popular Nissan Altima. With newly available all-wheel drive, the Altima has expanded its already versatile toolkit. Both are worthy competitors, but which is the better buy?

See a side-by-side comparison of the Altima & Mazda6 »

What the Altima Gets Right

Thanks in part to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Altima boasts exceptional fuel economy. A base-spec Altima is good for an EPA-estimated 28 miles per gallon city, 39 mpg highway, and 32 combined. The base-spec Mazda6 manages a more pedestrian 24/33/27 mpg (city/highway/combined). Even the Altima’s sporty engine is thrifty – the turbocharged four-cylinder gets 25/34/29 mpg.

The Altima also boasts a new all-wheel-drive powertrain. This is an unusual feature for economy sedans, and one that the Mazda6 can’t match. Buyers in colder climates may be thankful.

Although the two sedans have nearly identical dimensions, the Altima manages to eke out a little more cargo capacity. The Altima’s 15.4 cubic feet trumps the 6’s 14.7, but the Altima’s trunk opening is also wider and lower.

One of the Altima’s main selling points is the standard equipment. A base-spec Altima gets remote start, four USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and advanced safety features like automatic emergency braking. That’s impressive for a mainstream sedan, and some of those features are reserved for higher trims on the Mazda6.

What the Mazda6 Gets Right

The most obvious advantage of the Mazda6 is price. After destination fees, the cheapest Nissan Altima checks in at $24,795. A base-spec Mazda6 is nearly two grand cheaper at $22,845. That’s for a manual transmission, however – the gap narrows once the Mazda6 adds an automatic transmission for $1,050.

But the Mazda6 offers more than value. The two available transmissions both offer a more traditional feel than the Nissan’s CVT, and the manual in particular is an enthusiastic companion. Mazda’s trademark handling is here, but the ride is comfortable and composed.

Despite the similar profiles, the Mazda6 has some of the nicest lines we’ve seen on a family sedan. Looks are subjective to some degree, but the Mazda6 gets it right in our eyes. And while the Mazda6 loses out slightly on cargo, it trades in the space for more rear leg room. The second row gets 38.7 inches, compared to just 35.1 inches in the Altima.

Finally, while the base-spec Altima may win out on standard features, it doesn’t take long for the Mazda to turn the tables. All except the base trim come standard with not just automatic emergency braking, but also adaptive cruise control and active lane control. Moving to the upper trims opens up luxury goodies like Bose sound and Nappa leather seats.

Efficiency or Fun?

The Nissan Altima and the Mazda6 can trade blows all day about which included features matter more, but both are highly customizable, generally well equipped, and quite safe. The biggest differences come in the mechanicals. The Altima offers all-wheel drive and strong fuel economy, but it mutes the driving experience with a CVT. The Mazda6 is both fun and comfortable, but it makes a small sacrifice at the gas pump. The final blow may be value – the Mazda manages to offer a great drive and competitive features for less.

Our Verdict: Mazda6

The Mazda6 only comes in front-wheel drive, and it’s not without flaws. But elegant styling, a sporty drive, and excellent value make for a package that’s hard to pass up. In this highly competitive segment, Mazda continues to bring it’s A-game.

Take a closer look at the Nissan Altima »

Take a closer look at the Mazda Mazda6 »

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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