2013 Honda Accord vs. 2014 Mazda 6 vs. 2013 Nissan Altima Comparison Test

2013 Nissan Altima Sedan

(2.5L 4-cyl. CVT Automatic)
  • 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV - Group Picture - 2

    2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV - Group Picture - 2

    Three Japanese midsize four-cylinder sedans with efficiency aplenty. | April 19, 2013

80 Photos

The New Breed of Efficient Midsize Sedans Has Arrived

  • Comparison Test
  • 2013 Honda Accord EX-L Specs and Performance
  • 2014 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring Specs and Performance
  • 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV Specs and Performance

Thirty-nine point-seven. As in 39.7 mpg.

That's what the 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV averaged over the course of our 116-mile Edmunds test loop, a route that includes slogging through downtown Santa Monica, ocean-view cruising on Pacific Coast Highway, semi-spirited running on Mulholland Drive and a steady 70 mph drone on Highway 101.

But it's not just the Altima's 39.7 mpg number that's remarkable. What stands out even more is that the 2014 Mazda 6i Grand Touring and 2013 Honda Accord EX-L Navi averaged 5.1 and 5.4 mpg less, respectively, over the exact same route, on the same day, at exactly the same time, driven in exactly the same fashion. That, fuel-sipping friends, is big-time mileage.

But it takes more than an mpg spanking to win an Edmunds midsize four-cylinder sedan test.

Let's find out what it does take.

Fresh Faces
We chose the Accord, Mazda 6 and Altima because they're the freshest designs in the segment and, with four cylinders and automatic transmissions — continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) in the case of the Accord and Altima — they're representative of the cars Americans buy.

The Accord EX-L Navi and Mazda 6i Grand Touring represent the top four-cylinder trim levels available, while the Altima 2.5 SV Nissan supplied us with is one rung down from the top SL. As such, the Nissan Altima 2.5 SV came in the cheapest at $27,005, even with its $1,350 Convenience package (one-touch auto up/down windows, sunroof, foglights). It's got just about all the goodies the other two have, including push-button start, navigation, rear A/C vents, rearview camera, a USB port and Bluetooth. But the Altima does without the latest active safety systems such as lane departure warning and active cruise control.

The $30,785 2013 Honda Accord EX-L Navi comes fully stocked with, yes, navigation (hence the name), leather seats as opposed to the Altima's cloth and a 360-watt stereo system, which makes the best sounds of the bunch. It also comes standard with forward collision and lane departure warning systems.

The brand-spanking-newest of the group, the 2014 Mazda 6i Grand Touring, was also the most expensive at $31,190. It sported leather seats (heated up front), TomTom navigation and a rearview camera, as well as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and optional radar cruise control ($900).

Four-Cylinders Are the New Normal
Admit it. You're still pondering the Altima's fuel mileage. It baffled us, too. So how does it do it? Well, it's not through direct injection, as it's the only one of the three to still use old-school multiport fuel injection. Regardless of fuel delivery, the power outputs from this trio of four-cylinder engines are nearly identical.

The Altima's 2.5-liter puts out 182 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. The Accord's 2.4-liter makes 185 hp and 181 lb-ft. And the Mazda 6's 2.5-liter manages 184 hp and 185 lb-ft. There's not a thrashy one in the bunch, but the Mazda 6 was the loudest at wide-open throttle (73.8 decibels) and the Altima the quietest (70.7).

They differ in the way they transfer power to the front wheels, however. The Accord and Altima use CVTs while the Mazda 6 uses a traditional six-speed automatic, replete with paddle shifters and rev-matched downshifting.

Still, with such similar power levels, it comes as no shock that none of the three distinguished itself at the test track. The two CVT-equipped cars seemed initially baffled by a full-throttle launch, but once underway they quickly pinned the revs and held them through the quarter-mile on the way to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds for the Accord and 7.9 seconds for the Altima. The Mazda 6, on the other hand, was willing to spin the front tires, helping it get to 60 in just 7.6 seconds. (7.3 seconds with a 1-foot rollout as on a drag strip).

The 2014 Mazda 6 remained quickest through the quarter-mile at 15.7 seconds versus the Accord's 15.8 and the Altima's 15.9. But by this time the Mazda's launch meant little, the Accord achieving a higher trap speed of 89.6 mph against the Mazda's 88.1 and the Altima's 87.7.

An Automatic for the Enthusiast People
The Mazda's six-speed is an excellent example of a true automatic. It offers smooth yet quick shifts, and it's not overly busy on long uphill grades. Plus it can be shifted manually via steering wheel paddles or the console lever and will hold gears right up to its redline. In Drive mode, however, the Mazda's gearbox is not as quick to react as the Altima's CVT.

And that CVT is key to the Altima's miserliness. One of its fuel-saving tricks is its constant attempts to drop the revs as low as possible as soon as possible, to the point that it often feels like it's lugging the engine. But Nissan's engineers also made this CVT highly responsive, so as soon as you dip into the throttle for a tad more power, it responds immediately. The downside is sometimes we don't want 5,000 rpm worth of CVT fury to get just a bit more acceleration.

The Accord's CVT, on the other hand, could easily be mistaken for a regular automatic. It's neither as "luggy" nor as responsive as the Altima, and therefore it's a wholeheartedly calmer experience. In short, it's the CVT for people who don't like CVTs.

At 3,170 pounds, the 2013 Nissan Altima is the most feathery of the group by 117 pounds over the Mazda 6 and 187 pounds over the Accord. This no doubt helped its fuel economy numbers, which paid off not only on our test route. The Altima managed 31.7 mpg over its entire stay with us, while the Mazda 6 averaged 27.1 and the Accord just 26.8 mpg.

Comparing the Cabins
It's fun to throw around acceleration and fuel economy numbers, but they mean little if a sedan can't fulfill its needs as basic, everyday transportation.

So let's start with the completely bewildering: the Mazda 6. Here's a car slathered with a complete redesign, yet its center stack is stale while its tiny, 5.8-inch TomTom navigation screen already looks dated. Other oddities include front door pockets only large enough for one water bottle, and air-conditioning vents that are positioned too low in the dashboard.

On the plus side, the Mazda 6 has snazzy and easy-to-read instruments, and the utter simplicity of the HVAC controls makes them easy to use. We also like the lateral support provided by the Mazda's seats.

Hop in the Accord and things look clearer. Particularly the superb 8-inch navigation screen, easily the largest and sharpest of the group (although it's also situated the farthest away). There's a pleasing mix of large buttons and knobs, and the controls exude the damped, quality feel we love.

Some editors found the smaller secondary screen an oddity, while others thought the tachometer was too small. The front seats are flat and wide and lack the lateral support found in the Mazda. The cushions get surprisingly uncomfortable after a couple hours of seat time, and the center and door armrests are woefully under padded.

The Altima splits the difference between the Accord and the Mazda 6 in terms of both style and utility. Its 7-inch nav screen is big enough to use easily, the controls are intuitive and while its center stack presentation isn't the most stylish, it just flat works. The tach-speedo combo is by far the largest and easiest to read quickly, and without question its cloth-covered seats are the most comfortable.

That said, the center and door armrest coverings feel cheap and we question their durability, though the Altima's center armrest bin gets points as the most cavernous. As far as ease-of-use, we set an all-time Edmunds speed record for pairing our iPhone.

Take a Backseat
If you took a glance at the Mazda 6's sexily aggressive roof line and guessed rear passengers would pay a price, you'd be wrong. Other than a slightly more difficult entry in the 6, headroom was similar for all three sedans, enough to fit a 6-foot, 2-inch adult. The Mazda's shorter side and rear windows make things more claustrophobic, and the Accord and Altima both have better elbow room.

It's a dead heat between the Accord and Altima for trunk capacity, the former at 15.5 cubic feet and the latter at 15.4. The Mazda's is the smallest at 14.8, but it's also the most uniformly shaped. Our own measurements showed the Altima had the lowest cargo loading height, the widest opening and the most width between the wheelwells, while the Accord was the worst in this category.

The 6 wins for overall utility, its split-folding rear seats lying down almost flat with by far the most generous trunk pass-through. The Altima's seats weren't quite as flat-folding, and its pass-through a bit tighter. Meanwhile, the Accord's one-piece folding rear seat and miniscule pass-through seem more to satisfy a spec sheet than provide any real convenience.

What Can They Handle?
Even the most conscientious of us are late sometimes, so it doesn't hurt if your family sedan can handle a little giddyup. At our test track we found all three cars turned in similar, if mediocre, numbers. But they went about the task in very different ways.

The Mazda 6 easily felt the sportiest through the slalom, with the most precise steering and fluid handling. It would've easily notched a better number than 63.0 mph if not for the most intrusive stability control system of the group.

The Accord has quick initial turn-in, but the chassis allows lots of body roll, limiting it to 63.5 mph. The Altima benefited from the least intrusive stability system, and even with over-boosted steering, it garnered the fastest time at 63.8 mph.

Out on public roads, where you almost never invoke a stability control system, the Mazda 6 is in another world. And a fine world it is. The suspension feels properly snubbed down, yet there's plenty of damping for bumps. The precise steering makes it a joy to flick through corners. In contrast, the floppier, loose-steering Accord is more a chore than a pleasure in this setting. The Altima strikes a nice balance between the two, not as tied down as the 6 but with steering that offers significantly more feedback than the Accord.

And the Mazda 6's shiftable automatic offers levels more driver control than the two CVTs on back roads.

When simply cruising along, the Altima offered the comfiest ride and the least road noise (62.2 dB at 70 mph). The Accord rode more firmly than its so-so handling would lead you to believe, and had the most road noise. The Mazda's oversized 19-inch wheels endowed it with the most jittery ride.

The New Champ
Although the 2013 Honda Accord topped the Toyota Camry in our last comparison, in this test the Accord just couldn't quite keep pace with the Altima. Its ride comfort, storage options, seat comfort and cargo flexibility are all a step behind the Nissan's. The Accord's excellent build quality, first-rate controls and superb nav screen just can't overcome these other foibles, and while there's nothing offensive about the Accord's driving demeanor, it's simply not as fun as the Altima or Mazda 6.

Now if you like driving simply for the sake of driving, the 2014 Mazda 6i Grand Touring is a standout choice. It's unquestionably the enthusiast choice here, and makes no bones about it with its aggressive 19-inch wheels and tires. This is the only one of the three that makes sweeper on-ramps worth attacking. It's the only one we'd hand wash just to fondle its fenders. But while its exterior is gorgeous, the interior is far less impressive.

That leaves the 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV. Our winner is good at nearly everything, with only minor deficiencies. It drives well, has comfortable seats and remains quiet on the highway. It's no Mazda 6 in terms of handling, but it's at least somewhat entertaining on a twisty road. And even though it was the least expensive car here, it rarely felt like it.

The mileage figures only add to the Nissan's appeal. Delivering almost 5 mpg more than the Accord and Mazda 6 on our test loop was no small feat. Then it followed it up by surpassing the EPA's combined mileage rating in city and highway driving. That's a rare feat in any type of car. Sure, you could find a hybrid sedan that's more efficient, but none of them put together the complete package as well as the Nissan Altima.

The manufacturers provided Edmunds with the Mazda 6 and Nissan Altima for the purposes of evaluation. The Honda Accord was purchased by Edmunds.

Vehicle
Model year2013 Honda Accord EX-L
Year Make Model2013 Honda Accord EX-L 4dr Sedan with Navigation (2.4L 4cyl CVT)
Vehicle TypeFWD 4dr 5-passenger sedan
Base MSRP$30,785
As-tested MSRP$30,785
Assembly locationMarysville, Ohio
North American parts content (%)65
Drivetrain
ConfigurationTransverse, front-engine, front-wheel drive
Engine typeNaturally aspirated, direct-injected inline-4, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in)2,356cc (144 cu-in)
Block/head materialAluminum/aluminum
ValvetrainDOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, variable intake-valve timing and lift
Compression ratio (x:1)11.1
Redline, indicated (rpm)6,800
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)185 @ 6,400
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)181 @ 3,900
Fuel typeRegular unleaded
Transmission typePulley-regulated continuously variable transmission with console shifter with Sport/Competition modes
Transmission ratios (x:1)4.12-0.63; R = 2.65
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.24
Differential(s)Open
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent multilink, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Steering typeElectric-assist rack-and-pinion power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)13.23
Tire make and modelGoodyear Assurance
Tire typeAll-season, low-rolling resistance
Tire size215/55R17 (94V)
Wheel size17-by-7.5 inches front and rear
Wheel materialAluminum
Brakes, front11.5-inch one-piece ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brakes, rear11.1-inch one-piece solid discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)3.3
0-45 mph (sec.)5.2
0-60 mph (sec.)7.8
0-75 mph (sec.)11.3
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)15.8 @ 89.6
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)7.5
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)3.3
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)5.2
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)7.9
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)11.4
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)15.8 @ 89.6
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)7.5
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)32
60-0 mph (ft.)130
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON63.5
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.80
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON0.80
Sound level @ idle (dB)40.6
@ Full throttle (dB)72.4
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)63.8
Engine speed @ 70 mph (rpm)2,000
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsThe Accord gets off the line better than you would expect of a CVT-equipped four-cylinder. Throttle/brake overlap on the line served to bring the revs up slightly, but had zero positive effect on acceleration times. It actually caused the Accord to hesitate more. Once underway, it displays typical CVT behavior, meaning it quickly pegs the revs high on the tachometer and holds them there all the way down the strip. Sport tranny mode showed zero gain.
Braking commentsGood pedal firmness. Some minor side-to-side wiggle, especially on later stops. These are low-grip tires. First stop was 134 feet. Fourth stop was shortest at 130 feet. Third stop was longest at 137 feet. Sixth and final stop was 135.
Handling commentsSkid pad: The front tires protest mightily on skid pad duty, howling instead of singing. There's very little grip here and changes to the throttle proved mostly futile for trying to dial out the big understeer. The steering, which is very light, offers little in the way of feedback. Slalom: The Accord has oddly quick initial turn-in, but its soft suspension and low-grip tires prove that, no, this is definitely no sport sedan. The stability control system was a bit more intrusive than the Altima's, less intrusive than the Mazda 6.
Testing Conditions
Test date4/2/2013
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)66.44
Relative humidity (%)49.81
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.84
Wind (mph, direction)5.44, headwind
Odometer (mi.)1,317
Fuel used for test91-octane gasoline
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)33/33
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)27 city/36 highway/30 combined
Edmunds observed (mpg)26.8
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)17.2
Driving range (mi.)619.2
Audio and Advanced Technology
Stereo description360-watt, seven-speaker AM/FM/CD with WMA/MP3 audio system
iPod/digital media compatibilityStandard iPod via USB jack, standard aux jack
Satellite radioStandard XM with three-month trial subscription
Rear seat video and entertainmentNot available
Bluetooth phone connectivityStandard
Navigation systemStandard with 8.0-inch display screen
Smart entry/StartStandard ignition doors
Parking aidsStandard back-up camera
Blind-spot detectionStandard
Adaptive cruise controlOptional
Lane-departure monitoringStandard
Collision warning/avoidanceStandard
Night VisionNot available
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,358
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,357
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)61/39
Length (in.)191.4
Width (in.)72.8
Height (in.)57.7
Wheelbase (in.)109.3
Track, front (in.)62.4
Track, rear (in.)62.3
Turning circle (ft.)38.1
Legroom, front (in.)42.5
Legroom, rear (in.)38.5
Headroom, front (in.)37.6
Headroom, rear (in.)37.0
Shoulder room, front (in.)58.6
Shoulder room, rear (in.)56.5
Seating capacity5
Trunk volume (cu-ft)15.5
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/60,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/Unlimited miles
Vehicle
Model year2014 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring
Year Make Model2014 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl 6A)
Vehicle TypeFWD 4dr 5-passenger Sedan
Base MSRP$30,290
Options on test vehicleBlue Reflex Mica; MRCC + FOW Package ($900 -- includes Mazda radar cruise control, forward obstruction warning)
As-tested MSRP$31,190
Assembly locationHofu, Japan
North American parts content (%)5
Drivetrain
ConfigurationTransverse, front-engine, front-wheel drive
Engine typeNaturally aspirated, direct-injected inline-4, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in)2,488/152
Block/head materialAluminum/aluminum
ValvetrainDOHC, four valves per cylinder, variable intake + exhaust-valve timing
Compression ratio (x:1)13.0
Redline, indicated (rpm)6,200 (soft redline on tachometer)
Fuel cutoff/rev limiter (rpm)6,500
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)184 @ 5,700
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)185 @ 3,250
Fuel typeRegular unleaded
Transmission typeSix-speed automatic
Transmission ratios (x:1)I=3.552, II=2.022, III=1.452, IV=1.0,V=0.708, VI=0.599
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.812
Differential(s)Open
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent multilink, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Steering typeElectric speed-proportional power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)15.5
Tire make and modelDunlop SP Sport 5000
Tire typeAll-season front and rear
Tire sizeP225/45R19 front and rear
Wheel size19-by-7.5 inches front and rear
Wheel materialPainted alloy
Brakes, front11.7-inch one-piece ventilated cast-iron discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brakes, rear10.9-inch one-piece solid cast-iron discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)2.8
0-45 mph (sec.)4.9
0-60 mph (sec.)7.6
0-75 mph (sec.)11.5
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)15.7 @ 88.1
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)7.3
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)3.0
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)5.2
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)7.9
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)11.8
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)15.8 @ 87.9
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)7.4
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)31
60-0 mph (ft.)128
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON63.0
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.81
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON0.82
Sound level @ idle (dB)40.6
@ Full throttle (dB)73.8
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)62.8
Engine speed @ 70 mph (rpm)2,200
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsAchieves perfect amount of wheelspin off the line using power braking. Carries the spin a decent distance without shifting to 2nd as well. The 1-2 shift is quick, the others less so but always smooth. Manual shifting, via paddles or lever, proved no quicker. Will hold gears to 6,200 rpm rev limiter. Blips throttle on downshifts.
Braking commentsLong pedal travel but reassuringly firm feel. Noticed brake odor by third stop. Well-controlled pitch but no lateral wiggle. First stop was shortest at 128 feet. Sixth and final stop was longest at 133 feet.
Handling commentsSkid Pad: Thought the chassis would be more receptive to drop-throttle tuck-in. It works to some extent, but for the most part once the 6 starts to push, it keeps pushing. Steering, at least, gives good feedback. Slalom: Steering is precise, natural, with a weighting that's on the heavy side. The suspension feels taut. There's some body roll, yes, but it's not excessive. The overly intrusive stability control system holds the 6 back from getting a better time. Get too aggressive with steering and it starts to add brakes, which ruins the run. Drive more slowly to stay below the ESC intervention point and you simply get a slower time.
Testing Conditions
Test date4/2/2013
Elevation (ft.)1,120
Temperature (F)67.6
Relative humidity (%)46.8
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.8
Wind (mph, direction)6.2 mph
Odometer (mi.)4,965
Fuel used for test87-octane gasoline
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)35/35
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)26 city/38 highway/30 combined
Edmunds observed (mpg)27.1
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)16.4
Driving range (mi.)623.2
Audio and Advanced Technology
Stereo descriptionBose 11-speaker AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system with subwoofer
iPod/digital media compatibilityStandard iPod via USB jack and generic aux jack
Satellite radioStandard with 4-month trial subscription
Bluetooth phone connectivityStandard
Navigation systemStandard with traffic 5.8-inch display screen (measured diagonally)
Smart entry/StartStandard ignition doors trunk/hatch
Parking aidsStandard rear cross-traffic detection
Blind-spot detectionStandard
Adaptive cruise controlOptional
Lane-departure monitoringOptional departure warning
Collision warning/avoidanceOptional
Driver coaching displayReal-time and average fuel economy display
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,232
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,287
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)59/41
Length (in.)191.5
Width (in.)72.4
Height (in.)57.1
Wheelbase (in.)111.4
Track, front (in.)62.8
Track, rear (in.)62.4
Legroom, front (in.)42.2
Legroom, rear (in.)38.7
Headroom, front (in.)37.4
Headroom, rear (in.)37.1
Shoulder room, front (in.)57.1
Shoulder room, rear (in.)55.5
Seating capacity5
Trunk volume (cu-ft)14.8
GVWR (lbs.)4,228
Payload, mfr. max claim (lbs.)996
Ground clearance (in.)6.7
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/60,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance3 years/36,000 miles
Vehicle
Model year2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV
Year Make Model2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl CVT)
Vehicle TypeFWD 4dr 5-passenger sedan
Base MSRP$24,880
Options on test vehicleJava Metallic, 2.5SV-Convenience Package ($1,350 -- includes moonroof; foglights; outside mirrors with LED turn signals; manual folding outside mirrors; dual sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors and sliding rod extension; front passenger window with one-touch auto up/down and auto reverse feature; auto-dimming inside mirror; Homelink universal transceiver; compass; mood lamp in roof console; side cargo net), SV Navigation Package ($590 -- includes 7-inch color display Nissan navigation system with turn-by-turn navigation integration into Advanced Drive-Assist display; steering wheel navigation system controls; NavTraffic and NavWeather; Google local search and Google Send-to-Car), 5-Piece Floor Mats Plus Trunk Mat ($185)
As-tested MSRP$27,005
Assembly locationSmyrna, Tennessee
Drivetrain
ConfigurationTransverse, front-engine, front-wheel drive
Engine typeNaturally aspirated, port-injected inline-4, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in)2,488cc (152 cu-in)
Block/head materialAluminum/aluminum
ValvetrainDOHC, four valves per cylinder, continuously variable valve timing
Compression ratio (x:1)9.6
Redline, indicated (rpm)6,600
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)182 @ 6,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)180 @ 4,000
Fuel typeRegular unleaded
Transmission typePulley-regulated continuously variable transmission with console shifter with sport/competition modes
Final-drive ratio (x:1)4.83
Differential(s)Open
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent multilink, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Steering typeElectric-over-hydraulic-assist, speed-proportional, rack-and-pinion power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)16.4
Tire make and modelContinental ContiProContact
Tire typeAll-season front and rear
Tire size215/55R17 (93V)
Wheel size17-by-7.5 inches front and rear
Wheel materialAluminum
Brakes, front11.7-inch one-piece ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brakes, rear11.5-inch one-piece solid discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)3.1
0-45 mph (sec.)5.2
0-60 mph (sec.)7.9
0-75 mph (sec.)11.6
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)15.9 @ 87.7
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)7.7
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)3.3
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)5.4
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)8.3
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)12.2
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)16.1 @ 86.7
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)7.9
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)32
60-0 mph (ft.)123
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON63.8
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.82
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON0.82
Sound level @ idle (dB)39.3
@ Full throttle (dB)70.7
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)62.2
Engine speed @ 70 mph (rpm)1,800
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsSome initial hesitation off the line, but then the CVT does its best to get the revs right near redline (and hold them there) as soon as possible. Overlapping the throttle and brake at launch to bring the revs up was worth about a tenth and a half to 60 mph. This is definitely an eager four-banger. DS transmission mode had little-to-no effect on times.
Braking commentsExceptionally firm pedal, perfect pedal travel, stable stops. Some brake odor toward later stops. First stop was shortest at 123 feet. Fifth stop was longest at 132 feet. Sixth and final stop was 129 feet.
Handling commentsSkid pad: What was interesting here was that the standard Active Understeer Control, which adds brakes to the appropriate wheel to curb understeer (and is only activated when ESC is on) made the Altima more lively around the skid pad than with ESC off. So it clearly works. With AUC, the Altima would mildly hang its tail out. Without AUC, it just plowed the front end. Slalom: The steering is a bit too light, but at least it's direct and offers excellent feedback. This Altima goes where it's pointed, despite a lot of lean angle. Its stability control system is perfectly calibrated, allowing plenty of aggressive steering and some sliding before it finally adds brakes. You can get into a good rhythm with this car.
Testing Conditions
Test date4/2/2013
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)60.25
Relative humidity (%)63.25
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.89
Wind (mph, direction)3.62, headwind
Odometer (mi.)6,514
Fuel used for test87
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)33/33
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)27 city/38 highway/31 combined
Edmunds observed (mpg)31.7
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)18.0
Driving range (mi.)684
Audio and Advanced Technology
Stereo descriptionAM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA with six speakers
iPod/digital media compatibilityStandard iPod via USB jack
Satellite radioStandard SiriusXM
Rear seat video and entertainmentNot available
Bluetooth phone connectivityStandard
Navigation systemOptional with 7-inch display screen
Smart entry/StartStandard ignition and doors
Parking aidsStandard back-up camera
Blind-spot detectionOptional
Adaptive cruise controlNot available
Lane-departure monitoringOptional departure warning
Collision warning/avoidanceOptional
Night VisionNot available
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,121
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,170
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)60/40
Length (in.)191.5
Width (in.)72.0
Height (in.)57.9
Wheelbase (in.)109.3
Track, front (in.)62.4
Track, rear (in.)62.4
Turning circle (ft.)37.4
Legroom, front (in.)45.0
Legroom, rear (in.)36.1
Headroom, front (in.)39.1
Headroom, rear (in.)37.1
Shoulder room, front (in.)56.4
Shoulder room, rear (in.)56.4
Seating capacity5
Step-in height, measured (in.)15.0
Trunk volume (cu-ft)15.4
Cargo loading height, measured (in.)26.75
GVWR (lbs.)4,211
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/60,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance3 years/36,000 miles

Comments

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    Those economy numbers for the Altima are stellar. My buddy has an older 4-cyliner as says it returns really good figures on long journeys, especially with the cruise on. However, I have to ask, are you CERTAIN that the Altima was not short filled at some point? Just doing my Devil's advocate thing here. ;)

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    Looking again at the test details I wonder if the Honda would benefit from more break in. The other two had 5k+ on the odometer. I also think the Mazda might have performed better if it was on 17 or 18 inch wheels instead of 19s.

  • vflsmit vflsmit Posts:

    I just have a question to the editors regarding comparison such as these... It seems that the target market is the average mid-size four pot group which can include a lot more choices than the three listed here. I think Hyundai Sonata/Kia Optima, Chevy Malibu, Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, and pherhaps a few I can't think of. It seems as if it would be a better article, as in a full picture of what is offered as of now, to include all those cars. Is there a reason why some comparison test you guys do that other competing choices are left behind? Just curious.

  • dfelix70 dfelix70 Posts:

    IL comparisons consistently baffle me. Why compare sedans that have different equipment levels? The Accord's EX-L's mission is luxury, as the "L" indicates. Therefore, its standard tires, as equipped here, are geared towards luxury sedans/coupes. The Altima's tires are geared toward sporty sedans/coupes as are the 6's. Why not use the Accord EX whose standard Michelins are more geared for handling? Or better yet, why not test the Accord Sport which actually has a sport-tuned suspension and better-performing tires?

  • emajor emajor Posts:

    The fuel economy of all three on your test loop is impressive, and 40 mpg out of a midsize car is fantastic. And despite your obligatory car-enthusiast tepidity, a 0-60 of under 8 seconds for automatic 4-cylinder family sedans is quick. You don't have to turn in your Car Guy card if you admit that modern 4 cylinders are faster than some of the better V6s from the late 90s. I'm wondering what the point of direct injection is given the performance of this Altima and the Camry 4 cylinder which also lacks it. Doesn't seem to be contributing much. Surprised a Fusion with the 1.6 Ecoboost wasn't included; it is quite new as well and Ford is ballyhooing the power and efficiency of its little turbo. I'm guessing mileage would have lagged behind the others.

  • emajor emajor Posts:

    Honda's insipid one-piece folding rear seat could potentially be a deal breaker for me, as much as I love the idea of their manual tranny Sport. For some reason Honda has been stubbornly clinging to this for over a decade, as if botching the utility of a mainstream family sedan were some sort of noble tradition worth preserving. As long as I'm griping, I may as well point out that the exterior styling on this car is one of the laziest efforts I've seen. It's a generic amorphous forgettable blob and it doesn't look any better in person.

  • shatner shatner Posts:

    These cars represent by far the best overall value in new cars. Great mpgs, good room, and all the speed a person needs, any more is really just going to get you tickets and let you drive like an a-hole. Heck, these cars are all faster than the 63K Jaguar 4cyl that Edmunds just tested! So many people buy cars that they can't really afford and still nobody is really impressed by them. Of course if you are rolling in dough then buy any car that you like, but just because you have the money in your 401k does not mean you can "afford" it.

  • drex2 drex2 Posts:

    "As long as I'm griping, I may as well point out that the exterior styling on this car is one of the laziest efforts I've seen. It's a generic amorphous forgettable blob and it doesn't look any better in person." From my perspective, this is my exact reaction to the Altima. The grill is misshapen and ugly and the lumps over each of the wheels are uninspired and grotesque. I think the funniest comment about it that I read was when one of the mags said that the Altima looked like a Camry that was attacked by bees. I also don't get the huge difference in gas mileage here. Every other magazine and website showed the Altima and Accord neck and neck on gas mileage. The mag that I trust the most for gas mileage, Consumer Reports (because their methodology is so exact and consistent), listed overall mileage for the I4 version of these cars as 31 mpg for Altima and 30 mpg for Accord (they haven't published their Mazda 6 review yet). 1 mpg vs. the 5 that Edmunds reports. And it's not just CR... in their comparison, Motor Trend rated the Altima overall mileage at 26.3 vs. the Accord's 25.8. That's .5 (as in POINT 5) mpg difference vs. Edmunds' 5 mpg. Then we have autos.ca, who rated overall mileage for the Altima at 24.5 (second worst in test) and the Accord at 26.7 (best in test). Now I know that you're going to see variability between test results, but it's very strange to see 3 or more tests showing Accord with mpg results slightly under to somewhat over Altima. And then there's the elephant in the room, Edmunds' 5 mpg difference. Since such a big deal is being made about the Altima's stellar gas mileage in this test, I thought it was fair to point out that of the major publications that I've referenced, Edmunds' results are significantly off of the norm.

  • jaggrey jaggrey Posts:

    I have been waiting for this comparison!! I haven't even read the article yet I'm so excited... lol

  • rem83 rem83 Posts:

    The gas mileage claims do seem a bit odd. Real world data from fuelly is showing a disparity in the opposite direction - real world 4 cylinder Altimas returning 29.4 (38 cars reporting) while Mazda 6s are returning 31.6 (22 cars reporting) and Accords are returning an even 29 (73 cars reporting)

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    I have started to see quite a lot of the new Altima's on the road. While I think the 6 is the best looking of the 3 (and perhaps the 2nd best in class after the Fusion), the Altima is a very handsome car I would be happy to own. And big time kudos to Nissan for building a car capable of actually achieving the excellent fuel economy claimed on the Monroney Sticker, unlike the Escape 1.6 EcoBoost I drove 1400 miles over the past 4 days that never got within 5 mpg of it's highway rating despite multiple cruise controlled hours on flat highways.

  • bonzjr bonzjr Posts:

    All three cars list "regular unleaded" (87 octane) as the required minimum in the specs. You used regular unleaded in the Altima and the 6 per your comparison data. So why was premium unleaded (91 octane, also stated in the comparison data) used in the Accord? You should explain the distinction and rationale in the 'comparison' test. It might lead to a small or meaningless change in the test data and ultimate result (the Accord 'lost' anyway), but the fact is you no longer have an apples-to-apples comparison. And I checked the Honda's owners manual (which Honda makes available in PDF format online) -- there is no distinction made for performance or economy improvements using higher than 87 octane petrol. Or did you simply misstate the octane of the fuel when writing up the test data? Just curious...

  • darthbimmer darthbimmer Posts:

    I rented a 2013 Altima for two weeks and found two big gripes. First, it's hard to modulate acceleration. At part throttle, the CVT keeps the engine's revs down around 1500rpm, producing very sluggish acceleration. Dig more deeply into the throttle and there's a "rubber band" effect as the engine spools up with lots of noise before the car scoots forward a second later. Second, the fuel economy I got was nowhere close to EPA estimates. Per the trip computer I got 23mpg driving around town and 32mpg on longer highway trips. My calculation at the pump was 26mpg across 600 miles of mixed driving.

  • This seems fishy to me. CR and the EPA have measured the fuel economy of the Accord and Altima within 1mpg of each other. Still impressive for Nissan. I could only imagine what they could have achieved with direct injection.

  • jederino jederino Posts:

    Accord's interior has better perceived quality. The exterior is bland, but Accord's reputation will get customers in the door, and the interior will complete the sale. Too bad, because here are two superior options!

  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    I test drove the same trim level Altima when it first came out last summer. It's the mpg ratings that drew me in. I didn't have a chance to check fuel economy, but I did notice that the rpm's didn't get above 1500 in normal driving. The ride was comfortable. The only other thing I noticed was that the seats were unusually comfortable; the salesman later told me that the seat padding was originally developed for the space program. Regardless, I was impressed enough with the car that I was ready to buy... but my wife wanted an Optima instead. *shrug*

  • drex2 drex2 Posts:

    Well, if anything, the Optima is much more attractive than the Altima, IMO. :) The Accord's CVT works much like your description of the Altima's. The rpm's don't get above 1500 is normal driving, just like the Altima. And in other reviews, the Accord's seats were rated very highly, unlike in this test. They're the most comfortable seats that I've experienced in any car, though I haven't tried the Altima's seats.

  • @Jaggrey: I felt the same as you! I was so excited to see the exact three cars I wanted compared in an Edmunds comparison test. I felt so silly getting excited over such a thing - but, hey, can't front. I did! In any case, I'm glad the greatness of

  • drex2 drex2 Posts:

    "Accord's interior has better perceived quality. The exterior is bland, but Accord's reputation will get customers in the door, and the interior will complete the sale. Too bad, because here are two superior options!" Actually, this is the first comparison test that I've read in which the Altima beat the Accord. Other examples: Motor Trend - Accord (2nd of 6), Altima (4th of 6); Car and Driver - Accord (1st of 4), Altima (3rd of 4); Consumer Reports - Affordable family cars - Accord (1st), Altima (8th); Automotive Magazine - Accord (Winner), Altima (eliminated in the first round along with the Camry, Sonata and Optima). So it may be a superior option in the minds of the Edmunds testers and Nissan fans, but many other auto testers seem to disagree. As for Mazda 6, all of the comparisons to Accord so far have been very close, but to date, Mazda 6 has won 2 while Accord has won 1. So these 2 seem to be pretty well matched.

  • @greenpony: I totally agree with you, and you said it perfectly. The Altima's seats are unusually comfortable! That's the first thing I noticed as soon as I sat in it for my test drive and at the NY Auto Show. I've never felt such comfortable seats in

  • dmaloa52 dmaloa52 Posts:

    Its about time Nissan start getting credit for the Altima, it may not look the best but it sure will surprise you on the road.

  • I'm somewhat disappointed with the SkyActiv in the Mazda 6. In the Mazda 3, it appears the SkyActiv powertrain is really the best in the (compact) class, as per Edmunds' and other reviews. But in the Mazda 6, SkyActiv seems to be on the same level or even slightly worse than the competition. I wonder why that is. Some here have stated that the Altima and Accord almost always stay at around 1500 rpm unless under hard acceleration...perhaps that's why? All three cars get great fuel economy, so I wouldn't base my decision on that if I were looking to buy a new midsized car. It's just interesting to find SkyActiv not bettering the competition in the 6 like it does in the 3.

  • ctizzle ctizzle Posts:

    this article woulda had like 100 responses if it was still "Insideline"!!

  • huisj huisj Posts:

    Was the Altima drafting the other two cars on the fuel economy loop? :)

  • sj1417_ sj1417_ Posts:

    Has there ever been a comparison anywhere, anytime, anyhow, where anyone referred to an Altima as being this much "fun" to drive? I doubt it. As well as the ridiculously high MPG. I guess that's what happens when the manufacturer "provides" Edmunds with the car. In any event, this "review" is pretty suspect.

  • tharealmc tharealmc Posts:

    Wow... I have been reading IL for a long time and can't remember the last time a Nissan won a comparison test.. I think the 370Z won once or twice when it debuted, but not in any other segment have I seen Nissan at the top. I like it. That said, these three are all great vehicles, styling is subjective, but seems to be pretty fair. Of course the mileage seems INCREDIBLY good, maybe too good? On the other hand the perceived quality of the Altima would of been higher if it had leather interior trim. All in all, glad to see the Altima on top, the last generation was great, and obviously this one is fantastic as well. Ford fanboys, my money is on when asked to provide a Fusion for the comparison, Ford said thanks but no thanks, knowing they'd get spanked. It wouldn't be the first time it happened.

  • djefferson djefferson Posts:

    I find it interesting that the Nissan got such incredible mileage against the others in the comparison. It somehow seems in some tests that some cars without direct injection do very well like this Altima and the Camry. Its not as much I doubt that it or Camry give this economy as much as in other comparison perhaps more performance driven have showed the both better drivability and economy with direct injection. I have also not seen a Accord finish below #2 in final results ever. In this trio I favor the Mazda 6 with its style and more driver oriented handling but would live with the Touring trim and save 5k. I wish everyone the best in their shopping..the mid-side family sedan is both diverse and very competitive.

  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    djefferson: Direct injection's benefit is in allowing more precise metering, better atomization, and a better ability to burn ultra-lean. In theory that should result in a modest fuel economy benefit vs port-injected motors of similar power and displacement. Still, a modern engine's injection system is just one variable among many, many others... it's only part of the equation.

  • carmageddon carmageddon Posts:

    Hertz gave us an Altima 2.5 S on a rental two weeks ago that we used for a round trip between the Bay Area and Orange County, about 1000 miles total for the weekend. The overall impression of the three adults along for the ride: yep, that's a car alright. It's hard to think of anything special about our Altima, other than the scratch it came with on the fender that allowed us to tell it apart from the legions of other silver rental Nissans found in SoCal parking lots. If there was anything about the design, ride, handling, steering, power etc. of this car that caused it to rise even slightly above stone cold average, it escaped all of us. Wait, that's not true: the stereo had pretty rocking bass. It's pretty sad if this is really the best of what's out there. Oh, and that amazing gas mileage? Not at the standard 80 mph operating velocity on Interstate 5; we barely eked out 25 mpg.

  • zeniff zeniff Posts:

    I guess I'm one of those who finds the new Accord a whole lot better looking than the last few generations. I like the looks better than the Altima, which looks a little stodgy. But in terms of looks, the 6 takes the cake in a landslide.

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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2013 Nissan Altima in VA is:

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