|Max Horsepower (HP)
|Max Cargo Space (cu.ft.)
Drivers in search of a comfortable midsize sedan would not be wasting their time comparing the 2020 Chevy Malibu vs 2020 Nissan Altima. Both of these vehicles offer plenty of interior space, a good mix of features and technology, and potent engine options. However, while it is impossible to say that the 2020 Nissan Altima is a bad choice, the 2020 Chevy Malibu has several advantages over its rival.
These advantages range from a roomier interior with a more spacious rear seat, to a wider array of available driver assistance technologies that even include automatic parking and some additional interior options such as an expansive dual-pane power sunroof and vented front seats to help keep cool. Altogether, this makes the 2020 Chevy Malibu a noticeably more comfortable choice, particularly for drivers who intend to carry passengers in the second row regularly. And not only does the 2020 Chevy Malibu offer all of these advantages over the 2020 Nissan Altima, but it also does so at a lower price. However, to thoroughly understand the differences, a full comparison is necessary.
A mechanical comparison of the 2020 Chevy Malibu vs the 2020 Nissan Altima will reveal the two manufacturers to different routes to achieve similar results. But despite the similar paper figures, Chevy’s methods have quite a few advantages over the Nissan competitor.
The base engine in the 2020 Chevy Malibu is a modern 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. In contrast, the 2020 Nissan Altima sports a larger non-turbocharged engine with 188 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. On the surface, the 2020 Nissan Altima might appear to be the better performer; after all, it has a noticeably higher horsepower rating.
That assessment would indeed be true if the two cars were being used for high-speed track driving. But in normal driving such as accelerating away from a stoplight or merging into traffic, torque can be the more meaningful figure. And turbocharged engines such as in the 2020 Chevy Malibu not only have excellent torque ratings but they deliver that torque as soon as the gas pedal is depressed instead of burying it higher up in the rev range like non-turbocharged engines. Meaning, they use their power more efficiently.
If more power is desired, then both vehicles are also available with a more powerful engine. Here, both manufacturers choose to use 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder. The 2.0L in the 2020 Chevy Malibu generates 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, while the 2.0L in the 2020 Nissan Altima has 248 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. In this case, it is the Nissan engine that has the torque advantage, although the Chevy engine is still tuned to produce power noticeably sooner and hits peak torque at just 2,000 rpm instead of 4,000 rpm.
And when looking at the entire powertrain, it is the 2020 Chevy Malibu that has the advantage with its modern 9-speed automatic transmission. In contrast, the 2020 Nissan Altima pairs its top engine with a power-sapping and less engaging continuously variable transmission that considerably dulls the advantage gained by its slightly superior engine. This choice does allow the 2020 Nissan Altima to make 29 MPG combined with the 2.0L engine instead of the 26 MPG combined that the 2.0L Chevy achieves. Still, if fuel economy is the goal, then it is important to note that both vehicles are rated for 32 MPG combined with their base engines.
Both the 2020 Nissan Altima and the 2020 Chevy Malibu have plenty of modern technology from comprehensive infotainment systems to advanced driver assistance features. Unlike other manufacturers that outfit the base trims of their vehicles with simpler infotainment systems, both Chevy and Nissan loaded every trim of their midsize sedans with large 8-inch touchscreens and a version of their standard infotainment software. Both vehicles are chock full of technology.
Chevy Infotainment 3 and NissanConnect are both up-to-date systems that support smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as a plethora of apps and other features. However, Chevy does score a small victory over Nissan with its standard built-in 4G LTE wireless hotspot for internet connectivity on the go.
Still, the most significant difference between these two infotainment setups is simply the user interface, and which one is superior is mostly a matter of personal preference. Even the audio systems in these two cars are nearly identical, with both the 2020 Chevy Malibu and the 2020 Nissan Altima offering the choice between either a basic six-speaker setup or a premium nine-speaker Bose sound system.
But there are significant differences when it comes to available active safety technologies. In this case, the 2020 Nissan Altima offers slightly more standard equipment, but the 2020 Chevy Malibu has more equipment available overall. All trims of the 2020 Nissan Altima come with standard automatic emergency braking, and most trims also have lane departure and blindspot warning. Finally, when fully equipped the 2020 Nissan Altima sports lane keep assist, rear park assist, adaptive cruise control, and 360-degree cameras.
In contrast, the 2020 Chevy Malibu offers all of these same features, with the sole exception of a 360-degree camera view. Still, it can also be equipped with a following distance indicator to help maintain safe traffic separation, OnStar emergency services for prompt access to help in any situation, and even an automatic parking feature that will steer the car into tight parking spaces without any driver steering inputs. So while the lower trims of the 2020 Nissan Altima do have an advantage in driver assistance technology over the lower trims of the 2020 Chevy Malibu, when it comes to the versions of these two midsize sedans, it is the Chevy that has more advanced safety features to offer.
Although the exterior measurements of the 2020 Nissan Altima and the 2020 Chevy Malibu are effectively identical, the Chevy offers surprisingly more interior room. This is especially true when comparing the back seats of these two cars, as the second-row seats in the 2020 Nissan Altima afford their occupants just 36.9 inches of headroom and 35.2 inches of legroom. In contrast, the rear passengers in the 2020 Chevy Malibu can take advantage of 37.5 inches of headroom and 38.1 inches of legroom. This makes Chevy’s sedan a significantly more comfortable ride when carrying more than a single passenger.
And while it is not as noticeable, the 2020 Chevy Malibu also offers a slightly larger truck with 15.7 cu.ft. of cargo space against 15.4 cu.ft. for the 2020 Nissan Altima. So not only will the additional passengers have more room for themselves, but they will also have a bit more cargo space for their belongings. But the extra comfort of the 2020 Chevy Malibu is not limited to greater space alone, and it also boasts several features unavailable on the 2020 Nissan Altima.
Overall, both of these two midsize sedans can be extremely comfortable vehicles and share many of their features. From the standard push-button start to available dual-zone automatic climate control and even a heated steering wheel, it is difficult to find any genuine faults with either vehicle. However, the 2020 Chevy Malibu goes a bit further. While the 2020 Nissan Altima does have a power-adjustable driver’s seat standard on every trim and the 2020 Chevy Malibu makes do with a manual driver’s seat on its lower trims, only the Chevy offers vented front seats to keep its occupants cool in warm weather.
And while the rear seat passengers in the 2020 Chevy Malibu do not get vented seats, they can enjoy heated seats and a large dual-pane power sunroof for plenty of light and fresh air. And in another nice touch, the 2020 Chevy Malibu is even available with a standard 120-volt power outlet for the convenient charging of large electronic devices such as laptops. So while the 2020 Nissan Altima is inarguably a comfortable car, the 2020 Chevy Malibu has more features as well as greater room.