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Comparison: 2019 Toyota Camry vs 2019 Nissan Altima

2019 Nissan Altima / 2019 Toyota Camry | Photo: B.Charette / D.Boshouwers
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Benoit Charette
The master and the apprentice

Quite simply, the Camry has been the benchmark for the mid-size sedan segment for decades. It is what other automakers’ cars aspire to be in this category. While the segment has lost a good chunk of its popularity, Toyota still sold more than 14,500 Camrys in Canada in 2018, which places first in its class. The Altima at 5,300 units was left far up the track. There’s a big but, however, and that would be the arrival of AWD for the Altima. That will undoubtedly attract new customers to the cause.

Nissan Altima
2019 represents the 6th generation for the Altima. After more or less neglecting it in recent years, the Japanese automaker pulled out all the stops for this new edition by investing in a new platform, a new engine and… a new AWD system. Clearly Nissan wants to go back in the thick of it, and to do that they’re having to roll up their sleeves, because this segment has long been the realm of the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord territory.

That said, there are no big changes in the visual presentation. The new Altima is longer, lower and wider with a more aggressive grille.

| Photo: B.Charette

Inside, Nissan has focused on upgrading technology with a standard 7-inch touchscreen (8-inch as an option), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and the semi-autonomous Pro Pilot system.

This system uses a forward-facing camera, forward-facing radar, sensors and an electronic control module to help the driver stay in the centre of the driving lane and stay at a certain vehicle speed (set by the driver), or help maintain a certain distance from the vehicle in front if vehicle speed drops below the driver-set speed. It also can slow the vehicle to a complete stop and hold the vehicle during traffic-jam conditions. Pro Pilot is included standard on SV and Platinum trims.

| Photo: Nissan

One engine
The 4-cylinder is a 2.5L as before, but now uses direct injection, is quieter and more powerful (with 182 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque), and it consumes less fuel. The only downside is the CVT gearbox that remains the only one offered with the Altima. It offers the advantage of better fuel consumption, but seriously handicaps the driver enjoyment behind the wheel.

The use of a larger amount of high-tensile steel provides both a stiffer frame for improved driving dynamics and 19 kg less weight on the chassis.

The AWD system operates in three configurations: 0-100%, 50/50 or 30/70; these take effect depending on the conditions of the road. Nissan refers to this system as intelligent because it decides which algorithms to apply.

| Photo: Nissan / D.Boshouwers

Toyota Camry
The Toyota Camry has been a mainstay on our roads since 1983, and last year the automaker introduced the 11th generation of a car that has dominated the midsize sedan segment for more than 30 years. A core product of the brand and recognized for its great reliability, the Camry has also always had the reputation of being a little “meh” to drive.

An exemplar of traditionalism and modesty in its designs, Toyota kind of threw out the playbook last year for the refont of the Camry. Taking inspiration from Lexus with the bolder presentation of its grille and livelier colours, the new Camry was warmly received, and with reason.

| Photo: D.Boshouwers

More-inspired driving
Beyond the more outgoing styling, the next-gen Camry is based on a new platform called TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) that offers a upgraded driving experience. A car that for a long time was seen as the plain white bread of the category now offers a positive and even inspired ride, thanks in large part to the V6 engine and the 301 hp it delivers.

For 2019, all versions now include compatibility with Apple CarPlay (though not yet Android Auto). All gas-fed models feature heated front seats, 8-way power driver seat, 7.0-inch display screen and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Dual-zone automatic climate control, Entune smartphone integration suite, 8.0-inch display, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, keyless passive entry, inductive charging and an auto-dimming mirror are part of the options.

| Photo: D.Boshouwers

Good choice of engines
Under the hood, the Camry once again offers three engine choices, starting with a 2.5Lr 4-cylinder that develops 203 or 206 hp and 184 or 186 lb-ft of torque, depending on the model.

Want more power? Upgrade to a 3.5L V6 for 301 hp and 267 lb-ft. Both are coupled to an 8-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.

The Camry Hybrid is still part of the range, combining a 4-cylinder engine with an electric motor for a total output of 208 hp.

All Camry models come standard with pre-collision detection, adaptive cruise control and auto-changeover headlamps, but not all-wheel drive.

| Photo: B.Charette / D.Boshouwers

Nissan Altima advantages
The availability of 4WD makes the Altima a more interesting model for Canadians. Nissan also includes more technology in its car than Toyota and the Android Auto app, still not available from Toyota. Finally, the next-gen zero-gravity seats are among the most comfortable in the category.

Toyota Camry advantages
The Camry offers more engine choices, including a V6 for performance enthusiasts and a hybrid model for those who want to do more for the environment. The Camry also has a very strong reputation for reliability and resale value.

| Photo: D.Boshouwers / B.Charette

In terms of base prices, fuel consumption with 4-cylinder gasoline engines and warranty coverage, both models are virtually the same.

Our verdict
Nissan's hard work to close the gap between its Altima and the Camry is commendable and has been at least partially successful. However, there are still some elements missing from the Altima before it can hope to dethrone the king of the castle. The Camry offers more mechanical choices and its ironclad reputation for reliability is now complemented by an enhanced driving experience.

It must be said that the arrival of 4WD in the Nissan Altima will tip the balance for many buyers. For the two models to be on truly level playing field, Nissan would need to introduce an Altima hybrid model and Toyota to include all-wheel drive on the Camry.

| Photo: B.Charette / D.Boshouwers

Nissan Altima

We liked

Standard AWD system
Spacious interior

We liked less

CVT transmission still noisy at high speed
Some unsightly plastics
No hybrid version

Toyota Camry

We liked

Better quality fit and finsh
Improved road behavior

We liked less

CVT transmission (hybrid version)
No AWD availability
No Android auto

| Photo: D.Boshouwers


... 2019 Nissan Altima   2019 Toyota Camry
 TransmissionCVT6-spd auto or CVT (hybrid)
  AWD (CVT)4-cylinder
 Fuel consumption (city)9.1L/100 km8.5L/100 km
 Fuel consumption (highway)6.5L/100 km6.0L/100 km
 Fuel consumption (city) 4.9L/100 km
 Fuel consumption (highway) 4.8L/100 km
 Fuel consumption (city) 4.9L/100 km
 Fuel consumption (highway) 4.8L/100 km
 Fuel tank61 litres60 litres
 Output182 hp203 hp (206 XSE)
 Torque178 lb-pi184 lb-pi (186 XSE)
 Cylinders4 cylinders4 cylinders
 Displacement2.5 litres2.5 litres
 Output 301 hp
 Torque 267 lb-pi
 Cylinders 6 cylinders
 Displacement 3,5 litres
 Puissance 208 hp
 Torque 163 lb-pi
 Cylinders 4 cylinders
 Displacement 2.5 litres
 Cargo space   436 litres427 litres
 Towing capacityN/AN/A
 Length4,877 mm4,880 mm
 Width1,852 mm1,840 mm
 Height1,455 mm1,445 mm
 Wheelbase2,824 mm2,825 mm
 Warranty3 years/60,000 km3 years/60,000 km
 Pricing   $27,998 to $34,998$28,350 to $41,090

Article by

Benoit Charette
Benoit Charette
Automotive expert
  • More than 30 years of experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 65 test drives last year
  • Attended more than 200 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists