2013 Nissan Altima SV vs. 2013 Honda Accord EX

By Zack Klapman and edited by Christina Selter.

Math vs. Art: To some, a car is like toothpaste: they all whiten and clean, so just grab the cheapest tube and lets go home. Crest is Colgate. Dasani is Fiji. A person like that would look at these two cars for 5 seconds and buy the Altima. Why? Because on paper the 2013 Honda Accord EX and 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV are basically the same car.

Same length, wheelbase, transmission type (CVT), braking performance, horsepower (Basically. 185hp in the Honda, 182hp in the Nissan), and 0-60 time (after which, the Accord pulls away). Both cars have Bluetooth, NAV, power windows, and tires. Roominess differs by only 1”, the winner depending on which row you’re in.

2013 Nissan Altima Sedan

Some might be swayed by engine size (The Altima has 2.5 liters, the Accord 2.4), but that’s like choosing Ashley Olsen over Mary Kate because she’s 2-minutes older, and so, more mature. I’ve seen greater disparities between sunflower seeds.

“Oh, the Altima has 3 more MPG highway, that’s supposed to be easier on your enamel.” The final criteria of course: price. The Altima starts at $24,880, and our tester wasn’t even $200 more than that. That makes the Accord the ultra-pro-eco-green-mint then; it costs $26,165. Box in basket, head for checkout.

2013 Nissan Altima Sedan

If you look at cars the way I see toothpaste, you would (and should) buy the Altima.

I am not this kind of person (obviously, or I wouldn’t have this job), and that’s why I noticed some un-quantifiable yet absolutely essential differences between these two cars that ignore math in the name of art.

For example, although the Nissan Altima’s and Honda Accord’s seats (much improved over past generations btw) are both cloth, the Nissan’s material felt like a synthetic velour. It was the kind of fabric you use to make a Snuggie, and although it was Downey-soft, I’m afraid to see what it looks like in 5 years.

2013 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Sedan

The Honda’s interior looks smart, levelheaded I guess. Functionality is paramount but there’s style there; a miner who still brushes his teeth before each shift in the darkness. Everything was easy to find and use, and the design will look good for a few more years. The gauges are very simple, bordering on dated, but they look mechanical, like a much cheaper copy of those in an Aston, refreshing as our cluster become LCDs.

Whereas the 2013 Nissan Altima is functional to a fault: features aplenty but no overall style that I could see. It’s like your kid put on one piece of your clothing from each era you’ve been alive. Although equally as usable as its rival, it screams “rental” to me. Dull panels meet gaudy ones. The glittery center invites dollar bills and underwear. In the Honda I accepted my role as responsible shopper the way you do when you buy comfortable shoes to spare your knees, enjoying the softness. The Nissan Altima was just confusing. Ditto for the exterior. (To be fair, you need a taxonomy degree to notice the differences between the 2013 and 2012 Accord species.)

2013 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Sedan

On the road, the 2013 Honda Accord EX was superior, even fun. It’s 160lbs heavier, but it feels lighter. The Nissan’s steering feel was nice and heavy, but the Honda’s tires are better communicators, and its slightly more forward weight distribution made a tangible difference on the twisting Angeles Crest Highway. The nose feels low and tracks well, and it has much less body roll than the SV. Though these cars are dimensionally similar, if you closed your eyes and drove them, you’d be able to tell them apart as easy as a mother can her twins.

Since this test-drive, a friend of mine bought an Altima SV, and she loves it. It is everything she wanted from a car, she likes how it feels, rides, and looks. She loves her car, and math is on her side: It’s more efficient and costs less. If you drive both cars, and see them as equals, the tiebreaker will simply be mathematical.

2013 Nissan Altima Sedan

But for me it would be visual, and tactile.

(Note: All vehicles provided by manufacturers for comparison test purposes. Photos provided by Honda and Nissan.)