Nissan Altima vs. Volkswagen Passat

The midsize sedan market is where many automakers make their ‘bill money’. Companies like Honda and Toyota practically finance their entire operation from their white-hot midsize sedans (Accord/Camry). So if you want your middling cruiser to compete, it’d better be darn good.

The reason that those two cars are considered the family sedan Gold Standard is because of their ability to be all things to all men/women. Each can be had in a luxury trim for mom, a sport flavor for dad or a ‘value edition’ for all of the accountants/math teachers. But regardless of the Camry / Accord flavor that you choose, you’ll be treated to a very nice car.

So for this car comparison, we’re going to look at two midsize contenders and find out if they’re viable alternatives to the Toyonda Gold Standard, or just wannabe’s.

2013 Nissan Altima

In 2011, the Nissan Altima was the 4th best selling car in America. It was nimble, comfortable, and thrifty. But it lacked the luxury-level refinement found in competitors like the Accord and Sonata. Chief among the complaints were the hard-plastic interior, and low-tech options list

2013 Nissan Altima

But that’s all changed on the 2013 Nissan Altima. Having been completely redesigned, Nissan’s new bread & butter car features a luxurious soft-touch interior, and lots of high-tech goodies. The outside gets muscular angles derived from the Nissan Maxima, along with liberal lashings of chrome. Overall, the 2013 Nissan Altima presents like a more expensive car, and that upscale theme continues on the inside.

While the old Altima wasn’t exactly a Bangkok taxi on the inside, the interior on the 2013 Nissan Altima is noticeably better. There’s lots of soft-touch material on the dash, door panels, and center console. Metallic trim around the dash and doors adds a luxurious feel. And the fake wood trim on the top-line 2013 Nissan Altima SL actually looks and feels like real wood.

Technophiles will appreciate the large color LCD screen between the gauges, the touchscreen audio interface, and the cross-traffic warning system.

One of the best qualities of the Nissan Altima has always been the way that it drives, and that’s actually been improved upon for 2013. Now 80 lbs lighter than the outgoing model, the 2013 Nissan Altima manages to feel athletic and responsive in the curves, without sacrificing ride quality. And yes, steering and brakes are still fantastic.

Powering the 2013 Nissan Altima are heavily revised versions of the familiar 2.5 liter 4-pot, and 3.5 liter V6. Thanks to less friction, the 2.5 makes 182-hp and achieves best in class fuel economy of 27 city / 38 hwy / 31 comb. The sportier 3.5 V6 makes 270-hp and gets 22/31/25. Both engines are backed by Nissan’s excellent CVT automatic transmission.

2013 Volkswagen Passat

2013 Volkswagen Passat

German cars offer a level of luxurious satisfaction that Asian and American cars just can’t match. You get responsive driving dynamics, luxurious amenities, and sophisticated style. German cars are usually expensive, but more often than not, they’re worth it.

Until recently, such a car would’ve been well outside of most people’s budget. But the People’s Car Company has decided to make such Germanic luxury affordable. Thus the 2013 Volkswagen Passat gets a starting price of $20k, and lots of room to haul your big American backside.

Redesigned just last year, the American Made 2013 Volkswagen Passat has ample interior room, luxurious amenities, and a uniquely German feel. The ride is firm, yet completely comfortable. The interior is awash European style, and premium feeling materials. The outside looks fantastically expensive. And the engine bay can be filled with several brilliant motivational devices.

2013 Volkswagen Passat interior

To be clear, you want to avoid the coarse 2.5 liter 5-cyl. For 20-grand, that’s lump you get under the hood of the 2013 VW Passat. Spend a little more coin and you can have the throaty 280-hp 3.6 liter V6 (20/28/23). Or a few more pennies will get you the 140-hp 2.0 turbo diesel.

In oil-burning guise (diesel’s are usually referred to as ‘oil-burners’ due to the similarity between diesel fuel and crude oil), the 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI can achieve an impressive 31 city / 43 hwy / 35 comb with the 6-speed manual (!!!), and 30/40/34 with the 6-speed DSG. Most owners report even better fuel economy, which means that you can get hybrid fuel economy, without the hybrid sticker shock-price. Plus, this torque-tastic little mill is a hoot to drive.

Bottom Line Nissan Altima vs. Volkswagen Passat

To sum up our midsize car comparison: If you want a nice family car, that’ll make you feel ‘fancy’ every time you drive it, then go for a 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI. But if you want to blend into Suburbia, while enjoying the best that Nissan has to offer, then you might want to opt for the 2013 Nissan Altima. Either way, these two cars are brilliant alternatives to the Toyonda twins.