If you ask someone what is the best entry/mid-level sports sedan on the market, odds are you will get one of three answers. The Toyota Camry, Honda Accord or the Nissan Altima. So I decided to compare all three and see for myself. I chose 3 cars of equal options, and trim packages. All three had navigation, leather, sunroof, CD player, heated power seats, power/heated mirrors, auto dimming rear view mirror, tilt and telescopic steering column, aluminum sport wheels and tint.
Honda Accord EX-L V-6 6MT$28,500244-hp, 3.0-liter, 24-valve SOHC VTEC® V-6 engineDrive-by-Wire™ throttle systemClose-ratio 6-speed manual transmissionDouble wishbone front suspensionFive-link double wishbone rear suspensionPower-assisted ventilated front disc/solid rear disc brakesFront side airbags with passenger-side Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS)Side curtain airbagsVehicle Stability Assist™ (VSA®) with traction controlBrake AssistAnti-lock braking system (ABS)Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD)Daytime Running Lights (DRL)Power moon roof with tilt featureSecurity systemExclusive 17″ alloy wheelsBody-colored heated power side mirrorsDual chrome exhaust finishersDual-zone automatic climate control systemCruise controlPerforated leather-wrapped steering wheelAluminum shift knob with perforated leatherIlluminated steering wheel-mounted cruise/audio controlsTilt and telescopic steering columnCarbon-fiber-look interior accentsMap lightsLeather-trimmed seats and door panel insertsHeated front seats180-watt AM/FM/6-disc in-dash CD premium audio system with 6 speakersXM® Satellite RadioMaintenance Minder™ system
Toyota Camry XLE $29,200Engine 3.5-liter DOHC 16-valveDual VVT-i V6268 hp @ 6200 rpm/248 lb.-ft. @ 4700 rpmIgnition Electronic, with Toyota Direct Ignition (TDI)Transmission 6-speed electronically controlled automatic overdrive with intelligence (ECT-i)Drivetrain Front engine, front-wheel driveBody construction Unitized body with front and rear vibration-dampening sub-framesSuspension
———-MacPherson strut front suspension with gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar; dual-link
———-independent MacPherson strut rear suspension with gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar
———-(SE adds sport-tuned shock absorbers and springs, strut tower and trunk-mounted braces)Steering Variable-assist power rack-and-pinionTurning circle diameter, curb to curb (ft.) 36.1Brakes Power-assisted ventilated front/solid rear disc4-channel 3-sensor Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD)Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with Traction Control (TRAC)
Nissan Altima 3.5SE $32,500VQ35DE – 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 Horsepower – 270 hp @ 6,000 rpm Torque – 258 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpmEmissions – Tier 2, Bin 5Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS)Variable Intake System Nissan Direct Ignition SystemIridium-tipped spark plugsElectronic drive-by-wire throttleVariable capacity mufflerEngine Balancer SystemDrivetrain
———-Front engine/front-wheel drive
———-6-speed manual transmissionTraction Control System (TCS)Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC)Brakes: 11.7″ Front vented disc/11.5″ rear disc brakes4-wheel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD)Suspension and Steering
———-Front: Independent subframe-mounted strut-type
———-Rear: Multi-link independent
Sport-tuned suspension – retuned struts/shocks, stiffer springs, and thicker front (24.2 mm) and rear (18.3 mm) stabilizer barsVehicle speed-sensitive power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering
The test drive track:
1. Six miles down the freeway.
2. A narrow curvy road
3. Next was a flat straight road.
4. Then into some nice S curves.
5. Then onto the freeway again for two miles.
Total trip, 15 miles.
The Nissan was clearly the winner here. With the manual transmission and wide torque band, it was a pleasure to drive. There was enough power to bake the tires at a stand still, and a quick downshift at 65 will have you leaping ahead of traffic. Through the turns, it was easy to keep at a good RPM, with a lot of useable torque. The Honda was not bad, with the lowest HP rating, but equipped with the manual transmission, it was a much nicer drive than the Camry. The Honda was very powerful from a stop, but lacked on the 65 mph downshift. It also did a decent job through the S curves with a nice acceleration on the way out. The Toyota places last in this category. The automatic transmission ate up any power it had, and made the car feel rather sluggish. Even with the “tiptronic” feature of the automatic, it was lacking through the S curves, and was unimpressive in the straight away.
The Nissan and Honda were both equipped with a six speed manual, and the Toyota only comes with a six speed automatic. No manual is available. Both the Nissan and Honda have a very soft clutch. This is nice for city driving, but the performance enthusiast in me likes a really stiff clutch. Toyota’s new “tiptronic” automatic style transmission was a big selling point to the salesman; however it has been a feature in Euro style delivery vans since 2001.
The Honda and Nissan was a tie in this category. All three were equipped with their own version of vehicle stability control. It was really difficult to feel the VDC in the Nissan. It did work, but was a little bit of a disappointment. It has very little body roll, and the torque steer problem is a thing of the past. The Honda’s VSA was amazing. When I hit the S curves it was noticeable and truly assisted in helping to keep the car on the road. It also has very little body roll, and stayed flat during the S curves. The Toyota’s VSC was almost as good as Honda’s but has a tendency to overcorrect the car in a turn. When coming out of the S curves into a straight line, it pulled the car to the right a little bit. The Toyota has a good suspension setup. It took the turns almost as well as the other two, but was falling just a little bit short.
All three were tested from 70-0 on dry pavement in the same location, flooring the brakes.Here is where the Toyota excelled. The Toyota stopped much sooner than the Honda or Nissan. I had no way to actually measure the distance, except for approximations in car lengths. The Toyota stopped 2.5 lengths before the Nissan, and 1.5 lengths before the Honda.
Once again, the Nissan tops them all. The styling inside the Altima is very sexy. It has all of your necessary features within arms reach. The quality of the leather is great, and it is soft supple leather. The seats are really comfortable also. All of the stereo controls were easily accessed from the steering wheel, and simple to use. I was surprised that the stock stereo sounded terrific. Usually a stock stereo leaves a lot to be desired. Nissan also had the only stock head unit that can read an MP3 disc. The instrument cluster was bright and easily readable, while not harsh on the eyes.The Honda is a close runner up. It also has everything within arms reach, but left a little to be desired in styling. The leather was not as soft as I would have liked, and the seats are a very firm comfort seat. The stereo controls on the wheel are a little awkward and it is easy to up the volume accidentally. The stock stereo is good, and the six disc in dash changer is a nice option. The one downside is the instrument cluster. It is easily readable, but is also an extremely bright white, with no dimmer switch, that I or the salesman could find.The Toyota, simply put, needs to redesign the entire interior. The leather and wood is nice, but the style is too open and plain. The dashboard is also extremely large, like that of a ‘91 Lumina minivan. That being said, the stereo is awesome, with a standard MP3 adapter and the touch screen display gives a little coolness to an otherwise bland interior. The instrument cluster is not as simple as the other two, and takes some getting used to.
The Nissan has liquid filled motor mounts, which makes for a quieter ride and a little less vibration than usual. It also has an incredibly big glove box. There is plenty of room to put a laptop and a large purse too. The Altima is also the only car with HID lighting. It was also equipped with push button start, and rearview camera for backing up.
The Honda has a six disc in dash CD changer, and no other really mentionable options.
The Toyota has a few notable options. The touch screen stereo was nice. There is a rear window sunshade that would be helpful if you have little ones in the backseat. The Toyota also was equipped with push button start.
All three had the super airbag setup, with driver and passenger, as well as side curtain bags. The Toyota did have a driver’s side knee airbag as well.
The Nissan was easily the number one choice for me. It combines awesome power and style with a touch of class. While it is a fair amount more than the other two, you truly do get what you pay for. It has a nice balance of weight, so it handles well, and all in all is a blast to drive. The cornering capabilities and acceleration put this far above my expectations.The extra options are really a great feature as well. I liked the back-up camera, and appreciate HID lighting.
The Honda finishes a close second. Honda truly gives you a lot of car for the money. It is powerful, and handles great. The price is nice and you get what you pay for in this car also. It doesn’t have any thing “extra” but is not missing much either. It drives and corners well, and accelerates well, for the engine’s size.
The Toyota is a good car for someone who doesn’t care about performance or style. Toyota has made some good changes to the exterior, but the interior is still a sad sight. This car would be good for someone who is not looking for performance, and needs a family sedan. While it is a fairly comfortable and roomy car, I expected much more, in terms of styling and performance.
Review by:Noah (Beancooker) – Maxima Moderator