Nissan considers the Maxima a full-size sedan and the Altima a midsize sedan. The pricier Maxima packs a more powerful engine than the Altima and offers more features and sleeker design. But is the Maxima actually larger than its supposedly smaller sibling? Let’s compare.
The 2021 Nissan Maxima
The Nissan Maxima earns 9.9 out of 10 in safety and a 4 out of 5 in reliability from U.S. News. However, the publication points out the Maxima isn’t as agile as other full-size sedans, even with its “potent” 300-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine and continuously variable transmission. The Maxima gets 20/30 mpg city/highway, Nissan shows.
With a starting MSRP of $37,090, the Maxima is entering into luxury sedan territory. Distinctions such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+ and J.D. Power‘s #1 in Driver Appeal in its segment three years in a row make this sedan’s price more appealing.
The Nissan Maxima also receives high marks from U.S. News for its user-friendly infotainment system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration also come standard.
The 2021 Nissan Altima
Compared to the Nissan Maxima, the smaller Altima scored better in the interior category with 6.8 out of 10, compared with the Maxima’s 6.5 out of 10. This discrepancy could be due to better space utilization and better rear-seat comfort in the Altima. Performance is another category where the Altima scores higher, with a 7.6 out of 10 compared to Maxima 7.1. With its smaller four-cylinder engine, the Altima’s superior performance score is surprising but likely due to its 357-pound weight savings. Plus, it gets an impressive 27 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, Nissan claims.
However, the Altima didn’t score as well as the Maxima in safety and reliability. Though the Maxima was nearly perfect in its safety tests, the Altima didn’t perform as well in the IIHS‘s pedestrian avoidance test by reducing rather than preventing pedestrian impacts at 25 mph. U.S. News gave the Altima average reliability ratings due to J.D. Power‘s reports, which gather data from verified Altima owners regarding reliability, quality, and resale values.
Starting at $24,350, the base-model Nissan Altima also lacks the substantial standard features the base Maxima provides, including adaptive cruise control, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.
The smaller sedan is actually larger
The Maxima’s exterior dimensions measure 192.8 inches long, 73.2 inches wide, and 56.5 inches tall, Nissan‘s product page shows. And the Altima measures 192.9 inches long, 72.9 inches wide, and 56.7 inches tall, Nissan shows. That means the midsize Altima is actually longer and taller than its supposedly full-size sibling. Granted, the Maxima is 0.3 inches wider.
And with 15.4 cubic feet of trunk capacity, the 2021 Altima offers average cargo capacity among midsize sedans. It can accommodate larger items with its rear seats folded. On the other hand, the full-size Nissan Maxima offers a below-class-average 14.3 cubic feet of cargo space. However, the Maxima’s trunk space is relatively open, allowing easy access to the available space, and the seats fold down as in the Altima. Realistically, the Altima has 1.1 cubic feet more cargo space, or the equivalent of about two grocery bags.
As for passenger space, the Altima offers 100.8 cubic feet without a moonroof. The Maxima provides 98.5 cubic feet — more than two cubic feet less than its supposedly smaller sibling.
The main differences between these two Nissan sedans are the Altima’s superior rear seating, roomier trunk, and better fuel efficiency and the Maxima’s sportier performance, abundant standard features, and superior safety and reliability ratings.
But if you’re looking for the largest Nissan sedan, you’d be surprised to learn the midsize Altima is actually larger than the supposedly full-size Maxima.