2021 Subaru Legacy vs. Nissan Altima: A Battle of Unconventional Sedans

Checking out ‘best of’ lists is a smart way to begin your car-shopping journey. However, that will only get you so far. Sometimes, the perfect model for you might not be critically acclaimed. Instead, you may find an unconventional vehicle, such as the 2021 Subaru Legacy or the 2021 Nissan Altima, might be the better option.

These two midsize sedans aren’t segment leaders, but both appeal to a specific audience. The Legacy and Altima offer all-wheel-drive systems that provide better traction on snow-covered and rain-soaked roads. Meanwhile, other top competitors, such as the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, and Mazda6, don’t offer AWD systems at all.

It can be tough to find a practical sedan for driving in a snowy area. That’s why getting behind the wheel of the Legacy or Altima might give you more peace of mind.

Does an affordable, AWD-equipped sedan sound appealing to you? If so, you’ll likely be taking a long, close look at the 2021 Subaru Legacy and 2021 Nissan Altima. That’s why we’re breaking down the differences between these models, so you can ensure that you’re making the right choice.

What we love about the 2021 Subaru Legacy

A blue 2021 Subaru Legacy parked in front of a building
The 2021 Subaru Legacy on display | Photo via Subaru

Many consumers often overlook Subaru sedans. However, there is quite a bit to like about these models. For instance, the Legacy is extremely safe, having been named a Top Safety Pick + by the IIHS. It comes standard with an array of driver-assistance systems, including automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. New for the 2021 model year, Subaru made adaptive headlights standard equipment on the Legacy, making it safer than ever.

While we love to rave about its safety features, the 2021 Subaru Legacy is also a pretty exciting car to drive. It comes standard with a 182-hp 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder engine that achieves a fuel-efficient 30 MPG city/highway combined. 

Thanks to its efficient engine, you’ll save on gas. However, shoppers might be even more impressed with the car’s price. The 2021 Subaru Legacy’s base trim has a starting MSRP of just $22,895. Best of all, every Legacy comes standard with AWD. Meanwhile, 2021 Nissan Altima buyers will need to go up to the $25,400 SV trim (or above) and then pay an extra $1,400 to get an AWD setup. Although, it is standard on the Altima’s top trim. 

But if you’re willing to pay a premium for a fun drive, then we’d recommend getting the available 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer four-cylinder engine. This powerplant kicks out 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque, bringing a whole new level of performance to this otherwise tame car. The downside is that it’ll cost you an arm and a leg. The Limited XT is the lowest trim to offer this engine, and it has a starting MSRP of $34,445.

What we love about the 2021 Nissan Altima

A silver 2021 Nissan Altima driving down a highway road
The 2021 Nissan Altima in action | Photo via Nissan

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If you’re looking for a roomy, comfortable ride, then you can’t go wrong with the Altima. Kelley Blue Book’s review of the 2021 Nissan Altima proves just how great this model is for drivers with long commutes. The publication stated, “The Altima’s seats are all-day comfortable, arguably the best available in a mass-market mainstream midsize sedan.”

Like its rival, the Altima is a safe sedan, having also earned Top Safety Pick + honors. However, the 2021 Subaru Legacy received higher scores in headlights and front-crash prevention: vehicle-to-pedestrian.

Meanwhile, the 2021 Nissan Altima’s base 188-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is a bit more potent than the Legacy’s standard offering. However, it delivers six fewer hp when equipped with AWD. Meanwhile, the available 248-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine isn’t compatible with the AWD at all. But at least this high-performance model is more affordable than that of its rival. The Altima SR VC-Turbo has a starting MSRP of just $30,650.

Which AWD-equipped sedan wins?

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You can’t go wrong with either the 2021 Subaru Legacy or the 2021 Nissan Altima. However, the Legacy is just too good of a deal to pass up. Its lower starting price and standard AWD system will save you thousands of dollars upfront. 

Meanwhile, the Altima’s base trim is pretty bare-bones, as it doesn’t even come standard with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. In the end, the final verdict comes down to finances. You’ll need to pay nearly $4,000 extra to get an AWD-equipped Altima than it would cost to buy a similarly configured Legacy.