Skip to main content

Midsize sedans once dominated the automotive industry. Models like the Alimta and Passat vied for a larger share of buyers in the overcrowded market. This segment’s heyday has passed, but the 2021 Nissan Altima and the 2021 Volkswagen Passat still garner respect.

Many shoppers ignore the Nissan Altima and VW Passat, opting for small SUVs instead. But should they? These midsize sedans feature fuel-efficient powertrains, cutting-edge technologies, and agile handling.

The most challenging decision is deciding whether the Altima or Passat is right for you. The 2021 Nissan Altima will get more attention due to its name recognition, but sometimes models are more popular for a reason. Let’s break down the differences between these sedans to see which one is the better buy.

There’s lots to love about the 2021 Nissan Altima

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

Few cars in its class are as well-rounded as the Altima. Nissan loaded this model with tons of technologies that drivers will appreciate. 

However, you may want to skip the base model (24,300 MSRP), as it doesn’t come standard with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Buyers will have to upgrade to the SV trim level ($25,400 MSRP) to get these smartphone mirroring systems.

However, all modes include an impressive assortment of driver-assistance technologies. These include front automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, driver drowsiness monitoring, and lane-departure warning. And unlike the 2021 Volkswagen Passat, the Altima has an available rear automatic emergency braking system.

Notably, VW equipped its midsize sedan with many standard safety features, as well. But the Passat isn’t the safest option in its class.

The Altima delivers versatile performance

The 2021 Nissan Altima is also one of the handful of midsize sedans that offers all-wheel drive. Why is this feature so important? AWD systems provide extra traction on slippery surfaces, making it essential for drivers who live in snowy areas. Meanwhile, the 2021 Volkswagen Passat only comes with front-wheel drive.

However, if AWD is your top priority, you may want to consider the Subaru Legacy over the Altima.

The Altima’s only downside is that you’ll have to choose between AWD or its impressive VC-Turbo engine. Unfortunately, Nissan only allows buyers to pair the Altima’s available AWD system with its standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. This drivetrain also reduces the powerplant’s horsepower from 188 to 182.

However, adventurous drivers will want to opt for the available variable-compression turbocharged engine. This powerplant is only available on the SR VC-Turbo trim ($30,650 MSRP), and it cranks out a thrilling 248 hp.

Meanwhile, the 2021 Volkswagen Passat’s 174-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine seems slow in comparison.

The 2021 Volkswagen Passat has style, lacks substance

A black 2021 Volkswagen Passat parked on a dirt road on display
The 2021 VW Passat in action | Photo via Volkswagen

Something is alluring about German-engineered vehicles, such as the new VW Passat. These models have a reputation for being fun to drive and having sophisticated style. However, the 2021 Volkswagen Passat doesn’t quite deliver on all fronts.

Car and Driver praised the 2021 Passat’s outward visibility and peaceful atmosphere in its review. However, the publication found the vehicle to be somewhat bland. It stated, “The Passat’s interior is handsome in a German, utilitarian way, but it’s lacking true inspiration to earn our full praise.”

Meanwhile, the 2021 Nissan Altima offers more flavor with more exciting exterior and interior colors. 

The 2021 Nissan Altima delivers more bang for your buck

There’s a lot of competition in the midsize sedan segment, so your buying decision is likely going to come down to value. The 2021 Nissan Altima absolutely delivers in this category. While its base trim is lackluster, its other trims are filled to the brim with cutting-edge technologies. 

Plus, Nissan offers a decent range of performance options, while the 2021 Volkswagen Passat only offers a single setup.


2021 Kia K5 vs. VW Passat: Does the Newbie Come Out on Top?