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Toyota and Nissan Are Both Practical, but the Winner Is a Clear Choice

Toyota and Nissan have swept through the United States in recent decades, becoming two of the world’s most popular car manufacturers. They’ve always been close competitors, each performing impressively in its own right. And for the most part, Toyota and Nissan vehicles are known for their reliability, value, and dependability. 

The experts at U.S. News pitted the two popular brands against each other, using each brand’s newest models in every segment to find out which will reign supreme after 2021. And according to the magazine’s “Nissan vs. Toyota: Battle of the Brands in 2021” analysis, the biggest surprise is that the battle isn’t even close.

What Nissan has over Toyota

Having taken the SUV segment by storm in recent years, Nissan makes some of the most reliable, tech-forward, and economical family SUVs. Nissan’s SUVs in subcompact, compact, midsize, and large segments rank among the highest of any brand and lightyears ahead of most Toyota SUVs. According to U.S. News, both the Nissan Kicks and Rogue Sport subcompact SUVs receive excellent reviews. They offer “plentiful cargo space” and a lengthy list of standard features. 

In the compact SUV segment, the Nissan Rogue truly shines, but it always has. It dominates as one of the best-rated SUVs, boasting a grand interior, impressive safety scores, and great fuel economy. Though Toyota’s Highlander and 4Runner outrank Nissan’s Murano and Pathfinder and ultimately win U.S. News’ midsize SUV battle, it’s a close call. The Nissan Armada and Toyota Sequoia are very similar large SUVs and rank closely with each other. But with better standard and interior features, the Armada wins the large SUV battle. Although it’s clear that Nissan is the king of SUVs, that might be where its reign ends.

Where Toyota shines brightest

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According to U.S. News’ rankings, the Toyota Tacoma isn’t the highest-scoring small truck in the segment, but its 7.2 overall score is significantly higher than the Nissan Frontier’s 6.9. And when it comes to full-size pickups, Nissan’s Titan can’t compete with the fan loyalty and dependability associated with the Tundra, which boasts a powerful engine and great predicted reliability ratings.

Toyota has been in the truck business much longer than Nissan, so it’s unsurprising Toyota would make a better truck. But that’s not where the wins stop for the automaker, edging out Nissan in every passenger car segment. Where U.S. News experts say the subcompact Nissan Versa “does not impress,” the Toyota Yaris ranks near the top of its class for its “combination of quality and value.” The long-standing Corolla sits at the top of its compact car segment, earning praise for its fuel economy and gentle ride. The compact Nissan Sentra, however, is one of the worst-rated cars in the segment.

The Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima are arguably the brands’ most-popular sedans. Both boast a smooth ride, good gas mileage, and great features. But the tried-and-true Camry takes the top spot in midsize car rankings, with the Altima falling slightly behind. Even the Nissan Maxima can’t compete with Toyota’s Avalon in the dwindling large car class.

There’s also no contest when it comes to hybrid/electric vehicles either. First of all, Nissan no longer offers electric SUVs for the new model year. This already puts Toyota in the lead for the electric SUV segment, but its well-ranked Highlander Hybrid, hybrid RAV4 models, and electric Venza are “powerful” and “comfortable,” U.S. News reports. And when it comes to electrified passenger cars, no brand can come close to competing with Toyota, which has led the way with its Prius, Camry Hybrid, and Corolla Hybrid. Even though Nissan’s Leaf is here to compete in the EV segment, “Toyota’s quality selection takes the class in this class.”

The only two vehicle segments that remain are minivan and sports car. Toyota easily wins the brand battle with its Toyota 86 sports car, which receives better scoring and reviews than the more-popular Nissan 370Z. And when it comes to minivans, Toyota wins by default simply because Nissan doesn’t offer one.

This brand clearly wins in 2021

Nissan clearly outshines Toyota in the SUV department, but it’s obvious the latter reigns supreme in nearly every other segment. And although Toyota wins most categories, it’s important to note it outranks Nissan only slightly. Not only is the competition continually close between these brands, but each also has its own specialty that keeps consumers and experts coming back year after year. While Nissan focuses its direction on the SUV-driven markets of today, Toyota looks toward an electric future.