A blue 2021 Nissan Altima is shown from the front driving on a city street.

2021 Nissan Altima vs 2022 Chevy Malibu: Which Sedan Keeps Parents Feeling Hip?

It’s easy to do basic comparisons between different types of vehicles with the express purpose of trying to figure out which one provides more horsepower and torque or which one offers more cargo volume and passenger space. But there’s also another very important component to car culture that can’t be ignored when it comes to vehicles designed for families: which one looks cooler and which one still makes you feel hip and young as a parent? When it comes to the 2021 Nissan Altima vs 2022 Chevy Malibu, they both do similar things quite well, but if you were interested in a sedan that didn’t make you feel like you were getting old and ready to settle down into a minivan, you might be wondering which one keeps you feeling youthful?

That’s the topic we’re going to explore here today. Maybe you’ll come away with a little bit of knowledge to help you when it comes to exploring the possibility of bringing a sedan into your life. It might also help illuminate ideas on how to approach a vehicle for your budding family while still retaining a sense of cool about you.

A red 2022 Chevy Malibu is shown parked on the side of a city street.

Which Has a Cooler Appearance?

When it comes to exterior designs and rating a vehicle on how “cool” it looks and how “hip” it is according to modern-day sensibilities, it may be difficult to gauge given that trends are always shifting and changing with the ebb and flow of automotive culture. What’s hip today is old news tomorrow, and what’s old news tomorrow could be hip again a week after that. Luckily, in the case of the 2021 Nissan Altima vs the 2022 Chevy Malibu, it’s pretty clear from the exterior designs of both vehicles that one leans more into the youthful sports-centric appeal than the other.

The Nissan Altima certainly steps out in front with a more robust exterior design. The large and imposing grille on the front and the dual-color accents lining the front, the roofline, and the rear all help accentuate a slightly futuristic and sporty feel for the Altima. The multiple notches in the rear bumper and the dual exhaust also help differentiate the Altima from other sedans on the market. The inclusion of a few standout paint schemes helps a lot as well, such as the Scarlet Ember Tintcoat, Sunset Drift ChromaFlair, and the Deep Blue Pearl. There’s a sense of liveliness about the Altima, which gives it a nice edge in the presentation department.

This isn’t to say that the 2022 Chevy Malibu is entirely boring by comparison, but I suppose we could say that it does look a little less attractive by comparison. The front and rear fascia are a lot more conservative than the Altima. The front grille is large but also largely forgettable. The headlights are functional but hardly catchy like the Altima. The Malibu is perfectly suited for being a completely safe bet when it comes to functional form. But if you were hoping to drive a sedan that doesn’t make you feel old, then the Malibu may not do much to change that frame of mind.

Now there is a silver lining to the sleekness and more aesthetically pleasing design of the Altima. It gives up just a little bit of passenger and cargo volume in comparison to the Malibu. It’s not much, but the Malibu does offer 2.1-cubic inches more passenger volume than the Altima and 0.3-cubic feet of additional cargo volume over the Altima. This is because the Altima has a slightly leaner roofline and is incrementally shorter than the Malibu by 1.2-inches. This may not seem like much, but the lean looks of the Altima sacrifices fractions of cargo and passenger volume. If that means more to you than looking cool in a mid-size family sedan, then it’s something to consider. But if you want to rock the modern look with a dash of hipness, the Altima definitely wins out.

Which Feels Less Like a Sedan and More Like a Sports Car?

One of the biggest drawbacks to embracing adulthood is that you have to sacrifice the low-riding convertible with the peppy acceleration or the grumbling eight-cylinder muscle car for something more family-oriented. This oftentimes includes a fully-featured sedan, SUV, or minivan. In this case, the comparison is between the 2021 Nissan Altima vs the 2022 Chevy Malibu. We’re talking about which one retains more of the youthful characteristics that appeal to adults who want to keep hold of something fun and enticing while being responsible parents.

Once again, this is a fight the Chevy Malibu just can’t seem to come out on top of. Why? Well, it comes with a standard 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder as the base, which only generates 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The Premier trim gives you a little more oomph to work with in the form of a 9-speed automatic paired up with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that tops out at 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Not bad by a long shot, but compared to the base Altima and the top-end turbocharged Altima, the Malibu is left wanting.

By comparison, you have 188 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque in the base trim, thanks to a 2.5-liter 16-valve 4-cylinder. The SV-Turbo trim of the Altima comes with a 2.0-liter VC-Turbo 4-cylinder that manages 248 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. So if you wanted that extra pep in the step, the Altima’s performance is just overall better. Also, select trims come with all-wheel drive, which helps improve grip and traction, making for a more controlled and varied ride. While neither sedan is attempting to compete with other sports cars at the top-end of their segment, the Altima definitely comes closer to providing slightly more explosive power on the road than the Malibu.

The rear of a orange 2021 Nissan Altima is shown from a high angle.

Your Perfectly Hip Sedan Is…The 2021 Nissan Altima.

Both the Altima and Malibu have the standard interior accouterments and materials to make for a comfortable ride with the latest in technology and safety, but for parents not wanting to feel like they’ve officially resigned away their youth, the Altima is definitely the better option. It looks a little sportier and gives you more performance for your buck for each trim compared to the Malibu. Both vehicles do have enough modern sensibilities that they’re certainly safe picks for most people looking for a sedan that feels more contemporary than some of the other options out there. This rings especially true for the Altima. With the different and unique color options, as well as the sharper lines and front and rear fascia, it just cries hip.

Now, this probably isn’t the kind of vehicle that will make you look cool in front of your teenager’s high-school friends, who might be more in awe of something like a Corvette Stingray or Challenger Hellcat. But there’s no doubt that the Altima will at least carry with it that executive air to make you seem younger and more important than you might actually be feeling. That’s all assuming this is something you actually care about. So if you wanted to prove you can still kick it with the young ones while chaperoning your own children around, the Altima seems to be the hipper of the two mid-size sedans.