A closeup shows the grille of a white 2020 Ford Fusion.

Midsize Sedan Faceoff: 2020 Ford Fusion vs 2020 Nissan Altima

One of the most venerable vehicle classes is the midsize sedan. These four-door wonders can carry up to five passengers comfortably, yet have the fuel economy and ease of parking that drivers love in compact cars. Sure, there are plenty of SUVs and pickup trucks on the market, but there is something comforting and comfortable about driving a sedan. In my time, I’ve driven plenty of midsize sedans, whether they were ones I owned or rented when I went on vacation. Simply put, these are not all alike. Much like the 2020 Ford Fusion and the 2020 Nissan Altima are not alike. Some just get it right, mixing style and luxury with comfort and performance.

Taking a long road trip in one of these cars makes driving fun, so much so that you arrive at your destination feeling like you only just left. But when the automakers don’t get it right, you may encounter one of many problems. The interior may be too cramped. The trunk may lack adequate capacity for your luggage. The exterior might be too cumbersome, making parking a real headache. Sometimes, the engine doesn’t have enough pickup or is not energy efficient, so you end up spending too much time waiting in line at the gas pump.

However, two that seemed to have gotten the design right are the 2020 Ford Fusion and the 2020 Nissan Altima. Both are affordable, offer comfortable seating, and have looks that are sporty and classic at the same time. In addition, both offer their manufacturers’ respective infotainment systems so you and your passengers can be entertained while staying connected through Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Still, when you compare the 2020 Ford Fusion vs 2020 Nissan Altima, you will see some differences that should help you make up your mind when you are shopping for your next midsize sedan.

Trims and Price Points

The 2020 Ford Fusion comes in four different trims, with the Fusion S having an MSRP of $23,170. This is followed by the SE with an MSRP of $24,500, the SEL with an MSRP of $28,690, and the top-of-the-line Titanium for an MSRP of $34,340. The Ford Fusion also offers four hybrid trims. The Hybrid SE starts at $28,000 MSRP, the Hybrid SEL at $31,630, the Hybrid Titanium at $34,595, and the Plug-In Hybrid Titanium starts at $35,000.

The 2020 Nissan Altima has seven different trims, with the Altima S having a starting MSRP of $24,300, the SR with an MSRP of $25,900, the SV with MSRP of $28,140, the SR VC-Turbo with an MSRP of $29,750, the SL with MSRP of $30,240, the top trim Platinum having an MSRP of $32,400, and the Platinum VC-Turbo with a starting MSRP of $35,180.

As you can see, the base model Fusion is almost $1,000 less than the comparable Altima model.

A man is walking towards a red 2020 Nissan Altima after losing the 2020 Ford Fusion vs 2020 Nissan Altima comparison.

Powertrains and Performance

There are three different engine options on the 2020 Ford Fusion. The Fusion S comes with a 2.5-liter Duratec i-VCT gas engine that produces 175 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. The other three trims offer a choice of two engines. The standard is a very efficient 1.5-liter Ti-VCT I-4 EcoBoost gas engine. This produces 181 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. The other engine is a powerful 2.0-liter Ti-VCT I-4 EcoBoost gas engine. This produces an incredible 245 hp (with premium fuel) and 275 lb-ft of torque. The hybrid engine options include the 2.0L Atkinson-Cycle 1-4 Hybrid Engine or Plug-In Hybrid Engine with 141 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque. Every engine on the Ford Fusion features a 6-speed automatic transmission.

The 2020 Nissan Altima comes with one of two gas engines. All models feature a 2.5-liter Direct Injection DOHC 4-cylinder gas engine. This produces 182-188 hp and 178-180lb-ft of torque. Drivers can choose an upgrade on the SRV and Platinum trims of the Altima for a more powerful 2.0-liter Variable Compression Turbo DOHC 4-cylinder gas engine that produces 236-248 hp and 267-273 lb-ft of torque. Each engine on the Altima is paired with an Xtronic CVT. This is a continuously variable transmission, which does not have set engine speeds but rather constantly adjusts the engine on the Nissan depending on driving conditions.

As you can see, each of the engine options on the Ford Fusion are more powerful than the comparable engine option on the Nissan Altima with the Hybrid engine in the Ford Fusion being the outlier. In addition, there have been complaints that the Xtronic CVT gives the engine on the Altima a choppy ride as the engine is always adjusting to speed instead of cruising in gear like the 6-speed automatic transmission on the Ford Fusion. Finally, while both the Fusion and Altima are front-wheel drive standard with an all-wheel drivetrain available as an option, Nissan does not offer all-wheel drive on the 2.0-liter Turbo. So, if you want an engine upgrade, you cannot also get all-wheel drive. This can be a big tradeoff if you live in an area with snow and ice in winter.

Standard Safety Features

Drivers are increasingly seeing the benefit of safety features on their cars. This is especially so with the advent of active features that utilize radar, navigation, and camera technologies to help you avoid crashes altogether. Both Ford and Nissan are to be commended for loading up their midsize sedans with many of these great safety features, as it shows both automakers are committed to the safety of their customers and passengers. Nevertheless, it is clear that the 2020 Ford Fusion has more standard safety features than the 2020 Nissan Altima.

If you buy the 2020 Ford Fusion S or 2020 Nissan Altima S, both the base models of these cars, you will get plenty of airbags, child safety locks, a tire pressure monitoring system, a rearview camera, hill start assist, and stability and traction control.

The Altima adds three elements of the Nissan Driver Assistance Technology: intelligent forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and intelligent driver alertness. Each of these will increase the safety of you and your passengers. However, they don’t go as far as the 2020 Ford Fusion.

Ford has included on all 2020 Fusions a full 9 different safety features and equipment from its Ford Co-Pilot 360 Technology. This includes the previously mentioned rearview camera and hill start assist. The additional features include blind spot information with cross-traffic alert. This helps you to avoid collisions when changing lanes. Rain-sensing wipers will automatically turn on and off as you pass through inclement weather, getting rid of another distraction when driving. Pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection will help you avoid or lessen the impact of a crash especially with pedestrians. Brake assist increases the force of your braking when you are avoiding a crash. The auto-high beam headlights automatically turn on and off depending on road conditions and oncoming traffic. Finally, the SOS post-crash alert will help you and your passengers in the unfortunate event of an accident. Each of these helps to make the 2020 Ford Fusion one of the safest sedans on the road.

A blue 2020 Ford Fusion is parked in front of a hazy city.

Roominess and Capacities

Both the 2020 Ford Fusion and 2020 Nissan Altima have good-sized trunks, although the one on the Fusion is slightly larger. The Fusion has room for 16 cubic feet of cargo in its trunk, while the Altima has 15.4 cubic feet of space in its trunk, giving a slight advantage to the Fusion.

While both cars have roomy interiors with comfortable seats, the folks at Ford have done a more efficient job of designing the passenger cabin. The front rows of the Fusion and Altima are fairly comparable, with the Ford providing a little more space for you and whoever you choose to ride shotgun. In the front row of the Fusion, passengers will enjoy 39.6 inches of headroom, 44.3 inches of legroom, 57.8 inches of shoulder room, and 55 inches of hip room, while front-row riders in the Altima will have 39.2 inches of headroom, 43.8 inches of legroom, 58.2 inches of shoulder room, and 54.7 inches hip room. This means there is no reason for anyone to complain about feeling cramped.

With respect to roominess, the issue between the two cars arises in the rear seat. Both are advertised as fitting three passengers in the back, but it is clear that folks in the Altima may feel a little cramped. The Altima only offers 36.9 inches of headroom, 35.2 inches of legroom, 57.1 inches of shoulder room, and 54.5 inches hip room to passengers who are sitting in the back. This is in marked contrast to the Fusion, which gives rear-seat passengers 27.8 inches of headroom, 38.7 inches of legroom, 56.9 inches of shoulder room, and 54.4 inches of hip room. Those extra three and a half inches of legroom are going to make a big difference for your passengers sitting in the back of your 2020 Ford Fusion.

Both of these cars give you a great midsize sedan with the comfort and ride you can enjoy while out for a drive. But, while both cars are very good sedans, the 2020 Ford Fusion will give you better overall performance, more roominess, and additional safety features at a more affordable price than the 2020 Nissan Altima.