A gray 2020 Chevy Malibu is parked in front of a tan stone building.

Sedan Standoff: 2020 Chevy Malibu vs 2020 Nissan Altima

Of all the midsize sedans on the market today, two of the most iconic and highest performing in the category have to be the 2020 Chevy Malibu and the 2020 Nissan Altima. Both are made by great companies that mastered the sedan a long time ago and have continued the storied tradition of crafting great cars through today. The Malibu and the Altima are well known and loved for the way they handle, their robust functionality, and smooth style. What’s more, is that these models represent the best of what Chevy and Nissan have to offer. And while either is a solid choice for car buyers, you have to wonder, in a head to head competition, which of the two stacks up better than the other. So to put the debate to rest, here is a closer look at how the two compare.

About the Malibu

A red 2020 Chevy Malibu is parked in front of a brick building at night after winning the 2020 Chevy Malibu vs 2020 Nissan Altima comparison.

The first thing you’ll notice about the 2020 Chevy Malibu is that it comes in five different trims, each with a variety of different features and price points. If you are typically satisfied with the base model of a new car, then you will be extremely happy with both the price tag and the quality of the Malibu L. This base model trim starts at a very competitive $22,095 and comes standard with a 1.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine capable of generating 160 hp. The Malibu is also a very safe car (a theme you’ll notice throughout as we examine the five Malibu trims), boasting ten airbags, a rear vision camera, and LATCH for children’s seats.

The next trim up from the Malibu L is the LS, which includes all of the great features of the L plus a number of other upgrades. In addition to the same engine as the L, which has a combined fuel rating of 32 MPG, the LS comes with a compass and outside temperature display, an acoustic laminated windshield, and a suite of teen driving technologies to make sure your teenage children are safe while driving. The price for the LS isn’t staggering either, coming in at $23,220.

After the LS is the Malibu RS, which is even more loaded than the previous two trims. The RS boasts the same great features as the LS and an elegant black chrome grille, 18-inch aluminum wheels, and dual exhaust outlets. The starting price for the RS is $24,220. The Malibu LT is the fourth trim and starts at $26,620 and comes with LED daytime running headlights, heated seats, and body-color heated power-adjustable mirrors, so the car looks stylish all around. If you can spring for the fourth trim, you will be rewarded with not only a great car but a great looking one too.

The final trim is the Premium, and it is the only of the five Malibu trim that comes with the 2.0L turbocharged engine and 9-speed automatic transmission capable of generating 250 hp at a price of $33,320. In addition to the powerful engine, the Premium comes fully loaded with a long list of safety features that make it an unparalleled ride. But no matter which trim you are considering, the Malibu is an outstanding sedan from L to Premium and boasts great fuel ratings, advanced safety features, and an elegant, stylish look that is sure to turn heads.

Altima Overview

Like the Chevy Malibu, the 2020 Nissan Altima also comes in five different trims. The first Altima trim is the S. This base model has a 2.5L direct-injection 4-cylinder engine that generates 188 hp. While that is more powerful than the Malibu has, the extra power comes at quite the price increase. While the Malibu L starts at $22,095, the Altima S has a base price that is considerably higher at $24,100. What is tough for the S is that other than the slightly higher horsepower, there aren’t very many other differences to justify that price.

The second Altima trim is the SR, which also has a significantly higher price tag than the second Malibu trim. In this case, the Altima SR starts at $25,700 even though it gets the same combined fuel rating of 32 MPG that the Malibu gets. However, the SR actually has a higher price tag than even the Malibu RS (the third trim). Moving forward, the third Altima trim, the SV, comes with heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and LED headlights, in addition to a few other cosmetic improvements. Even though you don’t get heated seats on the Malibu until the fourth trim, that trim is still almost $2000 cheaper than the Altima SV, which starts at $27,880.

The next Altima trim is the SL and is very similar to the SV, but it does also come with leather seats and NissanConnect services. The starting price for the Altima SL is $30,240. And the fifth and final Altima trim is the Platinum, which includes 19” Aluminum wheels, and Intelligent Around View Mirror, among a few other slight upgrades. The price for the Platinum is $32,180.

It should be noted at this point, though, that both the Platinum and the SR come with an option 2.0L turbocharged engine capable of generating 248 hp. While this is slightly less powerful than the Malibu’s turbocharged engine, it makes the price jump significantly in the case of the Altima. When the SR has the turbocharged engine, the price is $29,750, and when it is under the hood of the Platinum, the price gets to $35,180.

While the Nissan Altima is undoubtedly a quality automobile, as you can see from analyzing all the trims and some of the different engine options and configurations, that quality comes at a price. And in some ways, the Malibu is better than the Altima, still at a better price.

A dark blue/gray 2020 Nissan Altima is shown from the front while driving in a city.

Price Is Important

The theme of price runs throughout any comparison of these two vehicles. From base model all the way up to the Premium and Platinum trims, the Chevy Malibu matches the Altima step for step in performance, quality, and user experience, but does so at a more affordable price point. The Malibu starts at just over $22,000 and peaks at $33,320 with reasonable steps all along the way, while the Altima starts at $24,300, and peaks at $35,180.

These are meaningful price differences and will have to be taken into account as we try to determine which of these two cars is the better buy.

Which to Choose: 2020 Chevy Malibu vs 2020 Nissan Altima

With similar performance metrics, engine outputs, and capabilities, it is hard to go wrong with either the 2020 Chevy Malibu or the Nissan Altima. Both cars offer a smooth, elegant driving experience and are sure to be reliable, dependable rides for a while. But as we have seen throughout, one of these cars, the Chevy Malibu, does all of this at a significantly discounted price. For that reason, it is the better buy.

With the 2020 Chevy Malibu, you will get a car with great fuel efficiency, a spacious interior, advanced safety features, incredible performance, and an excellent suite of infotainment technologies. It’s hard to say no to all of that. The Chevy Malibu is truly a great vehicle.