A pale blue 2022 Nissan Altima is shown from the front while driving during a 2022 Nissan Altima vs 2022 Subaru Legacy comparison.

The Space Race: The 2022 Nissan Altima vs the 2022 Subaru Legacy

Back in the Sixties, two great powers engaged in a space race, trying to be the first to safely land people on the Moon. Brave astronauts and courageous cosmonauts put it all on the line to be the first ones in space. This is not unlike what has been happening in the years since the first person landed on the Moon in 1969. Two of the most innovative automakers, Nissan and Subaru, have been competing to be at the top of crafting the most technologically advanced models at an incredibly affordable price. This is probably why they continue to produce industry-leading midsize sedans at a time when so many other automakers have gotten scared off. In comparing the 2022 Nissan Altima vs 2022 Subaru Legacy, we see a pair of midsize sedans with much to offer in performance and space.

Subaru first started building the Legacy in 1989, while Nissan launched the Altima four years later in 1993. Today, the 2022 Nissan Altima is in its sixth generation, which hit the road in 2019, while the Subaru Legacy came out with its seventh generation one year later in 2020. Let’s take a deeper look at these exceptional vehicles and see why both models dominate the midsize sedan market.

A Variety of Powertrains to Launch These Two Midsize Sedans

Arguably the most important feature of a motor vehicle is its powertrain. This combination of engine and transmission powers your sedan, determining such key factors as acceleration and fuel economy. Interestingly, Nissan and Subaru decided to offer drivers a choice of engines on their respective midsize sedans. This is important because the base engine on each vehicle offers the best fuel economy, while the available engine is more for performance.

The base engine on the 2022 Nissan Altima is a 2.5-liter I-4 gas engine. This utilizes a dual overhead camshaft (DOHC) design, with 16 valves feeding the engine’s four cylinders. It also has direct fuel injection, which produces 188 hp at 6,000 rpm and 180 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm. If you opt for the available Intelligent All-Wheel Drive, the engine’s output will drop slightly to 182 hp at 6,000 rpm and 178 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm.

Subaru offers the same size for its base engine on the 2022 Legacy. This is a 2.5-liter Boxer 4-cylinder engine. It also has a DOHC design with 16 valves for its four cylinders. This direct fuel injection engine’s output is slightly less than that of the 2022 Altima, producing 182 hp at 5,800 rpm and 176 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. All models of the 2022 Subaru Legacy feature standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, so you don’t have to choose this for your car.

Interestingly enough, Nissan and Subaru have taken a similar approach with the optional engine, adding a turbocharger on a smaller engine than the one that comes standard on the sedan. The 2022 Altima SR features a 2.0-liter Variable Compression Turbo I-4 gas engine. It also has a DOHC configuration, with the ability to deliver 236 hp at 5,600 rpm and 267 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. If you opt to use higher octane gas, the output increases to 248 hp at 5,600 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque. This model of the 2022 Nissan Altima only comes with front-wheel drive.

The 2022 Subaru Legacy Limited XT and Touring XT models feature a 2.4-liter turbocharged I-4 gas engine. Just like the other engines, this one has a DOHC configuration, which allows it to produce 260 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 277 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 to 4,000 rpm.
Nissan and Subaru have opted for the same type of transmission on their midsize sedans. The Nissan Altima pairs its four-cylinder engines with an Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), while the 2022 Subaru Legacy has a Lineartronic CVT. This replaces standard gear speeds with a transmission that constantly adjusts the engine’s performance to better suit driving conditions.

A silver 2022 Subaru Legacy Sport is shown from the front at an angle while parked on a coastal road.

The Need for Speed

Maybe it’s the standard all-wheel drive on the 2022 Subaru Legacy that holds it back because the 2022 Nissan Altima will give you better acceleration across the board. If you opt for the Altima with the base 2.5-liter I-4, you can expect to go from 0 to 60 mph in just 7.4 seconds. The 2022 Legacy with its 2.5-liter Boxer I-4 will take 8.0 seconds to achieve the same speed. Similarly, the 2022 Altima SR VC-Turbo has the best acceleration of any of the four engines. This uses the turbocharger on its 2.0-liter VC-Turbo I-4 to propel it from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds. If you opt for either of the 2022 Subaru Legacy models with the 2.4-liter turbocharged I-4, you will take 6.1 seconds to get your car up to 60 mph. While neither model is ready to compete on the racetrack, this does give you a clearer picture of their capabilities.

Save the Last Gas for Me

Fuel economy has become a major issue, and both midsize sedans are great at making sure you save money at the pump. Still, you should expect better fuel economy with the 2022 Nissan Altima than with the 2022 Subaru Legacy. If you choose an Altima with front-wheel drive and the base 2.5-liter I-4 engine, you can expect to get the best fuel economy between these two models, with 28 MPG in the city, 39 MPG on the highway, and 32 MPG combined. If you opt for available all-wheel drive, then the Altima and the Legacy are pretty comparable, with 30 MPG combined.

As expected, the performance models of the 2022 Altima and Legacy trade acceleration for a little fuel economy. As a result, the Altima SR VC-Turbo will give you 25 MPG in city driving, 34 MPG on the highway, and 29 MPG combined. The 2022 Subaru Legacy Limited XT and Touring XT see the fuel economy drop further to 24 MPG in the city, 32 MPG on the highway, and 27 MPG combined. This is probably because of the standard all-wheel drive.

Enough Space for Everyone

One of the keys to success with midsize sedans involves design. You want to create a model with a roomy enough interior for passengers and cargo, but you also want to ensure the vehicle isn’t so large that it becomes difficult to handle. Both Nissan and Subaru have done an excellent job with this seemingly contradictory task. The Altima and Legacy are roomy enough to seat five passengers comfortably, provide a solid amount of luggage space in the trunk, and are still small enough to be able to maneuver well through traffic.

The 2022 Nissan Altima is slightly larger than the 2022 Subaru Legacy. The Altima has a 111.2-inch wheelbase, while the Legacy measures 108.3-inches. Nevertheless, they provide a comparable amount of passenger space. The interior passenger compartment of the Altima has 100.6 cu.ft., while that of the Legacy has a slightly larger 105.5 cu.ft., most of which is taken up in headroom. For example, the Altima has 39.1 inches of headroom in the front seat and 36.9 inches in the back, while the Legacy has a bit more space, with 39.4 inches in the front and 37.2 inches in the back. However, when it comes to front-row legroom, the Altima excels at 43.8 inches compared to 42.8 inches on the Legacy. The Nissan Altima also has slightly more trunk space, which may be due to its longer wheelbase. You get 15.4 cu.ft. of space in the Altima’s trunk compared to 15.1 cu.ft. on the Subaru Legacy.

A white 2022 Nissan Altima is shown from the rear driving on a snowy road.

Drive Me to the Moon

While neither the 2022 Nissan Altima nor the 2022 Subaru Legacy will get you to the Moon and return you safely to Earth, both will provide you with what you are probably looking for in a midsize sedan. In general, the Altima will give you better acceleration and fuel economy than the Legacy when comparing similar trims and engine options. Of course, with the Subaru Legacy, you do get standard all-wheel drive, which can help with traction, especially in inclement weather. As for passenger and cargo space, the two models are fairly comparable, giving a spacious interior for up to 5 passengers and a trunk that will provide enough room for your luggage if you decide to take either model out on an extended road trip. Both models are exceptional midsize sedans, so their pros and cons will ultimately be up to the customer to decide which one best fits their needs.