Family sedan practicality-off, part 2: 2019 Nissan Altima vs. 2019 Mazda6 vs. 2019 Honda Accord.
Prices: Altima 2.0 Edition One VC-turbo, $37,240; Mazda6 Signature, $36,440; Honda Accord 2.0T Touring, $36,870.
This week: After getting acquainted with the three contenders, now we take each for a weeklong spin.
Up to speed: The 236-horsepower 2.0 Edition One turbo will help you forget any ghosts of Nissan Altimas past. With a 0-to-60 time of 7.4 seconds, though, it’s still not the fastest Altima out there; the 2.5-liter engine will dust this little guy with a 0-to-60 of 6.1, all according to Motor Trend.
The Edition One tested did not exactly screech from a dead stop, although passing on the highway was surprisingly quick.
In the Mazda6, a sporty 227 horsepower is enhanced by a whopping 310 pound-feet of torque from the 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, so the Mazda6 certainly inspires with amazing acceleration. Car and Driver says it goes from 0 to 60 in 6.4 seconds. And all the torque means you’re not running the gears to their limits or waiting for the power to kick in after every shift. One might almost think this is a poor driver’s Alfa Romeo Giulia or something. (Lesser models get the standard 186 horsepower, normally aspirated 2.5.)
With a 252-horsepower turbocharged four, this Honda Accord does what people probably never expected from this midsize sedan: Mr. Driver’s Seat kept squealing the wheels when pulling out. It goes from 0 to 60 in a slick 5.7 seconds, according to Motor Trend.
Shiftless: Both Altima engines get only the typical Nissan CVT, though, not Mr. Driver’s Seat’s favorite choice, but among the best in CVTs.
The Mazda6’s six-speed shiftable automatic transmission seems a couple of gears short for the modern era, especially for a 2018 redesign. Not that I mind — six is about my limit for wanting to shift on my own. Plus the power curve allows for lazy downshifting while still climbing hills and accelerating. The lever can be a tad awkward, but standard paddle shifters are a nice touch.
A manual transmission is smack-worthily made only for the non-turbo engine. Roll eyes.
The Accord receives Honda’s 10-speed automatic. Park is a button; R is a pull button, and N and D are buttons down the row. I’ve grown accustomed to it.
Shifting is available via paddles, and the Accord offers just a touch more help than I’d like, but much of that is to keep the transmission from being damaged, I’m sure. As we move into 10 gears and sedans that race to 60 mph, stick shifts are a little too slow, but the Accord still does have an available six-speed manual.
On the road: Though all front-wheel drive, the three sedans were nothing alike on the curves.
The midsize Nissan remains a joke on fun country roads — the Mazda6 it ain’t. Lackluster handling will not bring any butterflies on the curves. But the suspension and turbo engine do combine to make cornering a little more fun, though. I found some left turns from the boulevards to the side roads surprisingly nice and almost let out a wee yippee! It comes with Nissan’s ProPilot Assist, but having tasted of Tesla and Cadillac systems, the steering assist seems like an also-ran.
In the Mazda6, I managed to lift one of the front wheels at one point, and unintentionally lay some rubber pulling out on a corner at another. That said, if you need a fun time on the cheap, there are worse ways to go. Curves can create a bit of flutter. (Although, for $36 grand, not sure “poor driver” or “on the cheap” fit here.)
The Accord as tested could reasonably compete with much fancier all-wheel-drive sedans. On winding roads in Sport mode, curves became a real joy. The only downside to the Accord handling was on rolling farm roads; it had a tendency to thump back down, almost bottoming out.
But kudos to the Accord’s handling for saving me writing a much sadder column. It seems in the last year I’ve encountered a lot of people stopping or almost stopping on limited-access highways, evidently while they decide if this is the right exit or not. While a driver up ahead straddled a couple of lanes and veered left and then right at 20 mph (in a 50 zone), I used three lanes and a shoulder to do a high-speed panic avoidance maneuver. Not even a tire squeal, and the Accord was just “Oh, this? Pshaw. This is what we do.” Unbelievable.
Strong advantage, Accord.
Fuel economy: 28 mpg for the Altima, 25 for the Mazda6, and 27 for the Honda.
In the end: The Altima is not a bad vehicle, but for the available features, it’s way overpriced in comparison.