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A grey 2019 Chevy Malibu is shown from the front at an angle.

Shopping For Sedans in the Age of SUVs: the 2022 Chevy Malibu vs 2022 Nissan Altima

Admittedly, the vehicles affectionately known as “cars” are something of a dying breed. Not so long ago, coupes and sedans were the bastions of the automotive world. Now, most manufacturers have dialed down their production to just a few long-standing models. Thankfully, there are still enough surviving sedans that grace the roadways today to offer us comparisons like the 2022 Chevy Malibu vs 2022 Nissan Altima.

It is a true testament to the wildly-blowing winds of change in the automotive industry that these two cars stand next to each other in comparison. When the Malibu was introduced in 1964, it was the top trim of the midsize Chevy Chevelle and was offered as a sedan, station wagon, coupe, or convertible. The Altima was introduced much later and was originally an affordable compact sedan, replacing the Nissan Stanza in 1993. Yet over time, the Altima and the Malibu gradually evolved to compete in the modern midsize sedan segment.

For those who hope the sedan will never die, the options may be reduced, but they are still there. However, in the shrinking field, it’s even more important to select the sedan that best meets your needs. Let’s take a look at both the 2022 Chevy Malibu and 2022 Nissan Altima to see which model has the most to offer today’s discerning sedan driver.

A black 2022 Nissan Altima is shown from the rear at an angle.

Getting Behind the Wheel

One of the things sedan drivers really appreciate is how easy these lower, smaller vehicles are to drive. They’re not only nimble enough to sneak into a tight parallel parking spot, but they pick up and go just as easily as they stop.

The 2022 Chevy Malibu is no exception. From its sporty past to its slightly more grown-up state, it offers an enjoyable amount of pep. Most trims are equipped with a 1.5L turbocharged engine that kicks out a lively 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Add to this the engine’s respectful fuel economy of 29 MPG in the city and 36 MPG on the highway, and many sedan drivers will feel validated in their selection.

However, if you’re interested in even more zip, consider the Premier trim, which comes equipped with its own signature 2.0L turbocharged inline-4 engine. Good for 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, this option brings a lot more of that agile fun to the party. Granted, there is a slight ding on the fuel economy, with this engine making 22 MPG on city streets and 33 MPG on the highway.

The Nissan Altima shares very similar numbers. Most Altimas employ a 2.5L inline-four that provides 188 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque and is combined with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The fuel economy numbers, however, differ depending on the configuration you choose for your Altima. Some trims are offered with all-wheel drive, which drops fuel consumption to 25 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway.

The more powerful engine option is the SR 2.0 VC-T. “VC-T” stands for “Variable Compression Turbo” and this Nissan engine is the first production VC-T offered. The goal of this engine is to consistently vary pressure within the engine to allow for the greatest level of performance. As a result, this 2.0L turbocharged inline-four provides 248 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque without sacrificing too much fuel economy. That’s good, considering Premium fuel is required to reach those numbers.

Comfort and Convenience

Historically speaking, the driver and front passenger have the best ride in a sedan. Generations of people calling “shotgun” before a group trip have come to understand that the only way to really get comfortable is to sit in the front.

Enter the 2022 Chevy Malibu. With rear legroom of 38.1 inches, both front and rear passengers have the ability to get cozy for the duration of the drive. The 2022 Nissan Altima, on the other hand, hopes you don’t have to put adults in the back with just 35.2 inches of legroom. Trunk space tells a similar story with the two cars, with 15.7 cu.ft. in the Malibu and 15.4 cu.ft. in the Altima. Split-fold rear seats make it easy to accommodate larger cargo, too.

Additionally, the Malibu offers a standard power-adjustable driver seat with lumbar control on all but the base trim. The Altima offers Nissan’s signature Zero Gravity seats, but power lumbar adjustment is only standard on the top two trims. All 2022 Malibu trims also have standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The Altima doesn’t introduce standard wireless smartphone connectivity until the SL trim.

A white 2022 Chevy Malibu is shown from the front during a 2022 Chevy Malibu vs 2022 Nissan Altima comparison.

Getting What You Need

For most drivers, it’s not just the engine or the comfort of the seats that sell them on a sedan; it’s the total package. Drivability, dependability, style, and technology all come together to create the vehicles we drive each day. So while the 2022 Chevy Malibu and 2022 Nissan Altima may be similar in many ways, the sedan you select will depend on which option meets your overall needs.

For example, the 2022 Nissan Altima features a D-shaped, track-inspired steering wheel that has been ergonomically designed with intuitive controls that allow drivers to access most of the infotainment features with their thumbs as they’re driving. However, it should be noted that the Altima only comes standard with a leather-wrapped steering wheel on the SL trim and above. The Chevy Malibu also has a steering wheel with controls for the sound system, phone, and cruise control, but a leather-wrapped version for extra comfort is standard on all but the base trim.

The 2022 Chevy Malibu is very much the vehicle long-time drivers expect it to be. Its four trims run true to Chevy’s long-running expectations of increasing luxury as you climb the lineup. The necessities appear as standard features throughout the lineup, saving the truly premium features, like a standard dual-pane sunroof, for the Premier trim. The 2022 Nissan Altima, on the other hand, is still very much subject to Nissan’s most recent innovations. Drivers can select available ProPILOT Assist technology to help them cope with traffic, LED lighting and turn signals, remote start with intelligent climate control, and a 360-degree camera system as they climb through the multiple trims.

If your goal is to purchase a comfortable vehicle with all the features and technology you need, the 2022 Chevy Malibu is a safe place to start your shopping experience. If you’re into learning new tricks while you drive and playing with state-of-the-art technology, perhaps the 2022 Nissan Altima is a better fit for you. However, you will have to opt for a more expensive trim to get all the same features.

True Legends

Whether you choose the timeless Malibu or the new-and-improved Altima, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are behind the wheel of a true legend. Both of these popular midsize sedans have stood the test of time and survived the SUV boom to emerge as heroes. However, Chevy has managed to offer more features and more space in its car. Even better, Chevy has managed to offer the 2022 Malibu at a lower price point than the 2022 Nissan Altima.