For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Nissan Altima have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Chevrolet Malibu doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.
For enhanced safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Nissan Altima are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The Chevrolet Malibu doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.
Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Altima SV/SL/Platinum has standard Rear Automatic Braking that use rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The Malibu doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.
The Altima offers all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The Malibu doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.
The Altima Platinum has a standard Around View Monitor to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Malibu only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.
The Altima’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Malibu doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.
Both the Altima and the Malibu have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front and rear side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front-wheel drive, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, available daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.
The Altima’s corrosion warranty is unlimited miles longer than the Malibu’s (unlimited vs. 100,000 miles).
From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ April 2018 Auto Issue reports that Nissan vehicles are more reliable than Chevrolet vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Nissan 7 places higher in reliability than Chevrolet.
The Altima’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4 cyl. produces 28 more horsepower (188 vs. 160) than the Malibu’s standard 1.5 turbo 4 cyl. The Altima’s optional 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 13 lbs.-ft. more torque (273 vs. 260) than the Malibu Premier’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.
Regardless of its engine, the Altima’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) Chevrolet only offers an automatic engine start/stop system on the Malibu 1.5 Turbo.
To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Nissan Altima uses regular unleaded gasoline. The Malibu Premier requires premium for maximum efficiency, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.
For better traction, the Altima has larger standard tires than the Malibu (215/60R16 vs. 205/60R16).
The Altima has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The Malibu doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.
The Altima has vehicle speed sensitive variable-assist power steering, for low-effort parking, better control at highway speeds and during hard cornering, and a better feel of the road. The Malibu doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.
For better maneuverability, the Altima S’ turning circle is .9 feet tighter than the Malibu’s (36.1 feet vs. 37 feet).
The Altima SL/Platinum uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The Malibu doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.
The Altima has .1 inches more front headroom, 2.3 inches more front legroom, .6 inches more front hip room and 1.1 inches more rear hip room than the Malibu.
A standard locking glovebox (which can’t be accessed with the valet key) keeps your small valuables safer in the Altima. The Malibu doesn’t offer locking storage for small valuables.
The Altima’s standard driver’s power window opens or closes with one touch of the window control, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths. The Malibu’s standard driver’s power window switch has to be held the entire time to close it fully. The Altima SV/SL/Platinum’s front power windows both open or close with one touch of the switches. The Malibu LT/Premier’s front passenger window doesn’t close automatically.
If the windows are left open on the Altima the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Malibu can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.
The Altima’s speed-sensitive wipers speed up when the vehicle does, so that the driver doesn’t have to continually adjust the speed of the wipers. The Malibu’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.
Bluetooth wireless connectivity is standard on the Altima, connecting the driver and passenger’s cell phones to the vehicle systems. This allows them to use the vehicle’s stereo and hand controls to place calls safely and easily. Chevrolet only offers wireless connectivity on the Malibu LS/LT/Premier.
The Nissan Altima outsold the Chevrolet Malibu by 37% during 2017.