2010 Car Comparison: Honda Accord v Nissan Altima v Toyota Camry
A flamboyant sports coupe or an immense SUV stands out in a crowded parking lot. These cars, by contrast, are the vehicles for which remote keyless entry systems were made: push a button on the keyfob in your hand and a flash of taillamps identifies your silver midsize sedan from a sea of seemingly identical models.
That’s doubly true of this trio because the 2010 Toyota Camry, 2010 Honda Accord, and 2010 Nissan Altima – in that order – are the top-selling midsize cars in the U.S. The Camry, in fact, is America’s best-selling car, period.
Fortunately, each performs admirably as everyday transportation and their ubiquity means they usually carry generous discounts. Deals are particularly attractive near the end of a model year, when dealers need to whittle inventory, and at the end of a calendar year, when manufacturers aim to meet sales goals.
The 2010 Honda Accord is the newest design here, based on an all-new version introduced for model-year 2008. The Accord nameplate, however, dates to 1976 as one of Honda’s first models sold in North America. Originally a compact hatchback, today’s Accord is officially considered a full-size model under federal standards for passenger-compartment volume.
The original Toyota Camry was introduced in 1982 as a small, boxy, underpowered model and has likewise blossomed in size and sophistication over the years. The current-generation Camry debuted for the 2007 model year.
The Nissan Altima is the relative newcomer of the bunch. Its first generation version debuted for the 1993 model year. Originally sized somewhere between a compact and midsize sedan, it was stretched into bona fide midsize classification for its current generation, which launched in model-year 2007.
The 2010 Altima and 2010 get moderate mechanical and cosmetic revisions; the 2011 Accord is due a similar mid-cycle freshening.
- The 2010 Honda Accord and 2010 Nissan Altima sedans offer companion two-door coupes, though their four-door body style accounts for the vast majority of sales. The 2010 Toyota Camry comes only as a sedan. Toyota had based the Solara coupe and convertible on the Camry sedan, but they were discontinued at the end of the 2008 model year.
- All these cars have front-wheel-drive, which concentrates the engine and transmission components over the wheels that power the car. Front-drive provides ideal weight distribution for wet-weather traction. It also is efficient for packaging because it minimizes powertrain intrusion into the passenger compartment. The forward weight balance and requiring the front tires to both steer the car and propel is not ideal for sporty handling, however.
- Despite Accord’s “official” large-car classification, all three of these sedans compete in the midsize-car category. That class also includes such familiar nameplates as the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and Chevrolet Malibu. Indeed, the midsize-car class is the best-selling single vehicle category in the U.S.
- All three of these cars seat five passengers and feature split-folding rear seatbacks that open a passageway to the trunk to maximize cargo-carrying versatility.
- All offer a choice of similarly powerful four-cylinder and V-6 engines.
- Each comes with a fine selection of cup holders and cleverly placed storage compartments. They offer multiple 12-volt power points and audio systems that feature inputs to accommodate portable audio devices like iPods.
- Standard safety features on all include torso-protecting front-side airbags and head-protecting curtain side-curtain airbags that cover both seating rows. Each also comes with four-wheel antilock disc brakes to enhance control in emergency stops and with antiskid stability control to reduce chances of sideways slides.
- Even the least-expensive model in each lineup comes nicely equipped with a long list of convenience features, including air conditioning, power windows, locks, and mirrors, tilt/telescoping steering column, cruise control, and a center console bin.
- Heated seats, leather upholstery, power moonroof, hands-free communications, and voice-activated navigation systems are just some of the upgrades available.
- Warranty coverage is identical: 3-years/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage and 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain protection.
- The 2010 Honda Accord coupe and 2010 Nissan Altima coupe are positioned as sportier and slightly smaller versions of the sedans. They share engines, dashboards, and general interior layout, but have sleeker styling.
- A new-for-2010 spinoff of the Honda Accord is the Accord Crosstour hatchback wagon. Similarly, Toyota recently added the Camry-based Venza crossover wagon to its lineup. Both these models offer all-wheel drive in addition to front-wheel drive.
- The 2010 Honda Accord features a choice of two four-cylinder engines and a V-6. Standard in the 2010 Accord LX and LX-P sedans is a 177-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Accord EX and EX-L sedans and Accord LX-S, EX, and EX-L coupes get a 190-horsepower version of the four-cylinder. The 2010 Accord’s V-6 is a 271-horsepower 3.5-liter. The V-6 can deactivate up to three cylinders as necessary (say, at cruising speeds) to maximize fuel economy. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on four-cylinder models and a five-speed automatic is optional. The five-speed automatic is standard on V-6 Accords, though in a nod to driving enthusiasts, a six-speed manual is available on the Accord EX-L V-6 coupe.
- The 2010 Nissan Altima 2.5 and 2.5 S sedan and coupe models come with a 175-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The Altima 3.5 SR sedan and coupe have a 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6. Sedans come only with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), essentially an automatic that combines the fuel economy of a manual transmission with the convenience of an automatic. The 2010 Altima coupe offers a choice of the CVT or a six-speed manual transmission.
- The 2010 Toyota Camry has a 169-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine; it replaces the 2009 model’s 158-horsepower 2.4-liter four. Camry’s available V-6 is a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter. The four-cylinder engine can be mated to a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. The V-6 comes only with the automatic.
- In addition to the conventional gas-engine versions, the 2010 Altima and Camry are available as gas/electric hybrid-powered models. The Altima Hybrid, however, is sold only in California and in the handful of Northeastern states that adhere to its stricter auto-emissions rules. The only other midsize cars to offer hybrid models are the Ford Fusion and its Mercury Milan cousin, though the slightly smaller Toyota Prius hybrid has midsize-car interior space.
- The 2010 Toyota Camry Hybrid combines a 147-horsepower 2.4-liter gasoline engine with an electric motor/generator to produce the equivalent of 187 horsepower. Its sole transmission is a CVT automatic.
- The 2010 Altima Hybrid actually uses hybrid engineering borrowed from Toyota. Its 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine is assisted by an electric motor/generator for a net 198 horsepower. Its sole transmission is also a CVT automatic.
- Altima has the smoothest styling of the three. The Camry is the most expressively styled, particularly at the front end where a bold wing-like grille dominates a rather bulbous nose. The Camry also has the most-interesting-looking interior. Accord’s styling is the least-harmonious of the trio.
- The Accord boasts a slightly larger passenger cabin than the Altima or Camry but all three sedans seat four adults in admirable comfort and accommodate three across in the back seat with just a little squeezing.
- The Altima and Accord coupes are sleeker looking than their four-door counterparts, and deliver sportier handing -- albeit with a somewhat rougher ride. They provide similar front-seat room to their sedan counterparts. Their rear seats are livable by coupe standards but the two-door body styles hamper back-seat ingress and egress. And the coupes’ long side doors are a hassle to open in tight spaces.
- All three sedans emphasize a smooth ride over tenacious handling. Still, the Accord impresses with accurate steering and a well-toned suspension. Altima has the most overtly sporting pretensions. It does handle more than competently but doesn’t feel as all-around composed as the Accord. The Camry is regularly vilified in the enthusiast press for languid handling and numb steering, but most buyers seem quite willing to trade some agility for Camry’s outstanding ability to soak up pavement imperfections.
- Audiophiles might gravitate to the Altima for its available 9.3-gigabyte “Music Box” hard drive audio-file storage. It’s part of the optional navigation system, which also includes subscription-based travel information including speed-limit advisories and traffic and weather information.
- Allergy sufferers will appreciate the Camry XLE model’s dual-zone climate-control system’s futuristically named Plasmacluster ionizer technology. Toyota says it helps reduce airborne mold spores, microbes, fungi, odors, germs, and bacteria inside the cabin.
- As per Honda practice, the Accord offers no separate standalone factory options. It specifies a set group of features with each model in the lineup, and you need to climb the model ladder to get added luxury or convenience items. This benefits assembly quality and simplifies ordering, and Honda marketing experts are pretty good at matching a set of features to models at particular price levels. Still, you may end up finding yourself paying for some features you don’t want in order to get some you do.
- The fuel-economy leader of this trio, by a slim margin, is the 2010 Nissan Altima. Its EPA ratings are 23/32 (city/highway) mpg with the four-cylinder engine and 20/27 with the V-6. CVT-equipped Altima coupes match those ratings. With the six-speed manual, four-cylinder coupes rate 23/31 mpg and V-6 coupes 18/27.
- Fuel economy ratings for the 2010 Honda Accord sedan are 22/31 mpg with either four-cylinder engine and both the manual or automatic transmission. With the V-6 and automatic transmission, Accord sedans rate 19/29 mpg. The V-6 manual-transmission Accord coupe is rated at 17/25 mpg.
- The 2010 Toyota Camry is rated at 22/33 mpg with the four-cylinder and manual transmission and 22/32 with automatic. V-6 Camrys are rated at 19/28 mpg.
- The 2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid is rated at 35/33 mpg. The 2010 Toyota Camry Hybrid is rated at 33/34 mpg.
- The 2010 Toyota Camry base price range is the lowest of this trio at around $20,000-$29,500. The 2010 Nissan Altima base price range is about $21,000-$28,000. The 2010 Honda Accord price range is $22,000-$32,000.
- The 2010 Camry Hybrid carries a sticker price around $27,000, while the Altima Hybrid is base priced at around $27,500.
The 2010 Toyota Camry. Absence of a coupe notwithstanding, this Toyota has the ability to please the widest range of buyers. It’s uncommonly refined for the price – good enough in fact to form the basis for the Lexus ES350 from Toyota’s upscale Lexus brand. Its V-6 powertrain is very smooth and surprisingly muscular, and the fuel-sipping Camry Hybrid is available in all 50 states, unlike the Altima Hybrid. Camry shares with Accord a rock-solid reputation for reliability and good resale value. Accord is the choice if you’re keen to precision engineering. It delivers fine handling at little penalty in ride quality, its 190-horsepower four-cylinder is a gem, and it’s the roomiest car in this group. The 2010 Altima also leans toward the sporty, but perhaps a little too far, sacrificing a degree of refinement compared to the Camry and Accord without making up for it with better-quality interior materials or truly impressive road manners.