If you're thinking of a buying a new car, Nissan you'll likely come across the Nissan Sentra and the Nissan Altima. These two sedans are some of the most popular among all Nissan models, which makes them interesting options to consider since many carmakers are currently reducing or eliminating compact sedans and midsize sedans from their lineups.

Between the compact Nissan Sentra and the midsize Nissan Altima, we compared MPG and fuel economy, safety features, onboard tech features, cargo space, seating, powertrain, and starting prices.

Nissan Sentra vs Nissan Altima at a Glance

The Sentra and Altima are two of Nissan's long-running sedan models, offering great values when it comes to fuel economy, safety, engine power, and comfort.

Nissan Sentra Overview

EchoPark Starting Price (as of April 2021): $9,699

Body Type: Compact Sedan

Engine: Base Model: 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, NISMO® and SR Turbo: 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine

MPG (City, Highway): 29 city / 37 highway

Trim Levels: 6 (S, SV, SR, SR Turbo, NISMO® and SL)

NHTSA Overall Safety Rating: 4/5 Stars

View All Nissan Sentras

Nissan Altima Overview

EchoPark Starting Price (as of April 2021): $13,389

Body Type: Midsize Sedan

Engine: Base Model: 2.5-liter Four Cylinder Engine, SR and Platinum trims: optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine

MPG (City, Highway): 28 city / 29 hwy

Trim Levels: 4 (S, SR, SV, and SL)

NHTSA Overall Safety Rating: 5/5 Stars

View All Nissan Altimas

Sentra vs. Altima: Comparing Prices

Nissan Sentra EchoPark Starting Price (April 2021: $9,699

Nissan Altima EchoPark Starting Price (April 2021): $13,389

As a compact sedan, the Sentra is definitely the lower-priced option with an approximate $4,000 difference in MSRP. However, the Altima's performance and safety rating put it above the Sentra. That said, the Sentra is a great starter car, with low repair costs and a great set of standard safety features. Even the base model Sentra S comes standard with front and rear automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring. Scroll below to compare safety features in both models.

Altima vs. Sentra: Safety Features

The Nissan Sentra may be the lower-priced sedan, but it comes with a wider range of standard safety features than the Altima, including lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, along with front and rear automatic emergency brakes. The base model Altima only features forward collision monitoring and automatic emergency braking. However, the Altima does feature stability and traction control.

The Altima comes equipped with driver-side, passenger, front, rear and curtain airbags standard. The Sentra features all but rear airbags. Both models tested very well according to NHTSA crash test results, rating between 4 and 5 stars for 8 different tests gauging front and side-impact.

Sentra vs. Altima: Exterior Styling

Nissan Sentra Exterior

Wheelbase: 106.3 inches

Overall Length: 182.1 inches

Width: 69.3 inches

Height: 58.9 inches

Nissan Altima Exterior

Wheelbase: 109.3 inches

Overall Length: 191.9 inches

Width: 72.0 inches

Height: 57.8 inches

When comparing the Altima and Sentra, wheelbase, length, width and height are the most obvious differentiators. Again, the Nissan Sentra is a compact sedan while the Altima is a midsize sedan.

In terms of exterior styling, the Altima was fully redesigned for 2019 models, giving it a more sleek, streamlined silhouette. The 2019 Sentra, however, still features a similar look and feel to its recent 2017 and 2018 predecessors.

Comparing Both Nissans' Interiors 

Sentra vs. Altima: Legroom and Space 

Surprisingly, the Sentra and Altima feature comparable legroom.

Nissan Sentra

Headroom Front: 39.4 in.

Headroom Rear: 36.7 in.

Legroom Front: 42.5 in.

Legroom Rear: 37.4 in.

Passenger Volume: 95.9 cu. ft.

Cargo Volume: 15.1 cu. ft.

Nissan Altima

Headroom Front: 40.0 in.

Headroom Rear: 37.1 in.

Legroom Front: 45.0 in.

Legroom Rear: 36.1 in.

Passenger Volume: 101.9 cu. ft.

Cargo Volume: 15.4 cu. ft.

Comparing 2018 model specs on interior space, the compact Sentra actually comes out on top when it comes to rear legroom, but the Altima still wins out for overall headroom and front seat legroom.

Given its larger body, the Altima also features 101.9 cubic feet of passenger volume over the Sentra's 95.9 cubic feet. Both vehicles featured relatively similar cargo volumes, with the Sentra coming in at 15.1 cubic feet while the Altima featured 15.4 cubic feet.

Altima vs. Sentra: Onboard Features

Comfort and convenience is where the Altima's higher pricepoint may make all the difference for drivers.

Nissan Altima Amenities and Features

The Altima also comes with more standard tech features. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth capabilities, an 8-inch touchscreen, four USB ports, satellite radio and a six-speaker audio system are included. The Altima also comes standard with a sunroof or moonroof, along with power driver seats and passenger seats. Certain Altima trim levels also include keyless ignition and remote start.

Nissan Sentra Amenities and Features

The base Sentra features a 7-inch touchscreen, but this doesn't include smartphone integration. The Sentra also features a four-speaker audio system, one USB port, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel and 60/40 rear split seats.

Nissan Sentra vs. Altima: Going Under the Hood

Comparing Engines and Transmissions

Nissan Sentra Engine and Powertrain

  • 1.8-liter inline-four with 130 horsepower, 125 lb-ft of torque
  • 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four with 188 hp, 177 lb-ft of torque

Nissan Altima Engine and Powertrain

  • 2.5-liter inline-four with 188 hp, 180 lb-ft of torque
  • 2.0-liter VC-Turbo inline-four with 236 hp, 267 lb-ft of torque

The Altima has an edge over its compact counterpart when it comes to engine performance. In 2019, the Altima was equipped with a VC-turbo engine, an innovative engine that's turbocharged and variable-compression. This means that when you need more performance, the VC-turbo engine lowers its compression ratio. This translates into a more fuel-efficient cruising mpg on the highway.

The Nissan Altima Comes Equipped With All Wheel Drive

The Altima also features all wheel drive capabilities, which is definitely something that sets it apart from other sedans, both midsize and compact. If you're faced with snowy winters and slick roads for much of the year but still want the smooth ride and luxurious appeal of a sedan, the Altima might just be the AWD vehicle for you. However, keep in mind that AWD is only available with the base engine. Currently, it's not possible to get a VC-Turbo powered engine and all wheel drive.

Fuel Economy

Nissan Sentra MPG and Fuel Economy

32 MPG (City, Highway): 29 city / 37 hwy

Nissan Altima MPG and Fuel Economy

31 MPG (City, Highway): 28 city / 29 hwy

It's clear that the Sentra has a slight edge over the midsize Altima. This takes into consideration the Altima's AWD powertrain. However, when you consider the Altima's optional VC-Turbo engine, actual mileage may vary. Despite their differences, both Nissans can be considered fuel efficient, compared to the average 24.9 MPG of similar, non-hybrid sedans.

Still Deciding between the Sentra and the Altima? Talk to a Nissan Expert Today

Nissan USA produces a wide range of models, trim levels, and body types for any driver. The Sentra and Altima are two of the most popular sedans on the market, but we understand you still might have a lot to consider. If you're still deciding between these two popular sedans, reach out to an EchoPark Experience Guide to learn more or to set up a test drive.