In the summer of 2015 in August I got to drive two brand new and very popular mid-size sedan models in Texas.
I was on vocation with my family driving around Dallas, San Antonio and Houston. We rented our car at the Dallas Airport’s Budget. We drove it around Dallas and then drove it to San Antonio until the engine light turned on and to be on the safe side, we drove to San Antonio airport’s Budget and got a brand new Nissan Altima. We drove it from San Antonio to Houston that night and had it for the next three days of our trip in Houston.
The Toyota Camry
The new Camry is a very futuristic car, it’s styling and exterior is nothing like the “boring” Camry of old. It’s not handsome but it’s not ugly as well. I love the interior better. I really like the big LCD which also serves as a screen for the rear camera which was very helpful when backing up and parking. I really like the interior interface and the overall design. It feels very high-tech and futuristic. The infoentertainment is great (more on that later).
We had two large suitcases and a few bags. We had a choice of a VW Jetta and the Toyota Camry. We checked both car and I had an urge to get the VW Jetta because I never driven one before, but we gathered that the Camry is a much roomier car. The Jetta has a surprisingly deep trunk for its size but the Camry’s was obviously larger. Its trunk easily took in the two large suitcases with ample spaces for our bags.
The interior is very roomy and all of us were comfortable. The best of all is the new infoentertainment system. I really like the large LCD screen and it was easy to use. I like how I could connect my phone and other devices with Bluetooth. I played songs from my phone and could even call and receive call wirelessly via Bluetooth using the infoentertainment system.
I find the seat to be comfortable, I shifted around a bit as my body got tire during the long drive. Overall it was a comfortable experience. It is actually a great car for long ride with the family because it does a good job of filtering out the bumps and unpleasantness of the road. The suspensive provides a smooth ride and it feels like the old American sedan with the floating suspension.
Throughout the trip, nobody complained.
The steering wheel was very light, I could control it with my finger tips. I found it hard to get used to because you really have to hold on to the steering wheel.
Like all Camry, it was very smooth. I tried to accelerate once and it hardly scream. It was very hard to get excited. There’s acceleration but the engine just hum. A fantastic job on road isolation but sometimes I feel like I am too detached from what’s going on that it is a little scary for me. It was hard to push the car. It is frighteningly smooth.
Before driving the Camry I had been driving a Honda Accord which is smooth already but the Camry is on a whole other level. It is just so calm and doesn’t make a fuss even when you push it by stepping on the gas pedal.
Although the Altima has very slightly larger dimension, it is a smaller car inside. The Carmy’s and Altima’s trunk volume is the same at 15.4 cubic feet but thanks to smarter design, the Camry’s truck fit our luggages much easier and look bigger. If I didn’t look at the actual number, I would say Camry’s trunk is bigger maybe by one cubic foot.
Where as the Camry can be described as soft. We can use “hard” to describe the Altima. There are a lot more “hard” plastic in the interior than the Camry.
Another thing that I noticed right away as we move our stuff from the Camry to the Altima is that the Camry has a lot more interior storage features than the Altima. Camry has bigger glove box, more cup holders, more pockets here and there. It also feel much roomier in the Camry. Overall the Camry has a much better interior design than the Altima. More thoughts were put into the design whereas the Altima is more rough on the edges and feel cheaper with all the hard plastic which reminds me of VW but not as classy.
As said before, the Altima is covered with black hard plastic. Everything is harder or stiffer from the plastic on the dashboard, the steering wheel and even the seat. The stiffer driver seat is alright. It feels like I had more back support.
As for the adults at the back, there was complain that there was less headspace with the arch coming down more drastically. Bad design.
Overall, the Altima design showed its age in comparison with the Camry. It does have a LCD screen and rear camera with indicators showing how close you are to hitting something. However, the LCD screen is noticeably smaller and the infoentertainment system is not was easy to use. It is not challenging but not was intuitive and user-friendly as Camry’s. There was also no wireless Bluetooth connection.
It seems to me that the Altima’s designers were not as detailed-oriented and thoughtful as Camry’s. There are less cupholders and the cupholders are not as good as the Camry. Whereas in the Camry’s front seats cup holders were designed to hold a range of sizes of cup and bottles, Altima’s don’t. I find it rather hard to understand that the people at Nissan would miss much details. Camry just has more and better cup holders, something very important for a family and while on road trip, or just a commute. Sometimes I want the cup holder to hold a big 7 Eleven Big Gulp, other times I might just have a water bottle.
The interior just doesn’t feel as nice and it feels smaller and less spacious than the Camry. The ride is harsher as well. It is less isolated from the road in comparison with the Camry.
The ride is harder. It might have to do with that we were driving the 2.5 S model. The steering wheel was much harder which I like better than the Camry. You can hear the engine in this car. You can feel the road in this car and with your hand on the steering wheel. I can hear the road. I feel more connected to the road in the Altima which makes me feel more secure in a way. The suspension is harder. It was very soft on the Camry. The Altima just feel stiffer. Overall, the Altima is an easier car to get feedback from. I feel more connected with it. I could hear the engine when I step down on the gas pedal. It feels more mechanical, where as the Camry was like a technological isolated spaceship.
In the End
I drove both car on a Texas trip with four adults and luggages. I must say Camry is a car I would buy for long term because of the comfort, more roomy interior, better and larger touch screen LCD and back camera and it is generally a better design. It’s a better car to live with. I also feel the interior material is of higher quality and it has more cup holders and places to put things.
As for the Altima, it’s actually a funner car to drive with stiffer steering. The Camry steering wheel was unnaturally light and I felt like I had to put a firm grip on it especially on the open freeway from Dallas to San Antonio.
I asked the two adults at the back and they said the Camry is much more roomier at the back and with more head space. I don’t know the trunk dimension of the two cars but it took less effort to put two large and two small carry-on luggages into the Camry than the Altima.
From my experience, I would take the Camry but the Altima isn’t a bad car. Camry is just more refined, better designed, more comfortable and the interior design really won me over. I can imagine how it is better suited for carrying people, luggages and a family. It has all the cupholders a family of five would require. It has the user friendly Bluetooth capable infoentertainment system. It’s a better car to live with.
Although as a driver for pure driving pleasure, I would take the Altima over the Camry.