There’s no question that American consumers are increasingly flocking to SUVs — and to hatchback cars masquerading as SUVs — at the expense of conventional cars, but cars still represent millions of annual sales. Of those cars, mid-size sedans remain popular, and none are more popular than three Japanese models that outsell competitors by a substantial margin, accounting for nearly 645,000 year-to-date at the end of September: the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.
Now that Nissan has redesigned the Altima as a 2019 model, we set out to test it side by side with its top rivals, which were similarly overhauled for the 2018 model year. We set a price range of $28,000 to $32,000 (including destination charges), as equipped, and required automatic transmissions and a volume-selling engine choice. Our contestants include mid-priced trim levels of each model: the 2018 Honda Accord 1.5T EX-L, Nissan Altima 2.5 SV and Toyota Camry XLE.
Three judges individually awarded points in 12 categories: front seats, rear seats, multimedia features, interior quality, in-cabin storage, visibility, powertrain, ride quality, handling, braking, noise and value.
Each model was also awarded points based on our measurements of its cargo volume and assessment of associated factors, the advanced active-safety and driver-assistance features with which the test vehicle was equipped, and its grades in our Cars.com Car Seat Check, which gauges the accommodation of various child-safety seats (see our methodology in the How We Tested article). All categories combined for a possible maximum score of 1,000 points.
Our Challenge judges were:
- Aaron Bragman, Cars.com Detroit bureau chief
- Jennifer Geiger, Cars.com news editor
- Kelsey Mays, Cars.com senior consumer affairs editor
This three-way Challenge proved to be one of the closest races in Cars.com history, and we’re confident a shopper could be reasonably satisfied with any of the three — but preferences vary widely, so read on to learn the strongest and weakest aspects of each contestant, and don’t miss the scorecards at the end for the big picture.
3 2018 Toyota Camry XLE, 700 out of 1,000 points