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Middle of the Road – Nissan Altima/Mazda6

New midsize sedans offer more options, safety features and comfort.

Test drive: Nissan Altima

The Altima’s 2020 upgrades focus on safety.

(Photo: Nissan)

Last year, Nissan remodeled the Altima, adding all-wheel drive as an option for the first time. For 2020, it added Nissan Safety Shield 360 technology to the Altima lineup.

The standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, coupled with the continuously variable transmission, works well and feels smoother than previous Nissans. The overall handling is firm but comfortable, and the all-wheel-drive system is transparent, adding extra grip when necessary.

My Altima offered advanced driver assistance systems that used to be found only in luxury cars. The Nissan ProPilot Assist offers lane-centering detection, lane-departure warning, cross-traffic alert, emergency braking, rear emergency braking and smart cruise control that keeps a safe distance between you and other vehicles.

The front seats are comfortable and supportive, an improvement over last year’s model, and the infotainment system includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Rear seats offer decent leg and headroom. The trunk opening is small, but the overall space is deep, with rear seats folding down to further expand the size.

The previous generation Altima was a good vehicle. This latest Altima – with an upgraded engine, near-luxury interior, quieter ride and optional all-wheel drive – makes a convincing argument to put the Altima at the top of your shopping list.

Test drive: Mazda 6

The 2020 Mazda6 beefs up power and handling.

(Photo: Mazda)

Midsize sedans were one of the most popular vehicles on the road (they have since been surpassed by compact and midsize SUVs). For buyers still looking for a midsize sedan, one of the best-kept secrets is the Mazda6.

This latest Mazda6 is a delight. It feels firmly connected to the open road, with the engine providing strong linear power. Mazda may have traded a little comfort for improved handling, but in this case it’s worth it. The ride’s comfortable and the handling is first-rate.

Mazda i-Activsense safety system is now standard on all trim levels. This system helps the driver recognize hazards and avoid collisions with low-speed automatic emergency braking, while the heads-up display helps keep the driver’s eyes on the road.

The interior design has a sophisticated look and feel of a more expensive car, with room to comfortably fit four adults. Entry and exit in the front and rear seats are easy due to the large doors. The trunk is surprisingly spacious and the rear seats fold to further expand the size.

With its more powerful engine, improved handling and great fit and finish, it’s hard to find fault with the Mazda6. It may not be the most popular sedan in the category, but it’s certainly one of the best.

Looking for a new ride? Check out more car reviews at AAA.com/TestDrive.

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