Everything you need to know
The facelifted Nissan Altima sedan is a decent offering in this competitive segment.
Nissan’s long-running Altima is now in it’s fifth generation, and it’s taken since the 1992 introduction of the model to get there. It’s the automaker’s option in the midsize sedan segment, which is still hotly contested even with many buyers across the globe switching up to crossovers. Even with a good setup and sales, buyers in this segment usually link the brand to trucks and GT-Rs instead of passenger cars, and so can often overlook the Altima. That doesn’t mean it’s not popular, it could just be even more popular. The recent facelift bodes well for the sedan, giving it the more striking looks that let you know it’s a close relation to the Nissan Maxima. This also gives the impression that the slightly smaller sedan may also share the more upmarket qualities of its bigger brother. Interested parties have no less than eight Nissan Altima models to choose from to suit most budgets applicable to cars in this segment.
Seating inspired by NASA can’t be a bad thing, and it isn’t
The interior looks pretty good, the car definitely benefitted from the rather extensive facelift.
Stepping inside, the interior looks pretty good, the car definitely benefitted from the rather extensive facelift, but don’t expect any real levels of excitement. The clocks, the lower center console where the shifter is found and the door cards have a nice and modern design now. The dash does too, albeit it a little on the bland side. The multifunction steering wheel is the saving grace though because it looks pretty good, that’s where your eyes are drawn to and so the blandness of the dash layout disappears. Top models have a paddle shifter to help you navigate the fake gears in the continuously variable transmission, which we’d like to see on all models. The top spec models feature a full-colour, high-resolution seven-inch touch screen that heads up the infotainment system and is also home to the Nissan Connect system. The system, shared with most new Nissans, is quite good and doesn’t take long to master with how intuitive it is. The only strange thing is the size, most automakers start off their touch screen displays at eight inches and that leaves the Altima’s one looking older, or more fitting of a car lower in the market, but at least it’s there.
Who Buys Nissan Altima?Calculations are based on data from KKF, NHTSA and Department of Motor Vehicles using CarBuzz's proprietary algorithm.
0% men vs 100% women
Nissan Altima Owners vs. US Average
African American 0%
Front and rear space is good, it’s not the biggest interior in the midsize sedan market, but it’s not the smallest either.
Just below that you’ll find the climate control, it works fast and is also easy to use, but it does look like it hasn’t been updated thanks to the two pronounced buttons on either side of it. The seats are good, they have a great design, apparently inspired by NASA, and the driver’s side (model dependant) offers eight-way power adjustment with manual lumbar support. Even in the entry model they look good in the charcoal or ivory cloth, but the leather options for the higher models are of course much better. Front and rear space is good, it’s not the biggest interior in the midsize sedan market, but it’s not the smallest either. This is probably because those wanting more may look a bit higher in the Nissan model range, in particular at the Maxima. Great rear space, not the biggest, but not the smallest out there. Seating is capable of carrying five adults, but is definitely more suited to four so that there’s a bit of wiggle room and no shoulder-to-shoulder action. Midsize sedans share similar dimensions and the trunk space in the Nissan Altima measures in at 15,4 cubic feet, slightly less than what we find in the Honda Accord and Chevrolet Malibu that measure in at 15,8 cubic feet. It’s also much the same when loading cargo, bigger items are a bit harder to get in thanks to the high edge but kit bags, camera bags and other every day items are easily loaded. If needed the rear seats can fold flat for more space. The overall quality is good in the Nissan Altima though, it will likely be more than acceptable for most people out there but if Nissan made it more along the lines of the new Maxima interior it would be a really good selling point.
The Nissan Altima has always offered a smooth ride, and still does
Nissan have added more and better sound deadening to the Altima.
The Nissan Altima has always offered up a smooth, quiet and comfortable ride, and in this latest incarnation of the car it’s much the same story. Nissan have added more and better sound deadening to the Altima though so exterior road noise is almost completely eliminated and the car has a more solid feel to it. No matter which of the seven Altima options you decide on they’re all suited to the normal daily commute, but it’s probably best on long roads and highway driving. It’s not a performance thing though as the Nissan Altima makes similar power when compared to the other cars in the segment, it’s mainly because that’s the only place a continually variable transmission doesn’t get too annoying. The smooth ride means the suspension is a bit softer than what you’d find in a sports-orientated model, which is why you won’t really be throwing the car around bends at speed. Doing that will merely prove that the car is nothing more than family transportation and won’t set any good lap times at a track day.
If you are in the market for one of Nissan’s sedans, it may be worth taking a closer look at the higher spec models with the V6 powerplant.
With just two engine options spanning the entire Altima range, the choice is somewhat limited, but luckily the entry-level 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine has enough grunt to have the Altima perform well enough. If you are in the market for one of Nissan’s sedans, it may be worth taking a closer look at the higher spec models with the V6 powerplant that’s shared with the Maxima and the Murano. The performance isn’t quite on a sportscar level thanks to the size of the car it needs to propel, for that you’d need to look elsewhere, possibly at the extensive Ford Fusion and Mazda 6 range, but it does have a lot more pace than four cylinder offering and has great low down torque that makes a full car get off the line smoothly. The CVT automatic transmission found in the Nissan Altima works well, just not as well as the one found in the Honda Accord, and so you may notice a slight power delay when you command the car to go anywhere in a hurry.
Just two engines and one transmission for the Altima
Our pick of the two motors is logically going to be that smooth six-cylinder which is the best one.
Even with seven models to choose from in the Nissan Altima range, there are only two engines available. In the lower priced options we find a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that makes 179 horsepower, but when you spend more money you can have a 3.5-liter six-cylinder gasoline engine that has a much healthier 270 horsepower available. As mentioned, neither are going to have you breaking records, but they will easily get you above posted speed limits and in trouble with the law. Our pick of the two motors is logically going to be that smooth six-cylinder which is the best one to get, but strangely Nissan estimates that just six percent of the market will go for this setup. We’re not sure why this is, possibly because those with the budget for the bigger engined cars would rather buy a class up and have a Nissan Maxima in the driveway.
The Nissan Altima uses Nissan’s continuously variable transmission, or CVT.
An automatic transmission is the only kind available in any of the Nissan Altima models, no matter how much you’d prefer one a manual cannot be had. The Nissan Altima uses Nissan’s continuously variable transmission, or CVT, and while it does it’s intended job, it could be a lot better, especially if you have to compare it to the CVT transmission found in Honda’s midsize sedan, the Accord. The CVT in the Altima could be a little quicker on the uptake as mentioned, but having the paddle shifters in play does give more of a sense of control over the system and also eliminates that feeling of a slipping clutch. Of course, the paddles are only available in the top models of the Nissan Altima. Still, the combination is a smooth-running car that offers a very competent, if uninspiring drive. We’re not sure why Nissan insists on using a CVT transmission, but it’s something that we have to learn to accept. Automakers usually site better emissions and better fuel economy with CVT transmission cars, and the Nissan Altima’s consumption with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is rated at 29 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. In comparison, the Chevrolet Malibu’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder uses 22 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. Strangely, the bigger 3.5-liter six-cylinder motor returns figures of 22 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.
There’s stiff competition for the Nissan Altima in this segment, even from Nissan itself
Besides the base model, the Altima range comes with a 5.0-inch touchscreen.
The seven models in the Altima range start off with the base Nissan Altima at an MSRP of $22,500, and while it’s the lowest spec available, it has more than enough on board to make it a good buy. The opposite end of the spectrum we see the Altima 3.5 SL at $32,690 that features a full complement of features ranging from a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, remote keyless entry and push button start, a 6-way manually adjustable driver's seat and a 4-way manually adjustable front-passenger's seat. This is the model that’s close to the spec of the Nissan Maxima, although the Maxima has a much better interior design, a design that the Altima should have received during the facelift. Besides the base model, the Altima range comes with a 5.0-inch touchscreen that heads up the infotainment system, it works well and makes uses of both virtual and physical buttons, but the optional 7.0-inch screen is something that should be standard because while it’s a full 2.0-inches larger than the stock offering, it’s dwarfed by the screens found in competitor cars.
The Nissan Altima was classed as ‘acceptable’ and that was with optional equipment.
With the Nissan Altima being chosen by families, the safety is quite an important factor for buyers, and the car is just that with a good overall rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, who also give the Altima a 2017 Top Pick rating. The car almost received full marks in front crash prevention, which we like, and the only place the car didn’t shine was the headlights. Here the Nissan Altima was classed as ‘acceptable’ and that was with optional equipment too. Helping the car get the good overall rating is a host of features like stability control, traction control, a tire pressure monitoring system and anti-lock brakes. The thing is, all those features, and more, can be found in the Nissan Maxima, which is a class higher in the market but can be had for not much more money.
While the Nissan Altima is good, what about a Nissan Maxima then?
While the Nissan Altima is good, what about a Nissan Maxima then? The base Nissan Altima starts with an MSRP of $22,500, pricing that puts it spot on with the competition from the likes of Ford with its tech-packed Fusion and a twelve-model line-up that starts at $22,120 for the S and $39,120 for the top of the range Energi Platinum. The Honda Accord too, a really good Japanese offering with a seven-model range that begins at a $22,355 for the base model and $34,830 for the daddy version. This makes our choice the $25,460 Altima SR Midnight Edition with exclusive black 18-inch wheels, LED headlights with a smoked housing, smoked taillights, black outside mirrors, a black rear spoiler, dual chrome exhaust tips and Nissan’s Intelligent Key with Remote Engine Start and Stop System, a model that gives the Altima a sense of excitement and sportiness. The main problem with the Nissan Altima is that a fully optioned example costs in the region of $7,000 less than the Maxima, and while the exterior styling is much the same, it features a much better interior and a 3.5-liter six-cylinder gasoline engine. Added to that the Nissan Maxima is bigger too, and driving one would let your neighbors know you’re not doing half bad out there.