2009 Nissan Altima Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
June 20, 2009

The 2009 Nissan Altima has a sportier look and feel than most other mid-size sedans, but it's just as practical.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Nissan Altima in order to give you an expert opinion. And to help you find the most useful information and where reviews differ, TheCarConnection.com surveyed a wide range of top-tier reviews for its full review.

The latest version of the Nissan Altima is now entering its third year, yet it still looks quite fresh inside and out, with a distinctively sportier appearance throughout. The standard 2.5 and 2.5 S versions of the 2009 Nissan Altima are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 175 horsepower. Underneath the hood of the 3.5 SE and 3.5 SL models is a 270-horsepower version of Nissan's well-regarded 3.5-liter DOHC V-6; it's the most powerful Altima ever. Both powerplants can be paired with a six-speed manual transmission or the Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT).

TheCarConnection.com’s editors especially like the "shiftless" CVT, which operates seamlessly, reduces noise in cruising, and actually seems more responsive than a normal automatic. With a rather taut suspension, the 2009 Nissan Altima feels especially sporty, yet it rides well enough to soak up most bumps.

The 2009 Nissan Altima has an interior that comes across as positively functional, rather than gimmicky, with neat, attractive styling and nice materials, but its backseat could be tight for taller adults. The instrument panel brings some of the more intimate look and feel of a sports coupe without seeming tight.

Review continues below

There's also a coupe body style of the Altima, but it's considerably shorter and thus feels different inside and on the road. The coupe also has a very quiet interior, although there can be some road noise on coarse surfaces. Front seats are unique to the coupe, with sportier contouring and more support than those in the sedan. The backseats are split 60/40 and fold forward to expand the trunk area, which has an admittedly small opening due to the very sloped back window. Like the sedan, the coupe sports sharp response from the front strut and multilink rear suspension.

Crash-test results have been mostly good for the Altima, with top five-star results in the federal tests and Good ratings from the insurance-affiliated IIHS—except for Marginal ratings in the seat-based rear-impact test. All model levels get front, side, and curtain airbags, and anti-lock brakes are now standard across the line. Electronic stability control is still not offered on the four-cylinder models.

For 2009, standard equipment has been bolstered on the Nissan Altima, with all models receiving a new automatic door lock system. Refinements to the base model Altimas include black grille highlights, a new 16-inch wheel cover design, dual power remote-controlled side-view mirrors, speed-sensitive variable intermittent windshield wipers, and a standard trip computer. 2009 Altima 2.5 S models feature revised Connection Package content. The Altima 3.5 SE gets standard Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights, fog lights, and a rear spoiler, while the 2009 3.5 SL receives new VDC packages.

Bluetooth is an option, and a rearview monitor and navigation system are also available. Factory-installed XM Satellite Radio is another option on the 2009 Nissan Altima. The Intelligent Key with Push Start Ignition—a system that allows you to keep the "key" in your pocket and use an ignition button to start the engine—is now standard.

8

2009 Nissan Altima

Styling

Nearly everyone looking for a sedan will find the styling of the 2009 Nissan Altima attractive and contemporary.

The 2009 Nissan Altima offers strong styling cues and a practical interior that give it a distinct flair.

The exterior of the 2009 Nissan Altima has been trimmed somewhat from the older version, with Cars.com noting that, at "189.8 inches long, the Altima sedan is 2.5 inches shorter than the previous generation." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that most writers feel the smaller dimensions are a styling bonus. Road & Track testers comment that it allows the Altima Nissan's designers to add "more character...along the car's flanks." Kelley Blue Book raves about the exterior on the Altima Nissan, which is "rich in Nissan family cues, most notably in its grille, headlamp and taillamp treatments," but at the same time, it sports "a bit more aggressive edge than you'll find in the Sentra or Maxima." However, not all reviewers appreciate the sheetmetal, as Car and Driver laments "the way the front view gets into an argument with the side view when they meet in the front fenders" and points out "there's nothing cautious about the Airbus-theme taillights either."

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate that interior styling goes from being an area of complaint to one of compliment. Kelley Blue Book best captures overall reviewer sentiment, saying "the Altima's airy cabin has a contemporary appearance" and "logically arranged" interior controls that make driving in the 2009 Nissan Altima considerably more intuitive than in some other cars. Car and Driver notices that "although the instrument cluster still shows you three dials, the annoying, seemingly misaligned tunnels are gone, replaced by a single-lens grouping of much improved graphics." MotherProof reviewers appreciate the "sound system that displays the radio station and time in easy-to-read, large characters," and ConsumerGuide praises the "large and legible gauges." ConsumerGuide reviewers also find that the "audio and climate controls are simple to operate in models without the available navigation system," though when equipped with the navigation system, it "isn't easy to program, and it absorbs and complicates audio functions," they note.

The 2009 Nissan Altima is available in four trim varieties with few external differences. Edmunds lists the available trims as "base 2.5 (by customer order only), 2.5 S, 3.5 SE and 3.5 SL." Edmunds goes on to say that the external differences between the trims consist of 16-inch wheels on the 2.5 model, while the "sporty 3.5 SE" offers "17-inch alloy wheels" and "power-folding side-view mirrors with integral turn signals," and the 3.5 SL adds "16-inch alloy wheels" and "xenon HID headlights."

9

2009 Nissan Altima

Performance

The 2009 Nissan Altima satisfies performance enthusiasts and practically minded folks alike.

The 2009 Nissan Altima offers a fun driving experience in a practical, comfortable family sedan that’s available with a pair of engine options.

Edmunds describes the available engines as "either a 2.5-liter inline-4 with 175 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque (on the 2.5 trims) or a 3.5-liter V6 with 270 hp and 258 lb-ft (on the 3.5 trims)." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that either engine is very capable of moving the Nissan Altima with ease, but reviewers are particularly impressed with the six-cylinder found on the 3.5s. Car and Driver testers post some of the best acceleration times in their Nissan Altima 3.5 SE, "getting from 0 to 60 at 5.9 seconds" on the stopwatch. Edmunds says "strong performance from the V6 models should more than satisfy those who like a kick in the pants when they boot the gas." In terms of the lower-output four-cylinder on the Nissan Altima 2.5, there are still plenty of positive terms thrown around. ConsumerGuide asserts that the "conventional 4-cylinder models" are "sprightly from a stop and show good highway passing response," and they rate the 2009 Nissan Altima 2.5 S above the class average in terms of acceleration.

Neither the six-speed manual transmission nor the continuously variable automatic transmission in the 2009 Nissan Altima receives the praise heaped on the Altima’s engines. Road & Track testers say that the transmission felt "like it was returning downshifts a bit snappier than most sequential-shift automatics." However, the six-speed manual doesn't quite live up to the performance bar set by the engines. Edmunds remarks that the "clutch engagement is abrupt and its shifter feels unsubstantial and moves through its gates with all the precision of a $10 Folex watch." Car and Driver writers agree, noting "the shifter clunks through its prominent detents," making the Altima "no BMW in this regard; no Honda, either." ConsumerGuide finds that "a 6-speed manual transmission is standard on all but the 3.5 SL," which features a standard "continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT)" that the Altima Nissan offers as "optional on all but the base 2.5" version. For its part, the CVT, which features simulated gear ratios, scores well with reviewers; Cars.com considers it "about as good as they come in terms of responsiveness."

Reviews of the steering and handling indicate few complaints. Cars.com praises the "predictable responses" afforded by the "power rack-and-pinion steering system," although ConsumerGuide adds that steering can be "a bit light." Handling has been improved due to some design changes that Car and Driver says make the Altima "unruly no more," thanks to the minimization of the old model's "nasty" torque steer. The brakes on the 2009 Nissan Altima are acceptable, with Cars.com finding that the "all-disc brakes have a natural feel," but Edmunds points out that "stops from 60 mph" are "only average for this class." Edmunds asserts that "with its sporty suspension tuning" and "quick steering," the 2009 Nissan Altima offers "one of the most enjoyable" enthusiast driving experiences available in a family sedan.

When it comes to MPGs, the fuel numbers are "impressive considering the car's power," according to Edmunds, and ConsumerGuide mentions that the Nissan "Altima has a 20-gal fuel tank, among the largest in the midsize-car class." Choosing a CVT has typically meant sacrificing the driver involvement that a manual offers in exchange for slightly better fuel economy. On the 2009 Nissan Altima, fuel economy is virtually identical between the two transmission choices. Cars.com observes that, "compared to the manual transmission, the CVT's gas mileage estimates are slightly worse with the four-cylinder," and the EPA estimates the CVT will return 23 mpg city, 31 highway versus the manual's 23/32 mpg. For the six-cylinder engines, the EPA estimates that drivers can expect 19/26 mpg with the CVT and 19/27 mpg with the manual.

8

2009 Nissan Altima

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Nissan Altima offers an attractive interior and impressive cargo space, though some of its interior materials aren't up to par.

The 2009 Nissan Altima benefits from a well-designed, attractive interior design and decent seating and cargo space, though the quality of the materials and trim is a potential weakness.

Car and Driver testers feel "the dash and door-panel textures are exceptionally classy" on the 3.5 SE they tested, and Edmunds observes that the interior features "quality materials." However, ConsumerGuide says the Nissan Altima's interior "isn't quite as rich as its use of soft-touch, textured materials would lead you to believe," and they find the "use of budget-grade plastics in the center console area" to be particularly "disappointing." Interior materials vary somewhat between the trims, as ConsumerGuide lists the 2.5 and 2.5 S as having "cloth upholstery," and though the 3.5 SE keeps the cloth seats, it adds a "leather-wrapped steering wheel w/ radio controls," while the 3.5 SL offers standard "leather upholstery."

ConsumerGuide says to expect "good overall headroom and legroom" when sitting in the front seats, which offer "very good thigh and lumbar support." They also comment in their review that "the rear bench is reasonably comfortable for those under six feet." The interior seating arrangement on what Edmunds deems a "powerful five-seater" is characterized by "plenty of comfort" in both the front and rear seats. Cars.com finds that "even though its swoopy styling might suggest limited cabin space, the five-seat Altima has sufficient room," and even rear headroom in the Nissan Altima "should be adequate for most passengers." Car and Driver adds that rear legroom "is up 3.1" inches," but "the cushion sits low."

Other than the oversized glove box, ConsumerGuide says "interior storage is only average." While Cars.com reports that "the flip-down center armrest has two cupholders," testers at Car and Driver mention that the Altima Nissan's keyless ignition means "the bulky fob now takes up a cupholder" if you want to avoid inadvertently pressing a button. For a mid-size sedan, the 2009 Nissan Altima certainly offers full-size storage space. Car and Driver finds that "trunk space is up 15 percent to 18 cubic feet, very large for the class," while for 2009, the Nissan Altima's "glove box has been enlarged to steamer-trunk dimensions." ConsumerGuide agrees, declaring the "trunk is generously sized and shaped," although one drawback is that "the split rear seatbacks don't fold completely flat."

The interior acoustics of the 2009 Nissan Altima are quelled enough to improve the driving experience. Edmunds says "road and wind noise are subdued" on all trim levels, and ConsumerGuide affirms this, adding that "tire, road, and wind noise are well controlled."

8

2009 Nissan Altima

Safety

The 2009 Nissan Altima offers a mixed bag for safety-conscious shoppers; while it performs admirably in crash tests, its list of safety features could be better.

A strong crash-test record and great visibility are positives for the 2009 Nissan Altima, but in all except top trims, the Altima lacks electronic stability control.

In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests, the 2009 Nissan Altima earns the highest rating, "good," for both frontal offset and side impact collisions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal agency that oversees government crash testing, awards the 2009 Nissan Altima a full five stars for both front and side impacts. Even more impressive is the fact that these ratings apply for both driver and passenger protection. One of the best determinations of a vehicle's overall safety is how well it performs in crash tests, and in this category, the Nissan Altima is an all-star.

TheCarConnection.com notices in reviews that stability control is available only as an option, and only on the 3.5 trims, which leads ConsumerGuide to "wish Nissan would make an antiskid system standard on all models." But when it comes to safety features on the Nissan Altima, most of the usual amenities appear. Beginning with what you'll find on the Nissan Altima, Edmunds states "front-seat side airbags and full-length side-curtain airbags are standard on every 2009 Nissan Altima." Furthermore, with the Altima, Nissan offers "antilock brakes" as "standard on the 3.5 sedan trims" and base 2.5, and "optional on the 2.5 S sedan."

ConsumerGuide says "visibility in sedans is very good to all directions." Kelley Blue Book reports that the "Altima's generous glass area provides the driver with good sightlines to the outside world," vision being another redeeming safety quality on the Altima Nissan.

9

2009 Nissan Altima

Features

The 2009 Nissan Altima offers a wide range of features, but options will drive the price much higher.

If you're willing to pay for it, the 2009 Nissan Altima can be equipped as well as any other car in its class.

For 2009, standard equipment has been bolstered on the Nissan Altima, with all models receiving a new automatic door lock system. Refinements to the base model Altimas include a new 16-inch wheel cover design, dual power remote-controlled side-view mirrors, a standard trip computer, speed-sensitive variable intermittent windshield wipers, and a revised option package.

Kelley Blue Book notes that the Nissan Altima "2.5 S, which accounts for the majority of all Altima sales, adds air conditioning," along with "an audio system with CD player." On the 3.5 SE Altima, Nissan incorporates a steering wheel with built-in radio controls, while Kelley Blue Book reports that the top-end "3.5 SL has leather, a Bose audio system, automatic up/down passenger's front window and standard CVT automatic." Edmunds says "the base 2.5 comes with 16-inch wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry/starting, [and] cruise control," and the other trims add on the features from there.

Regarding options, Kelley Blue Book says some of the most noteworthy items include "a dual-zone climate control system, power moonroof, voice-activated navigation system," and "premium Bose audio system." Cars.com adds that the Altima Nissan "is one of the few family-oriented midsize sedans that can have an optional rearview camera." Of course, it is bundled as part of an option package that they report includes XM Satellite Radio. Cars.com finds that "most popular options are grouped together in expensive packages." They warn that while this method is "fine if you want everything in the package, you may not be as happy when you learn that it will cost $2,150 to add a moonroof to the 2.5 S trim level." Edmunds deems this business practice "a little shady," comparing it to "going to a salad bar and being offered a choice of either dry lettuce or a 4-gallon bucket of Ranch." Despite the atypical pricing practices, the Nissan Altima presents some very cool features in its options packages.

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April 20, 2015
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I have 108,000 city miles and the car rides perfectly,not one rattle,every button still works like new!The car has a sporty feel,tight steering,and is just a very smooth drive!Uses regular gas and gets 22 mpg... + More »
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Styling 8.0
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