The Car Connection Nissan Altima Overview
The Nissan Altima is a mid-size family sedan that was redesigned for the 2019 model year.
As such, it sports one of the most advanced gasoline-powered engines on the planet. Sold in base, S, SR, SV, SL, and Platinum trim levels, the Altima is a rival for vehicles such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, as well as the Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, and many others.
With the Altima, Nissan has one of its oldest nameplates, but the current Altima doesn't have much in common with its ancestors. Upsized and designed specifically to fulfill the demands of American consumers, the Altima is Nissan's most decidedly mainstream vehicle. Originally a compact sedan, and later reinvigorated with a healthy dose of performance including a coupe version, today's Altima shoots for the mainstream—it's affordable, comfortable, and fuel-thrifty.
MORE: Read our 2020 Nissan Altima review
The new Nissan Altima
The latest Nissan Altima takes on the latest Toyota Camry and Accord without its former V-6, but with available all-wheel drive.
Restyled for 2019, the Altima has a deep new V-shaped grille, a steeply raked hood and windshield, and a more crisply stamped profile. Its dash lays lower, with a central touchscreen that rises from the middle and runs infotainment functions.
Under the hood, the Altima offers turbocharged and naturally aspirated inline-4 engines. The base 2.5-liter inline-4 has 188 horsepower, and couples to a CVT. Power goes to either the front or to all four wheels. The bigger news is the Altima's new 2.0-liter turbo-4; with a complex variable compression system, it generates 248 hp and couples to a CVT and front-wheel drive.
Other engineering improvements give the Altima a refined strut-and-link suspension, electric dual-pinion power steering, and monotube rear shocks. Base 16-inch wheels grow to 19-inchers on the Altima SR.
The new Altima rides on a 111.2-inch wheelbase, up by almost two inches, and sits 192.9 inches long in all. Nissan promises more interior space, and the driver gets an eight-way power seat.
Nissan retains standard forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking on the new car. Blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control are options. The 2019 Altima can be fitted with Nissan’s Level 2 semi-autonomous driving hardware, which assists the driver with steering and braking input.
Other features include keyless ignition, a USB-C port, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Changes were minimal for 2020.
The fifth-generation Nissan Altima, 2013-2018
Previewed at the 2012 New York auto show, the current Nissan Altima went on sale that same year as a 2013 model. Essentially carried over for the 2014 and 2015 model years, the Altima retained the inline-4 and V-6 engines of the previous generation, as well as its continuously variable transmission (CVT).
On 182-horsepower 4-cylinder cars, improvements to the CVT nudged the sedan to an EPA-estimated 38 mpg highway, among the best in its class. The thirstier 270-hp V-6 added paddle controls and programmed "shift" points to the CVT that simulate the feel of a conventional automatic gearbox. Excellent seats and a tightly assembled interior are among the highlights of the current generation of Altima sedans.
The Altima sedan was largely unchanged for the 2015 model year. A mid-cycle refresh came in the 2016 model year; with no major powertrain changes, the updates brought a new front end with a Maxima-like grille, some modified interior trim, and a revised suspension designed to improve ride quality. Some minor retuning to the car's transmission, combined with some aerodynamic tweaking, boosted highway fuel economy for all 4-cylinders other than the SR, which rides on sportier tires, to an impressive EPA-rated 39 mpg.
A new SR model with sporty transmission programming and a stiffer suspension setup has also been added.
The new Altima sedan also adopts more safety and technology, with standard Bluetooth and streaming audio, and available wide-angle rearview camera, lane-departure warning systems, and satellite radio.
For 2018, all Altimas received standard forward-collision warnings and automatic emergency braking.
Nissan Altima history
Introduced in 1993, the Altima has grown from its original compact-class size to a mid-sizer, and from a mediocre offering to a very good one. The 1993-1997 and 1998-2001 Altimas were compact sedans powered by 4-cylinder engines, offering a 5-speed manual gearbox or 4-speed automatic. They were the successor to the Stanza sedan, and did well for Nissan against the Toyota Corolla.
When the third-generation Altima launched in 2002, it was the first of a new wave of dramatically styled Nissan models, drawing great acclaim for its distinctive lines. That 2002-2006 model offered a 2.5-liter inline-4 and a 3.5-liter V-6, with standard 5-speed manuals or automatics (a 4-speed for the four, a 5-speed for the V-6). The sportiest SE-R model included not only the 250-hp V-6, but also unique suspension tuning, 18-inch wheels and tires, and some styling flourishes to set the car apart from standard Altimas.
Restyled for 2007, the Altima continued as a more design-forward alternative to the average mid-size sedan, like the popular Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, as well as the up-and-coming Hyundai Sonata and domestic competitors like the Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu. It was most notable in this generation for displacing the Maxima as Nissan's biggest sedan, though the vehicles actually shared much of their running gear. It also added a two-door model that gave the Honda Accord Coupe one of its few real rivals.
In 2010, the Altima received a mild refresh consisting of a new grille, improvements to interior materials, and added options. At the time, the engine choices were a 175-hp, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder in base models and an optional 275-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. The standard transmission in both the sedan and coupe was a CVT, while coupe buyers could also select a 6-speed manual.
Nissan offered an Altima Hybrid from 2007 through the 2011 model year. It used a 162-hp, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder paired with a licensed version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system found in the Prius and others. Fuel economy was rated by the EPA at 35 mpg city, 33 highway. The gas-electric Altima was offered only in a handful of states. Nissan removed the Altima Hybrid from the lineup to focus its green efforts on the then-new Leaf all-electric hatchback.
The two-door model survived through the end of the 2013 model year but has not been replaced alongside the latest Altima sedan. For its sign-off, it came only in a single configuration, with the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and the CVT.