2019 Nissan Altima first drive review: The long game with a Hail Mary

September 28, 2018

The 2019 Nissan Altima is hardcore normcore. Judging by the way the automaker describes its new mid-size sedan, I’m not sure they mind the hashtag classification.

If normcore sounds to you more like an arts and crafts mounting board, it’s fine—you haven’t missed much. Normcore is a term assigned by younger generations to things their parents did or wore, drove or bought, in an effort to intentionally obfuscate something otherwise called “a good idea.” Normcore is why Converse sells a lot of shoes again.

It’s also the reason why Nissan is optimistic about its 2019 Altima. Younger generations are turning back to sedans, according to the automaker. Their parents graduated from sedans to SUVs, now-adult children wouldn’t be caught dead in their parents’ cars, Nissan says.

DON'T MISS: Read our 2019 Nissan Altima full review

What do you have in an Eddie Bauer four-door?

The 2019 Nissan Altima scored a preliminary 6.3 on our overall scale before we’ve factored in fuel economy and safety, two numbers that likely will boost that final total. There’s not much to “get” inside the numbers that are available; it’s comfortable and quiet transportation for adults without pretense or flash.

If that sounds like a pair of Chuck Taylors to you: same.

2019 Nissan Altima

2019 Nissan Altima


Power play

The 2019 Altima needed a reason to continue on. It found two. This year, the Nissan mid-sizer dropped its overpowered V-6 for a more efficient turbo-4 (many other automakers have done the same) and added all-wheel drive to the Altima’s bag of tricks.

Aside from more power on paper, the Altima’s high-po turbo-4 is mostly marketing and a far-fetched idea. The hugely complex engine is only available on a small number of trims, is front-wheel drive only, and more importantly, expensive. It costs at least $3,000 more to equip, and Nissan estimates that fewer than one in five buyers will opt for it. The idea behind it may help save the auto industry by conserving more fuel without sacrificing power, but in the Altima, it may not get many looks.

MUST READ: 2019 Nissan Rogue adds safety tech, costs $25,795

What’s left for the rest of us is mostly good—especially the ride. The Altima’s wheelbase stretches by roughly two inches, but the overall car is nearly the same length as the outgoing version. That means good room inside for four or five adults, with a big trunk.

The base 2.5-liter engine was wrenched up 9 horsepower, to 188 hp, although power isn’t its best look. It’s more refined and quieter, and does just enough to keep the standard continuously variable transmission from becoming our next headache.

Space is down fractionally on paper, but quality is up. The Altima offers better looking interior materials this year—with a few hard surfaces in some areas—and a generous standard 8.0-inch touchscreen. The back seat is a nicer place to be this year, and the front seats are better. Although they’re somewhat thin, the front seats are fluid ergonomic superstars, like jai alai baskets. The seats are made better by a lower cowl that offers a better look at the road ahead.

If tall-riding crossovers have any foils with new-car buyers it’s this: Small sedans done well can offer a better view of the road ahead with better outward vision.

That brings us to the other reason Nissan made a new Altima: all-wheel drive. Many other automakers gave up that ghost for mid-size sedans a while back.

In the Altima, its all-wheel-drive system is available on every trim for $1,350 more. Aside from the added weight, the system works imperceptibly in the background with the base engine. It likely won’t ding fuel economy too hard, and it prefers to drive the front wheels for better fuel economy anyway. Wet weather shoppers will consider it, although the system’s value above a good set of winter tires is debatable.

2019 Nissan Altima

2019 Nissan Altima

2019 Nissan Altima

2019 Nissan Altima

2019 Nissan Altima

2019 Nissan Altima

Right priced

We won’t argue the Altima’s value overall, though. Starting at $24,645 for a 2019 Altima S, Nissan bundles cloth upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, automatic emergency braking, remote start, keyless ignition, and four USB charge ports.

That’s good enough to get our attention, although Nissan doesn’t have a monopoly on value alone. Other mid-sizers from Toyota and Honda—you may have heard of them: Camry and Accord—do similar tricks for about the same price.

The 2019 Altima’s ace in its sleeve? A trick turbo-4 and all-wheel drive that the other guys skip.

The Altima is more useful this year, too, but not in flashy ways.

You know, like a fanny pack.

Want to know more? Read our full review on the 2019 Nissan Altima here.

Nissan provided travel and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.

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