2020 Nissan Altima

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2019
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
August 13, 2019

Buying tip

All-wheel drive doesn’t noticeably dent fuel economy and is reasonable for $1,350 more. If you live in a cold-weather state, we recommend it.

The 2020 Nissan Altima is a handsome sedan with a great-looking price.

Come for the bargain, stay for the value.

The 2020 Nissan Altima will attract many buyers for its affordability. It costs less than $25,000 in base trim. Over time they’ll appreciate their choice more: the 2020 Altima’s a good mid-size sedan with impressive value. 

It’s a 6.7 on our scale, which reflects its good base features, safety, and value. Good news: Many other mid-size sedans rate nearly the same. Better news: It’s a cutthroat class and shoppers hardly can go wrong. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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The Altima starts at less than $25,000, but top versions pass $35,000. We see better value in more basic trims, which get good features but lack showy wheels and leather. 

Every Altima gets good looks, thankfully. The sedan was redesigned last year for a more athletic appeal—like Nissan ran the Altima through a Lululemon. It works. The hood is sharper, the nose is more distinctive and the body sides are less boring. 

Under the hood is a mostly familiar inline-4 that makes 188 horsepower. It’s adequate, but returns better-than-average fuel economy at 32 mpg, according to the EPA. All-wheel drive is available for $1,350, which is rare among mid-size sedans. (The Subaru Legacy is the only other one.)

A 248-hp turbo-4 is on the menu but its market-price adjustment at more than $3,000 over the base powertrain means it may be a meal worth skipping. 

The Altima has good room for up to five adults and more than 15 cubes of cargo, good for a mid-size sedan. Even base versions get comfortable seats and stretch-out space. 

Federal and independent testers give it good marks for crashing safely. It’s a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS yardstick and federal testers gave it a five-star score. 

Altima SV and higher trims get driver-assistance features that help reduce fatigue but don’t eliminate the task of paying attention. 

Base Altimas don’t miss much. They get cloth seats, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on an 8.0-inch touchscreen, automatic emergency braking, keyless ignition, four USB ports, 16-inch wheels, and remote start. 

We’ll take an SV with upgraded wheels, cloth, and better safety gear for less than $29,000.

6

2020 Nissan Altima

Styling

The 2020 Nissan Altima wears the best looks on its sleeves.

The 2020 Nissan Altima is growing into its skin and growing on us. It gets a point above average for a sharper exterior that still looks good. It’s a 6. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Nissan sedan’s shape has evolved from a 1990s bulbous, boy-band middle part, to a razor-sharp, K-pop hard part. The new Atima is sleeker, more aerodynamic and most importantly, on-trend again.

Nissan has moved the shunt lines from the top to the sides for a straightforward look. The deeply plunging V-shaped nose is more dramatic in person, but it’s also personable. 

Along the sides, the Altima draws a neater profile than previous years. A character line stretches straight across the front fender to the rear taillight, but our eyes are attracted to a subtle bend that starts lower on the front wheel and meets the character line near the windows.

Chromed door handles punctuate that line, and the rear door handles sit higher than the front, which seemingly drops the car onto its shoulders. Neat.

Inside, the Altima doesn’t take nearly the same risks. It’s standard mid-size fare, which is to say: meat and potatoes without a lot of flavor in the middle. 

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5

2020 Nissan Altima

Performance

All-wheel drive and an optional turbo-4 are nice perks on top of a solid base engine.

The 2020 Altima goes to work without pretense or flair. It’s fine, a lot like, well, going to work. It’s a 5 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Most Altimas will be powered by a 2.5-liter inline-4 that makes 188 hp and drives the front wheels. All-wheel drive is available, which was new last year, and makes the Altima among its rivals. 

The base engine is paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that grows a pair of paddle shifters in the Altima SR. It’s best when it's not in a hurry, the transmission is mostly quiet but can elicit engine buzz when pressed into duty. 

The 19-inch wheels on the Altima SR are another reason to reconsider a new trim. They add road noise that the other trims skip by opting for 17-inchers instead. 

For most drivers, the 2.5-liter inline-4 is good enough. There’s enough power at launch for stop-and-go traffic, although it needs a while to build up steam (and revs) for high-speed passes. 

All-wheel drive is a $1,350 option on every trim level and starts the car at a 50/50 torque split, front to rear, for the best traction. Up to 70 percent of the power can shift toward the rear for sportier drives, but we think many shoppers will opt for the all-wheel-drive system for all-weather grip. We’ve driven the Altima AWD in snowy Colorado where it performed well on the highway, perhaps more than many buyers will ask. 

The 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 248 hp is available in SR and Platinum Altimas, for $4,050 or $3,000 more. It’s a replacement for the V-6 versions from yesteryear, but it’s hard to justify the added expense. The variable compression turbo-4 promised better fuel economy returns that it didn’t deliver, it lacks all-wheel drive, and it’s appreciably faster in a car that doesn’t favor speed. We say it’s worth skipping. 

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2020 Nissan Altima

Comfort & Quality

Pick a seat—any seat—in the 2020 Altima. There’s not a bad one.

Mid-size sedans like the 2020 Altima hit a fat slice of the bell curve for comfort. 

The front seats are best for comfort, but the back seats are good for space. The trunk is just on the sunny side of spacious, with a wide cutout for big purchases. We give the Altima a 7 for comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The front seats get Nissan’s best and brightest for ergonomic comfort and space. Linebackers may search for a little more shoulder support, but the rest of us Midwesterners won’t gripe. The bottom cushions are firm but supportive and are comfortable for all-day slogs across Nebraska. (Ask us how we know.)

The back seats are similarly comfortable with good stretch-out space. We like the available leg room and although it’s shorter than previous years, it’s still enough for 6-footers to sit behind other 6-footers. Three average-sized adults will fit in back without fuss. Three plus-sized folks will need to be friends. 

The Altima’s trunk measures 15.4 cubic feet to the regulations, better than average. Better than that: A wide trunk cutout makes it easy to load big items into the Altima. 

The Altima’s mixed materials have us, well, mixed. The cabin isn’t as nicely finished as an Accord, but Nissan just grazes the bar to clear average for the class. The upper dash could use a rethink, however: high-gloss materials reflect into the windshield in direct sunlight and it’s distracting. Where’s our 80-grit and belt sander?

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9

2020 Nissan Altima

Safety

Good crash-test scores, good safety equipment, good for the 2020 Altima.

A good safety scorecard, standard safety features, and available active safety features get the 2020 Altima in our good graces here. It’s a 9 for safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The IIHS called the Altima a Top Safety Pick last year, which we expect will carry over this year. In addition to top “Good” scores on all its crash tests, the IIHS said the Altima’s automatic emergency braking system rated “Superior” at avoiding forward crashes.

Federal testers gave the Altima five stars overall for its crashworthiness but noted a four-star score in front crash protection. 

Every Altima is fitted with standard automatic emergency braking that can help prevent crashes or reduce their severity. Blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and rear automatic emergency braking will be equipped on most models, SV or higher. 

Nissan also makes standard on those cars its suite of driver-assistance features called “ProPilot Assist,” which can help steer the car, accelerate, and brake. It’s far from a handsfree system—it works best on divided highways or interstates with clear lane markings in good light. It’s far from an attention-free system, it beeps for nearly everything: when a car appears directly ahead, when it changes lanes, when it stops seeing the road clearly, when it starts seeing the road clearly, you get the idea. 

Still, it’s lifesaving tech for drivers unable or unwilling to put their phones down to drive. That’s good for all of us and it’s the right price on many cars: free. 

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2020 Nissan Altima

Features

Base 2020 Altimas have nearly everything we need, Altima SVs have it all.

Value among new cars is harder to find than a pearl at the supermarket seafood counter. Mid-size sedans like the 2020 Altima are ones worth cracking, however. 

Starting from less than $25,000, base Altima sedans don’t skimp on good stuff. They get cloth seats, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on an 8.0-inch touchscreen, automatic emergency braking, keyless ignition, four USB ports, and remote start. The wheels on the Altima S are less attractive than headgear at bedtime, but that’s life. 

It’s a 7 for features thanks to good standard gear and a good touchscreen. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2020 Altima works its way up from S to SV, SL, SR, and Platinum trim levels. All-wheel drive is available at every stop (with the base engine) and SR and Platinum versions offer an optional, higher-power motor for more money. 

We’d step up to an Altima SV for less than $29,000 that includes upgraded wheels and cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped gear shifter and steering wheel, dual-zone climate controls and upgraded safety stuff. All-wheel drive is optional on Altima SVs (and every other trim) for $1,350. 

The top-of-the-line Altima Platinum falls down on value, but reaches high for features. It gets leather upholstery, 19-inch wheels, power-adjustable front seats that are heated, a surround-view camera system, navigation, premium audio, and a moonroof for about $33,000, or $36,000 for the more powerful turbo-4. They’re nice places to be, sure. For the price? Not so sure. 

Altima infotainment

The Altima gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen on all models that’s clear and responsive, although the screen can wash out sometimes in direct sunlight. (It’s more acute in cars equipped with a sunroof.) 

The native software is straightforward and easy to understand, although in desperate need of some UI/UX engineer love soon. (Eds note: It’s 2019 and the year of smooth fonts, people.)

Baked-in compatibility with smartphone systems from Apple and Google are welcome reprieves. The hardwired connection is easy to establish and the smartphone systems booted up for us without issues. (We had some problems in a Murano, however.)

On tony trims, Nissan offers native navigation but we don’t see much value there. Smartphone maps are just as good and destination input is easier. Concierge services that are available with navigation-equipped cars aren’t intuitive either; the button is nearly hidden on the map screen. 

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2020 Nissan Altima

Fuel Economy

The 2020 Altima is generous with interior room, but frugal with fuel. Just like it should be.

Even with three powertrain configurations, the 2020 Altima’s fuel-economy story is brief: it’s good. 

With the base engine powering the front wheels only, the 2020 Altima is rated by the EPA at 28 mpg city, 39 highway, 32 combined. That’s a 6 on our scale, which is above average for a new car. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The rest of the Altima lineup doesn’t stray far from those numbers. When equipped with all-wheel drive, the 2020 sedan rates 26/36/30 mpg. 

Bigger wheels on SR and Platinum versions dent fuel economy in any configuration by about 1 mpg across the board. 

Opt for the more powerful 2.0-liter turbo-4 and the Altima rates 25/34/29 mpg. That’s respectable among sedans, but doesn’t quite live up to the promise that variable compression made a few years ago. 

Among rank-and-file sedans such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, the Altima holds its own. The Accord is EPA rated at 33 mpg combined in its most popular configuration, the Camry clocks in at about 32 mpg combined. 

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6.7
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 5
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 9
Features 7
Fuel Economy 6
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2020 Nissan Altima Pricing Insights

  • 2020 Altima is here; 2019s are nearly sold out
  • Rebates: $1,500
  • Lease: From $229 per month for 36 months
  • Finance: From 0% APR for 60 months
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