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Nissan’s midsize Altima is one of its best-selling vehicles and goes head on against the likes of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The Altima is offered in a sport-tuned SR trim with unique suspension tuning for improved handling compared to other variants.
The Nissan Altima was originally introduced as a compact car, and it came exclusively with a 150-hp 2.4-liter I-4 paired to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. For our market, the first 1993 Altima was built in Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee plant, which now produces a good chunk of the automaker’s North American offerings. For 1998, the second-generation Altima arrived with a new exterior design that’s less rounded than its predecessor. The same 2.4-liter I-4 carried over from the previous-generation Altima along with the four-speed automatic and five-speed manual. It was an American market-only model.
For the third generation, the Altima officially became a midsize sedan and utilized Nissan’s FF-L platform. No equivalent was made in other markets including in Nissan’s home market of Japan. Introduced for the 2002 model year, the third-generation Altima was the first to use Nissan’s 3.5-liter V-6 that can be paired to either a five-speed manual or automatic transmission. A 2.5-liter I-4 remained the base engine, and it was available with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. Nissan also produced a sporty variant of this generation called the Altima SE-R, and it was powered by a 260-hp 3.5-liter V-6 paired to a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. Unique features in the Altima SE-R included a high-flow exhaust, upgraded brakes, a sportier suspension tuning, and special alloy wheels.
Nissan introduced the fourth-generation Altima for the 2007 model year at the 2006 New York Auto Show. In addition to the sedan, a coupe variant was offered for the first time in this generation. The car also switched to Nissan’s D platform with a shorter wheelbase compared to its predecessor. A 175-hp 2.5-liter I-4 was the base engine while an upgraded 270-hp 3.5-liter V-6 was an optional powertrain. Nissan originally offered the fourth-generation Altima with a six-speed manual as standard while a CVT replaced the old four- and five-speed automatics as the optional transmission. However, the manual was discontinued near the end of the fourth generation’s production run. A hybrid variant of the Altima sedan was offered, but it was only available in certain states.
The Latest Generation
Introduced for the 2013 model year, the current-generation Nissan Altima is larger than the car it replaces but weighs less. Both engines from the previous generation carried over but the base 2.5-liter I-4 received a power upgrade to 182 hp. An upgraded CVT is the only transmission available regardless of which engine you choose. The CVT, however, makes the four-cylinder Altima one of the most fuel efficient midsize sedans on sale at 27/38 mpg city/highway. Features such as Active Understeer Control, a seven-inch display in between the gauges, and Moving Object Detection also debuted in the current-generation Altima. In a six-car midsize sedan comparison test, the Altima placed fifth because of its poor driving dynamics. “Despite second-best averaged efficiency, a second-best value proposition, and a sizeable rear seat, the Altima just didn’t capture our hearts like the four cars ranked ahead of it. A sluggish CVT, heavy-feeling dynamics, and worst-in-group steering drove that point home,” we said.
Nissan refreshed the Altima for the 2016 model year, giving it a new front fascia that’s reminiscent of the Maxima. The car also received a new SR trim level that adds a sportier suspension setup, paddle shiters and 18-inch alloy wheels. A full suite of active safety features including automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning were also added along with LED headlights. Active grille shutters were also added to make the Altima even more fuel efficient, with the four-cylinder model rated at 27/39 mpg for the 2016 model year. In a 2016 First Drive, the refreshed Altima proved quieter than the pre-facelift car, and the SR model handled slightly better at the cost of tire noise.
Why You’d Consider One
If fuel efficiency is of high importance, the Nissan Altima with the base four-cylinder engine should satisfy that. For those looking for a family-friendly rocket packed with a full suite of active safety tech and comfortable seating, the V-6-powered Altima will easily fit the bill.
Why You’d Look Elsewhere
Nissan has long favored CVTs for their mainstream vehicles and in the case of the Altima it’s the only transmission available, which could cause more discerning buyers to turn away.