Overview & Reviews
The Nissan Altima has been sold for nearly two decades, starting out as a smallish midsize sedan and maturing into the full-fledged family sedan it is today. There have been five Altima generations thus far, with the third generation marking the key shift to mainstream dimensions and specifications. Nissan likes to emphasize the Altima's fun-to-drive character, a trait we've come to appreciate in road tests over the years. Significant evolutions in features, finesse and frugality have made the Altima a perennial top pick in this popular segment.
Current Nissan Altima
The Altima is available with one of two engines. The standard 2.5-liter, 182-horsepower four-cylinder returns an impressive 31 mpg combined, while the 3.5-liter, 270-hp V6 achieves a respectable 25 mpg combined. Both are equipped with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
There are seven trim levels to choose from, designated as either 2.5 or 3.5 depending on which engine's under the hood. The base 2.5 model gets you steel wheels along with nice perks like keyless ignition/entry and Bluetooth streaming audio, while the 2.5 S adds a power driver seat and an upgraded stereo. The 2.5 SV includes alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control and a touchscreen interface. The fancy 2.5 SL boasts leather upholstery and Bose audio.
Note that the 3.5 S gets many of the 2.5 SV's features plus larger alloy wheels, and the 3.5 SL tacks on xenon headlights. All SV and SL models are eligible for a Technology package that includes a bigger touchscreen, a navigation system, voice controls and a collection of electronic safety features like blind-spot monitoring.
In reviews, we've been very impressed with the Nissan Altima. Most of its competitors are certainly worth a look, but this Nissan has all the makings of a benchmark. It does all the little things right, and goes the extra mile with its rewarding driving dynamics and high-end cabin. Passenger space is also quite good, though some may find backseat headroom a bit lacking.
If you're having a hard time choosing between the four-cylinder and the V6, consider that the four offers a rare combination of excellent fuel economy and relatively swift acceleration. In Edmunds testing, a four-cylinder Altima accelerated to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, which is pretty impressive given its high fuel economy. Of course, we clocked the burly V6 at just 6.2 seconds, so if power's a priority, the 3.5 model range is a nice option to have.
Used Nissan Altima Models
The current, fifth-generation Nissan Altima debuted for the 2013 model year. The latest Altima benefits from overhauled styling inside and out, with a focus on a more upscale look and feel. Fuel economy is markedly better for both four-cylinder and V6 models, while updated suspension and steering systems maintain the Altima's reputation as one of the market's best-handling family sedans. For that debut year only, the previous-generation Altima coupe continued to be sold alongside the redesigned sedan. The coupe was subsequently discontinued.
The previous, fourth-generation Nissan Altima sedan was produced from 2007 through 2012 and marked the arrival of the now-ubiquitous CVT. It is in many ways similar to its successor, so a used one could be a good budget-friendly alternative. A coupe version debuted in 2008 and was produced in modest numbers through 2013. A limited-production Altima Hybrid was also available in some states from 2007 through 2011.
The fourth-generation Altima went without major changes for most of its run, though used car shoppers should note that there were some styling tweaks for 2010, along with the addition of an iPod interface and enhanced audio and navigation systems. Both the sedan and coupe were broken into 2.5 and 3.5 model ranges. The 2.5 models had a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produced 175 hp. The 3.5 SR (originally called SE) models had a 3.5-liter V6 that produced 270 hp. Though these powertrains are similar to those of the fifth-generation Altima, they were considerably less fuel-efficient. A CVT was mandatory on the sedan, while the coupe got a standard six-speed manual transmission with the CVT as an option.
We mostly praised the power and handling of both the four-cylinder and V6 Altima models in our reviews. The 3.5 models were more sporting, of course, thanks to their effortless acceleration and sport-tuned suspensions. But even the most basic 2.5-liter four-cylinder was one of the more rewarding family sedans to drive, while still providing a comfortable ride. The CVT was one of the best examples of its breed, and we would choose it over the coupe's six-speed manual, which was unrefined and difficult to use.
The third-generation Nissan Altima, produced from 2002-'06, set the stage for the Altima we know today. Radically different from the previous car, this enlarged model put Nissan smack dab in the middle of the family-sedan wars. It was about 6 inches longer than the previous generation, and its new suspension design and stronger body made it both better to drive and more useful for families. At the time, it was one of the most powerful family sedans available, offering either a 175-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine or a 240-hp 3.5-liter V6, the latter a shot over the bows of the weaker Camry and Accord V6 models. Both engines offered a choice of manual or automatic transmissions, with four-cylinder Altimas limited to a four-speed automatic versus the V6's available five-speed auto.
The third-generation interior was widely criticized for looking and feeling cheap, but the Altima had a particularly lively feel for a front-wheel-drive family sedan. Our editors concluded that the Altima had gone from wallflower to genuinely desirable sedan overnight. For driving enthusiasts, the 2005-'06 Altima SE-R was the way to go. This specialized model came with a firmer suspension, a bit more power and an exclusive six-speed manual transmission whose slick operation was a cut above Nissan's unimpressive norm.
The first and second generations saw the Altima trying to find its groove. All models of this vintage were powered by a reasonably peppy 150-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Introduced in 1993, the original Altima fell somewhere in between the compact and midsize categories, and American car shoppers weren't overly impressed. We found the second-generation Altima, sold for the 1998-2001 model years, to be a decent handler, but its overall design was simply too bland, and its odd size remained an issue. Mainstream success would have to wait for the blockbuster third-generation model.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 3,671.00
This is the best car ever - 1999 Nissan Altima
By John - September 26 - 10:08 am
I have a 1999 Nissan Altima GXE. Just a solid, extremely reliable car. I have almost 240,000 miles and running strong. No issues. very little maintenance done, one sensor, AC compressor, alternator and that is about it in 7 years I have owned it. I think I can get another 50k or 60K miles easily on this car. Highly recommended car. Best car I have ever had.
Best Car I have ever have - 1999 Nissan Altima
By John - November 5 - 10:32 am
Extremely reliable, 227K miles on it with no issues, just regular maintenance. Nissan knows how to build engines. Will keep it until falls apart. Very recommended.
6000 miles broke down - 2015 Nissan Altima
By Sam - September 14 - 9:44 am
2015 Altima 3.5 broke down on highway after 6000 miles. Air conditioner stopped working and battery light came on so I opened the hood and saw oil all over on the passenger side. While trying to return to dealer for service, lost power and left me stranded. Towed to dealership. Serpentine belt is shredded so I was probably driving on the battery alone. Why the oil all over, they didnt know. They mentioned oil lines, or crankshaft seal? Still waiting to see whats going on with it. (Also steering requires work as far as being not very easy to steer, driver side weather stripping already worn out due to seatbelt rubbing against it when retracting. Guess it may depend on where your seat is positioned, but the stripping itself is paper thin)
Good lord - 2008 Nissan Altima
By harber - December 31 - 10:33 pm
I just traded in my 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee on this gem. Test drove the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Infiniti G35. This car was the best bar far. The features alone differentiate it from the others. I couldnt be happier. Perfect combination of form and function.
Ok, but disappointed - 2001 Nissan Altima
By JLPearl - December 31 - 11:16 am
I was disappointed in this car. Have heard foriegn cars are better, and this was my first one - no more for me. Check engine light came on before we even got it home! Went round & round with the dealer who finally agreed to the repair - intake manifold gasket (exact same problem I had with my GM!) Car sits low - it will rust, even if you constantly wash it. Car is light and has a rough ride - feel every bump in the road. Exterior trim started falling off one day for no reason. Power drivers window was very sluggish. Gas mileage was horrid - I the best I got was 24mpg. I went back to GM and am happier. I get 28-30mpg consistently with my current full size GM product (V6).
I Just love Altima 2.5 S - 2009 Nissan Altima
By Alex - December 31 - 5:26 am
My wife had a car accident and our Acura Integra was a total loss. So when we chose a new car safety was of primary concern. We found the Nissan Altima had the highest safety rating so we bought it. Now I can tell that not only you feel safe driving it, but also fun driving it. It feels so smooth and, the fuel economy is just excellent. We are so glad that we bought it rather than Toyota Camry which we looked at first. Camry is a good car too. But Altima 2.5 S is just great.
Awesome Car - 2010 Nissan Altima
By Tony C. - December 30 - 9:30 pm
I just purchase this car last night and this car is such a joy to drive. The ride is awesome the quality of the car is tremendous.I traded a 97 crown vic for this car and there is absolutely no comparison. I like the fact that the more efficient I drive the further I can go on a tank of fuel.
High Speed Noise - 2002 Nissan Altima
By Gchaz - December 30 - 6:26 pm
I purchased an Altima 3.5 SE just before Christmas. A shrill, shearing sound occasionally crops up emanating from somewhere in the front on the drivers side when travelling at speeds above 70 mph. It last for up to a minute or so. The dealer first thought it was the tire, then the strut, and now wind noise. Have not been able to pinpoint the cause at this point. I am about ready to invoke my Lemon Law rights and ask Nissan to replace the vehicle.
Regretting first ever new car buy - 2008 Nissan Altima
By Not so happy now - December 30 - 5:06 am
Love my car, it handles great. Steep curves feel like Sunday driving @ 55+mph. However I have paint drips in tire wells under the fender. Also, I want to pierce my ears to save myself the agony of listening to the screeching sound coming from somewhere on drivers side. Thought it was poorly designed side mirrors, now I am thinking its the tires. It is so horrible I wish I could take my car back. Forget about cruising with the sunroof open and windows rolled down, unless you want to know how it sounds for cats to die miserably.
Update - 2009 Nissan Altima
By phillygm - December 29 - 12:43 am
Ive got about 10000 on the clock now. Car still drives like a champ. Mileage pretty much the same as when purchased, @ 20-22mpg combined 20 miles roundtrip daily depending on foot. Noise in engine compartment is ABS automatic and occurs on all Lexus and Nissan V6s, some more audible than others. Sadly, the rattle in the back was never solved after repeated trips. Strangely, it goes away when a passenger sits on side of the back seat, may try and lcoate rattle myself at some point. No major disappointments yet.