So you’ve decided to buck the SUV craze and want something family friendly. What about the trusty midsize sedan? From slick technology and snazzy interiors to great driving dynamics, automakers have thrown everything at their former volume sellers to help them stand out. For those who don’t care about SUVs’ tall seating position, the 2019 and 2020 Nissan Altima want your attention because it packs the latest tech and offers all-wheel drive for the first time, provided you choose the base engine.
We tested a 2019 Altima 2.5SL AWD to get the full story on Nissan’s updated midsize sedan.
After putting the 2019 Nissan Altima through MotorTrend’s testing regime, we found that it’s most at home casually cruising on the highway. On the figure-eight course, testing director Kim Reynolds complained about the soft chassis, excessive understeer, and lack of steering and brake pedal feel. The 2019 Altima finished the figure eight course in 27.8 seconds with a 0.61 g average and 0.83 g of lateral acceleration. Driving at a relaxed pace is the Altima’s forte, absorbing most road imperfections without transmitting them into the passenger compartment. Plenty of wind noise comes from the A- and B-pillars, which can get annoying.
At the drag strip, the all-wheel-drive 2019 Nissan Altima hit 60 mph in 7.7 seconds and the quarter mile in 16.0 seconds at 89.2 mph. That puts it in the same ballpark as the front-drive Toyota Camry and Honda Accord with their standard powertrains, both of which are more powerful than the Altima. With all-wheel drive, the Altima’s 2.5-liter I-4 is only rated at 182 hp and 178 lb-ft because of a different exhaust system (FWD models get 188 hp and 180 lb-ft). Braking performance proved solid, as the car stopped from 60 mph in 116 feet. Road test editor Chris Walton observed minimal dive and liked the initial pedal firmness before it gradually softened.
Outside of the track, the base engine has all the power the average consumer needs. The CVT makes the most out of the engine without calling attention to itself, amplifying the Altima’s relaxed demeanor. With under 200 hp, it’s nearly impossible to break traction on dry surfaces because the all-wheel-drive system sends up to 50 percent of its torque to the rear wheels at the slightest hint of wheel slip.
We tested a 2019 Altima, but the 2020 Altima is virtually the same. New for the 2020 Nissan Altima, the automaker’s Safety Shield 360 package is included on the SR trim, and a Driver Assist package makes it available on the base trim. Platinum gets a mirror memory function and other grades get Piano Black interior trim.
Jump inside the 2019 Altima and you’ll find a spacious cabin that accommodates four passengers comfortably (plus a fifth passenger in a pinch). Despite the low-slung roofline, the 2019 Altima has excellent visibility to keep you from feeling claustrophobic and there’s abundant head- and legroom for all but the tallest adults. Got gear to haul? The 2019 Altima’s 15.4-cubic-foot trunk swallows plenty of cargo and the standard 60/40 split-folding rear seats lets you accommodate bulky items.
Nissan has nearly everyone beat in seat comfort. Regardless of where you sit, the Altima has soft cushy seats, ideal for road trips and commuting. The front seats offer great support, you sink into them like you would in a La-Z-Boy recliner, providing the driver and whoever’s riding shotgun the best seats in the house. Only Mazda’s new seats can match Nissan’s in comfort.
Issues? Material quality and attention to detail. Although there are plenty of soft, squishy surfaces, we would have liked to see a few more premium touches inside. The Honda Accord and Mazda6 have better materials and the ambience of a pricier vehicle whereas the Altima clearly feels mainstream, even with the available two-tone interior. Our tester also had a rearview mirror that vibrated when you crank up the Bose audio system, and the panel gaps around the glovebox weren’t consistent when closed.
On the positive side, the latest NissanConnect infotainment system has next to no learning curve. It combines a responsive 8.0-inch touchscreen with an intuitive button layout to keep the controls familiar. Even the most tech-averse consumer can use this interface in seconds without having to look into the owner’s manual. Improved graphics, particularly the onboard navigation maps, bring it into the modern age without adding complexity.
Nissan’s driver assistance technologies work well with ProPilot Assist active. It does an excellent job keeping you centered in your lane and maintaining enough distance between you and the vehicle ahead so that no one can cut in. With ProPilot Assist deactivated, the lane centering and steering assist functions disengage too, leaving you with an erratic lane keeping assist that use the brakes to jerk you back into your lane rather than gently steer you back.
Easy Living, But…
Between the spacious interior, user-friendly multimedia system, and comfortable seats, living with the 2019 Nissan Altima proved easy but forgettable. Whereas the Honda Accord and Mazda6 punch above their weight with their great driving dynamics and premium-level interior, the Altima doesn’t move beyond mainstream. Despite its edgy exterior styling, not much is memorable about the Nissan Altima aside from the available all-wheel drive; it’s worth a look but don’t expect anything but vanilla—not French vanilla or vanilla bean, just vanilla.
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