2019 Nissan Altima Review
Rumors of the demise of the midsize sedan have been greatly exaggerated.
No, people aren’t buying as many as they used to; the crossover has made mighty inroads to becoming the conveyance of choice for many families. But for a healthy chunk of the populace who want the comfort, roominess, fuel thriftiness, and driving dynamics of a car, there’s no substitute for a midsize family sedan, which excels at all of these attributes.
Among them, the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry still lead the pack as the three best-selling midsize sedans. But in order to stay competitive with the two Goliaths of the industry, the new-for-2018 Accord and Camry, Nissan has rolled out the redesigned, sixth-generation 2019 Altima.
It’s all-new inside and out, it boasts two new engines, it offers available all-wheel drive, and is chock full of new technologies to help keep you safe and entertained.
For this review, J.D. Power evaluated the popular Altima SV trim level, equipped with all-wheel drive and a set of splash guards. The price came to $30,380, including the $895 destination charge.
What Owners Say…
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the Nissan Altima, it is helpful to understand who bought the previous version of this midsize car, and what they liked most and least about their Altimas.
J.D. Power data shows that 48% of Nissan Altima owners are women, compared to 39% for the midsize car segment as a whole. The median age of an Altima owner is 54 years, while at the segment level the average midsize car owner is 55 years of age. Median annual household income of an Altima owner is $72,500, and is $86,689 for the segment.
Altima owners are a price- and cost-sensitive group of people. They are more likely to identify as Price Buyers (32% vs. 27% for the segment), they are more likely to strongly agree that fuel economy is a first consideration when choosing a new vehicle (29% vs. 22%), and they are more likely to strongly agree that reliability is a first consideration when choosing a new vehicle (72% vs. 67%).
Furthermore, Altima owners are less likely to agree that they are willing to pay extra for a vehicle that is environmentally friendly (48% vs. 58%), and are less likely to agree that they are willing to pay extra to ensure that their vehicle has the latest safety features (75% vs. 80%).
Owners report that their favorite things about the previous Altima were (in descending order) the exterior styling, storage and space, interior design, seats, and driving dynamics. Owners indicate that their least favorite things about the previous Altima were (in descending order) the visibility and safety, engine/transmission, infotainment system, climate system, and fuel economy.
What Our Expert Says…
In the sections that follow, our expert provides her own perceptions about how the Nissan Altima measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the 2018 APEAL Study.
Owners of the previous Altima most often cited its appearance as the primary feature that they liked about their car, and they’re sure to be pleased about Nissan’s new design.
Nissan pulled out the old steam iron and unkinked some of the wrinkles that bedeviled last year’s Altima. The result is a cleaner, crisper, and more cohesive look than before. That’s not to say it’s boring – the 2019 Altima still conveys plenty of presence.
My test vehicle wore silver paint and handsome 17-inch aluminum wheels. About the only styling cue that could cause consternation is the blacked-out section of the rear roof pillar, which gives the greenhouse an uninterrupted flow and which I think gives the car’s profile some flair.
My test car came with a black-on-black interior color scheme, which always makes the cabin seem smaller and stuffier than it really is. At least the carbon-fiber-textured plastic trim, along with an abundance of metallic accents running across the dashboard, brightened things up a bit.
If you don’t want black, the only other color scheme for the Altima is grey. A warmer, brighter tone would be appreciated. I like the Altima SV’s soft cloth upholstery, too, but I did notice that my wool sweater shed its fibers on it, making a bit of a mess.
Overall the cabin was constructed with care, assembled using good quality materials. Plus, the dashboard’s overall design themes nicely evoke Nissan’s V-Motion grille. This is a good place to spend a commute.
The Altima’s driver’s seat is plenty comfortable, with 8-way power adjustment to find an ideal fit. Nissan touts its space-age Zero Gravity seat design, which I’ve always found to be supportive with its nice, cushy design.
While the front passenger benefits from the same design, the seat doesn’t have a height adjuster. In fact, that’s a feature that you won’t be able to get in the Altima no matter how much money you’re willing to spend.
In the back, passengers might notice that the materials on the door panels are not as nice as the ones up front. There’s plenty of shoulder and leg space for two people, and this car can even accommodate three fairly comfortably. That’s what family sedans are about – carrying up to five fairly contented occupants.
Climate Control System
The Altima test vehicle’s heated front seats and heated steering wheel came in handy during an uncharacteristically cold and wet California storm. The climate control was easy to use as well, with two large knobs for the dual-zone automatic system, and well-marked buttons. Rear passengers appreciated having their own air vents.
Nissan’s infotainment system installs an 8-inch touchscreen display, and all versions of the car include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone projection on all versions of the Altima.
My Altima SV test vehicle, the mid-level trim, didn’t come with a navigation system, which is offered only for the higher trim levels. The assumption here is that drivers will have a smartphone to connect to the aptly named NissanConnect system, which will in turn give access to navigation capability via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Unfortunately, there were some connectivity issues that didn’t allow for seamless exchange with my iPhone XS, which caused some consternation. Hopefully, the issues I experienced were an isolated glitch.
Storage and Space
Those who tout the cargo capacity of crossovers should check out the trunk of a typical subcompact CUV. With the rear seats in use, floor space is remarkably insignificant. Compare it to a compact or midsize sedan, and even if the cubic dimensions are similar, the trunk of the car looks so much bigger and practical.
That’s because the usefulness of the cargo area is all about the footprint of the space. Having a narrow, tall trunk simply isn’t as helpful as having a wide, shallow trunk. And the 2019 Altima provides 15.4 cu.-ft. of eminently usable space.
Nissan accommodates you inside the cabin, too, where you’ll find a nicely sized center console and glove box, along with a handy tray in which to put your smartphone.
Visibility and Safety
At the time of this writing, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has performed crash testing on the 2019 Altima.
Ideally, you would avoid a collision in the first place, so Nissan arms you with a robust roster of electronic aids. All Altimas get forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, along with a driver attention monitoring system that chimes if it detects that you’re driving in a drowsy state. A rear door alert system is designed to warn the driver if the car believes he or she might be leaving someone or something important in the back seat.
Beyond these standard features, the Altima is available with Nissan Safety Shield 360. This package of technologies includes blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and it adds pedestrian detection to the automatic emergency braking system. Lane departure warning, rear automatic emergency braking, and automatic high-beam assist are also a part of this suite of features.
Nissan also offers ProPilot Assist for the 2019 Altima. This system combines adaptive cruise control with a lane centering assist system.
During my week with the car, most of the systems worked well to minimize human error in the act of driving. Sometimes, they were a little aggravating, but never to the point where I really needed to shut them off in order to preserve my sanity, which can’t be said for similar tech from other car companies.
Like most family sedans, you get a choice of two engines in the Altima: the standard one and an upgrade.
Most Altimas have the standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, paired with a continuously variable transmission and available with a new all-wheel-drive system. The sporty SR, top-trim Platinum, and limited Edition One all include Nissan’s new variable compression turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. The old VQ-series V6 has vanished.
My Altima SV test vehicle’s 2.5-liter delivered 182 horsepower, down six horses due to the all-wheel-drive system. It’s a fine powerplant, with smooth, plentiful power in the midrange that provides spirited acceleration when it’s called upon. Right off the line, the Altima does feel a little bit underpowered, but it’s something you get used to and plan around.
A member of Nissan’s latest family of CVTs, the Altima’s transmission works unobtrusively in the background, and at all times. Droning is nearly eradicated, and stepped ratios provide the sound and feel of a traditional automatic. This is truly an exemplary example of the CVT species.
I didn’t use the Altima’s AWD system…on purpose, anyway. During a deluge of rain, it probably had a hand in maintaining maximum traction, but I wasn’t aware of any power transfer. In any case, the affordable AWD option will no doubt make the Altima more appealing to people who live where it snows on a regular basis.
The EPA estimates that you should get about 26 mpg in the city, 36 mpg on the highway, and 30 mpg in combined driving with the 2019 Altima SV AWD. This test car made a strong showing, delivering 29.3 mpg on a test loop of mixed driving situations. Hopefully, people who were unhappy with the previous Altima’s fuel economy will have a positive experience with this new version of the car.
Two decades ago, driving a family sedan meant consigning yourself to a boring drive that provided a soft, compliant ride with zero spirit. Since then, most family cars have jumped on the “fun-to-drive” bandwagon, since it is usually the driver who asserts the most input on which vehicle to purchase.
Traditionally, the Altima has always proven an exception by delivering a more lively experience. The latest iteration of the car continues on that path with a new MacPherson front and multilink rear suspension fortified by Active Ride Control and Active Trace Control technologies. The result is a car that, even in relatively modest SV spec, evens out the pavement while making the car respond in lively fashion on a kinky road.
The steering is new for 2019, too, proving both precise and even delivering some feel from the road in spite of its electrically assisted nature. Communication is key to driver enjoyment, and the Altima SV delivers more of it than I expected. Similarly, the vented front disc and solid rear disc brakes were ideally calibrated, with pedal action precisely matching the response of the vehicle.
Due to Nissan close attention to dynamic detail, the Altima felt nimble and tossable at all times. On local canyon roads it proved unexpectedly entertaining, limited mainly by its modest P215/55R17 all-season tires. There is no doubt that when you swap out of a crossover for a sedan, driving dynamics benefit from a lower center of gravity and a lower curb weight.
Nissan did a terrific job with this Altima redesign, making the car more attractive, comfortable, and safe than ever. It’s also fun to drive and fuel-efficient. Also, if you’re looking for all-wheel drive, few other sedans offer it. And their names are not Honda Accord or Toyota Camry.
Crossover? What crossover?
Nissan supplied the vehicle used for this 2019 Altima review.