Full 2013 Nissan Altima Review
What's New for 2013
The 2013 Nissan Altima sedan has been fully redesigned. The exterior and interior are completely new, with a focus on a more upscale look and feel throughout. Important engineering revisions markedly improve fuel economy, particularly for four-cylinder models, while updated suspension and steering designs maintain the Altima's reputation as one of the market's best-handling family sedans. The coupe remains mechanically unchanged, but loses its optional V6 and is reduced to only a single 2.5 S trim level.
Nissan has been careful with the 2013 redesign of the Altima sedan. The general look is hardly a dramatic departure, but the thorough restyling inside and out speaks to the more upscale direction for the best-selling model in Nissan's lineup. Most of the Altima's major mechanical components are carried over, but fuel economy ratings have improved significantly: The four-cylinder 2013 Nissan Altima sedan is now among the most fuel-efficient midsize cars in this price range.
We liked the previous-generation Altima for its responsive handling, composed ride and user-friendly electronic features. These attributes carry over to the redesigned sedan, but are now complemented by a higher-quality cabin that remains quiet at highway speeds. The 2013 Nissan Altima sedan's interior features a more visually interesting design, soft-touch materials and more comfortable front seats. In addition, we've noted excellent fit and finish in the 2013 Altima test cars we've driven. The only real negative in this cabin is the tight rear headroom.
As in past years, the Altima sedan comes with either a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine or a 3.5-liter V6. Although the V6 makes for quick and satisfying acceleration, most people will find the four-cylinder's performance more than adequate. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) that Nissan offers instead of a conventional automatic transmission can take some getting used to (simply because it doesn't have fixed shift points), but its responsiveness in passing situations is impressive and it's the main reason the Altima earns such high EPA fuel economy ratings. With the four-cylinder engine and the CVT, the 2013 Altima has a 31 mpg combined rating, which is tops among non-hybrid, gasoline-powered midsize sedans.
Keep in mind that the Altima coupe is mechanically unchanged for 2013. It uses an older version of the CVT that isn't as efficient and has lower mpg ratings as a result. In addition, the V6 engine is not available on the coupe.
In many ways, the outgoing Altima sedan was more appealing than its fellow best-selling sedans, the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. It could also stand toe to toe with the well-equipped Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen Passat. When you consider the numerous refinements Nissan made to this new 2013 Altima sedan, its position as one of the most desirable family sedans has only been strengthened. Though the redesigned Accord is a worthy challenger, the 2013 Nissan Altima is a must-drive if you're shopping for a midsize sedan.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Nissan Altima comes in sedan and coupe body styles. The sedan comes in seven trim levels -- four trims for buyers selecting an Altima with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and three trim levels for an Altima equipped with the 3.5-liter V6. The coupe comes in a single 2.5 S trim that is discussed following the sedan section below.
The base 2.5 Altima sedan comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, keyless ignition/entry, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 4-inch display screen, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player.
Moving from the base Altima 2.5 to the 2.5 S gets you cruise control, automatic headlights, a six-way power driver seat, more advanced functionality for the gauge-cluster LCD screen and a six-speaker sound system. The V6-engined 3.5S includes all that, plus 18-inch alloy wheels and a sport mode with paddle shifters for the CVT.
Advancing upward to the SV trim level brings 17-inch alloy wheels (2.5), dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote ignition, a 5-inch color LCD screen, a rearview camera and an upgraded sound system that includes an iPod/USB audio interface, satellite radio, Pandora radio and hands-free reading of incoming text messages. A Convenience package (optional on 2.5 SV, standard on the 3.5 SV) adds a sunroof and a few other minor extras.
The top-shelf Altima SL adds xenon headlights, LED taillights, the sunroof (four-cylinder), leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and a nine-speaker premium Bose sound system with an auxiliary audio jack.
Option packages for the 2013 Altima are simple but none are available for either the Altima 2.5 or 2.5 S. The Navigation package for Altima 2.5 SV and 3.5 SV models includes a 7-inch in-dash monitor and steering wheel controls for the navigation system. The Technology package (available only for the Altima 2.5 SL and 3.5 SL) incorporates the navigation system and includes electronic safety features such as blind-spot warning, cross-traffic and lane-departure warning systems.
The Altima Coupe 2.5 S comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless ignition/entry, air-conditioning, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Convenience package includes automatic headlights, an eight-way power driver seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. The Premium package (requires Convenience package) adds a rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a nine-speaker Bose sound system with a 4.3-inch color display, an iPod/USB audio interface and satellite radio. The Leather package (requires Convenience and Premium packages) includes xenon headlights, heated front seats, leather upholstery, ambient lighting and an auto-dimming mirror. The Technology package (requires all preceding packages) adds a navigation system, a touchscreen interface, voice controls, real-time traffic and weather, an auxiliary audio/visual jack and Bluetooth streaming audio.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 sedan comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 182 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). In Edmunds performance testing, this engine brought the Altima from zero to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, which makes it one of the quickest four-cylinder family sedans. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 27 mpg city/38 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined, which is excellent for a midsize sedan.
Altima 3.5 models have a 3.5-liter V6 good for 270 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. The CVT is again standard. In Edmunds testing, an Altima 3.5 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, which also makes it one of the segment's top sprinters. Fuel economy is strong for a V6, with 22/31/25.
The Altima Coupe also gets a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, but it produces 175 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. It, too, gets a CVT. Its fuel economy estimates are much lower than the sedan's at 23/32/26.
Every 2013 Nissan Altima sedan and coupe come standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera comes standard on all sedans but the base and S trim levels, and is optional on the coupe. Blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert and a lane-departure warning system are also optional on the sedan.
In Edmunds testing, an Altima 2.5 SV sedan stopped from 60 mph in 130 feet, which is below average for midsize sedans. A 3.5 SL, however, stopped in a superb 114 feet, which is about 10 feet shorter than average.
In government crash testing, the Altima sedan received a perfect five stars for overall, frontal and side crash protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The outgoing Altima sedan (and current Altima coupe) had a nice, though somewhat plain-looking, interior. In contrast, the 2013 Altima's cabin feels markedly more upscale. Materials are of visibly higher quality, particularly on the dashboard and console. The door armrests could still use more padding, but we've been impressed by the fit and finish in all the 2013 Altima sedans we've tested.
The gauge cluster is attractive, with a large, highly readable speedometer and tachometer on either side of the crisp, 4-inch LCD screen. Another highlight is the specially engineered "zero gravity" front seats used in all Altimas. With help from NASA research, the seats were designed to relieve common pressure points and improve comfort for the long haul. It works, as the new Altima's front seats are palpably different from before and more comfortable and supportive from the moment you slip in them.
In terms of space, overall interior room is almost exactly the same as before. That means headroom for the rear seat is at a premium and rear legroom is only average. Trunk space is similarly average at 15.4 cubic feet. The story is much the same in the coupe, though as is expected in a two-door, there's even less room to go around and getting in and out of the back is more of a pain. The coupe's trunk can only hold 8.2 cubic feet of luggage.
The Nissan Altima has a reputation for being one of the more rewarding family sedans to drive, and the redesigned 2013 Altima continues this legacy. The new Altima has a revised steering system this year, and feel and feedback remain accurate and consistent, reassuring the driver during tricky and delicate maneuvers. The steering combines with a retuned rear suspension that tightly controls body motions and also helps the Altima corner with more assurance. The ride quality remains very good nevertheless, while wind and road noise are pleasantly subdued.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine offers competitive performance for this class. It revs willingly and generates more than enough acceleration for everyday driving in both the sedan and coupe. Still, we prefer the version in the sedan, because it comes with a revised CVT that operates in a more refined manner and provides better fuel mileage. We suspect many drivers won't even realize this CVT isn't a conventional automatic transmission. At times, though, the Altima's CVT is almost too responsive to acceleration demands, resulting in higher engine rpm and a bit more noise than we'd like.
Meanwhile, the available 3.5-liter V6 in the 2013 Nissan Altima sedan provides some of the quickest acceleration in this class. It's a great choice if you really like to drive, but it's considerably less fuel-efficient.