The Nissan Altima has been sold for nearly two decades, succeeding in that rare role of a practical five-passenger family sedan that is also enjoyable to drive. Nissan has produced five generations of Altima sedan, the newest one for 2013. It has more recently been aimed at traditional segment leaders, with rapid evolutions in its features, finesse and power. As a result, it has become one of those segment leaders itself.
Current Nissan Altima
While the coupe remains related to last year's car, the Nissan Altima sedan is completely redesigned for 2013. 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 Altima sedan is characterized by its responsive handling, composed ride, user-friendly electronics features and a high-quality cabin. Passenger space is also quite good, though some may find backseat headroom to be a tad short.
The sedan is available in seven different trim levels -- four attached to the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and three to the 3.5-liter V6. The 182-horsepower four-cylinder returns 31 mpg combined, while the 270-hp V6 gets 25 mpg combined. Both come standard with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
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.
As mentioned before, the Altima coupe is still mechanically related to the previous sedan. However, it is now only available in a single 2.5s trim level good for 175 hp and 26 mpg combined. This older lineage isn't necessarily a problem, though. The coupe actually drives much like the four-door, albeit with less polish and sportier suspension tuning. Besides the obvious differences in door number and styling, the coupe does have a less sophisticated interior design. Interior room is also significantly less, especially in terms of rear headroom, though what's there is still decent for a coupe.
Used Nissan Altima Models
The previous, fourth-generation Nissan Altima sedan was produced from 2007 through 2012. It is in many ways similar to its successor and a used one would be a good budget-friendly alternative. The coupe followed in 2008 and is still sold today, but there were previously more variations. A limited-production Altima Hybrid (http://www.edmunds.com/nissan/altima-hybrid/) was also available in some states from 2007 through 2011.
For the most part, the Altima went without any major changes during this generation, which is a testament to how good it was. Both the sedan and coupe were broken into 2.5 and 3.5 trim levels. 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 following Altima generation, they were notably less 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 clearly the more sporting of the two, not only for their power but also their sport-tuned suspensions. Even the most basic 2.5-liter four-cylinder was one of the more rewarding family sedans to drive, while still boasting a comfortable ride. As with today, 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.
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.
The third-generation Nissan Altima represents the beginning of the current car's evolution. This 2002-'06 model was radically different from the previous car and moved up to the midsize class. It was about 6 inches longer and had a new suspension design and a stronger body that simultaneously made it better to drive and useful for families. At the time, it was one of the most powerful family sedans available, offering either a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine capable of 175 hp or a 240-hp 3.5-liter V6, connected to a choice of manual or automatic transmissions.
The interior was widely criticized for looking 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 the serious driving enthusiast, 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 norm.
It took awhile for the Nissan Altima family sedan, introduced in 1993, to establish itself in the marketplace and the hearts of enthusiasts. The first two generations, powered by a relatively peppy 150-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, weren't flops, but also weren't the blockbusters Nissan had hoped for. 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.
Read the most recent 2014 Nissan Altima review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Nissan Altima page.