2020 Nissan Altima | Back on Top? | TestDriveNow

2020 Nissan Altima | Back on Top? | TestDriveNow

Looking more like a baby Maxima, Nissan’s
bread-and-butter midsize sedan has recaptured its mojo to once again become an alluring
choice for those still not enamored with the pivot towards crossover SUVs. Improvements abound returning the Altima to
your family car shopping list. In their words, Nissan’s goal with this
car is to reenergize the sedan segment. And though buyers are largely choosing to
bypass traditional cars in favor of their SUV counterparts, the offerings are as impressive
as ever. Now in its 2nd model year since the 2019 redesign,
this 2020 Altima is my introduction to this 6th generation car – Nissan’s best-selling
model not named Rogue. And I really like what I both see and feel. Similar to the fresh competition from Honda
and Toyota, Nissan has also taken a look-at-me approach with the Altima’s styling and it
works. Family sedan no longer equals boring. The car I have is the Platinum VC-Turbo – the
most lavish and powerful trim – priced from about $36,000. Lower, longer and wider with the wheels pushed
farther to the corners, this Altima looks decidedly more athletic, especially on these
19” rims though they’re fitted with some Hankook tires more interested in comfort than
sport. But that’s OK because the Altima should
have a more compliant ride and in fact it does. There’s a light, nimble, easy-going nature
to the drive that now possesses a higher degree of sophistication as to how it steers, handles
and brakes. In many ways it reminds me of the Volvo S60
I recently tested though not quite to those premium levels. Most of the buzz surrounding the new Altima
centers on the optional VC-turbo engine. It replaces the V6 as the top engine choice,
available exclusively on front-drive models. VC stands for variable compression and Nissan/Infiniti
is the only one doing it. It’s taken 20 years to bring it to market
and it’s an engineering feat. Changing the volume of each of the engine’s
4 cylinders on the fly allows this 2.0 to go big for higher efficiency or shrink for
higher performance. I’m impressed by its elasticity, smoothness
and fun turbo punch when pushed. And my stellar fuel economy has been well
above the EPA estimates. Just remember – high compression engines
want high octane fuel. Rated at 248 horsepower and making a healthy
273 pound-feet of torque, the VC Turbo produces similar output to the Accord 2.0T, the car
I consider best in class. However, the Altima’s EPA estimate of 29mpg
can’t be beaten by any of them in an apples-to-apples comparison and my 34mpg for the week is outstanding. Beyond the new engine technology, the Altima’s
CVT is a huge factor in its fuel economy advantage. I know, I know, you don’t want a CVT but
this xTronic unit from Nissan is as good as they come – right up there with the new
variable transmission from Hyundai/Kia. It’s smooth with gentle faux shift points
yet not noisy or disengaged. It works very well with this engine and should
not discourage an Altima purchase. And a little unmarked button here takes you
to Sport mode where the Altima feels a little livelier. Now, I’ve never cared for paddle shifters
in a CVT car so I don’t mind that they’re reserved for the SR grade. It is interesting to note though that in the
multiple drive mode world in which we live, the Altima doesn’t offer more than what
you see here. And that plays into the overall cabin persona
– it’s simple to use. Not overdone nor does it showcase a wacky
new shifter, the Altima plays it old school in its ergonomics approach and it’s welcoming. (Rear seat stand-up)
The Zero Gravity front seats are also super comfy with heating and a heated steering wheel. But the infotainment feels old right out of
the box. It’s not terrible in its appearance or its
ease of use – it’s a touchscreen after all so it has that going for it – but it’s
also a little drab and not particularly well conceived. The 9-speaker Bose stereo system is also a
letdown but the around view monitor with its easy to access button is a great addition. Quiet cabin, too. As for ProPILOT Assist – it’s very well
executed for a semi-autonomous driving system and if you spend lots of time in mind-numbing
traffic you’ll like it. I found myself using it a lot this week when
I was doing driving a monkey could do. Basically it’s adaptive cruise control that
keeps the car in its lane while also helping you steer. There are a handful of these systems on the
market – some better than others – and Nissan’s is very, very good. Of course, I’d rather not have to grab the
wheel every 12 seconds and just let the car completely drive itself but until then it’s
a welcome feature. Also new on this Altima is an all-wheel drive
option – an attractive choice for some of us and, other than on the Subaru Legacy, something
you can’t get with the aforementioned heavy hitters. Though not with this engine – only with
the base 2.5-liter motor. Is the Altima a better car than the Accord? No. The Camry? Very close. Either way, they’re all solid selections
and your decision will likely come down to intangibles and what you prioritize in a car. MSRP of my tester is $38,840.

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. I'm an accord driver but I do like all the choices in this segment not a bad car in sight, maybe the VW Passat? But I like that too so 🤷🏾‍♂️

  2. Very interesting observations on the engine and powertrain,a combination other reviews have loathed ever since it's launched. Like you said it won't beat the Accord 2.0T but a test drive of both will definitely seal the deal for me.

  3. Whoever is in charge of infotainment systems at Nissan should've been fired 5 years ago. What they use in Nissans is bad enough – compare this to the new Sonata to see how far behind the times it is, but 2019 Infiniti cabins look like they're from 2009 (and some of them ARE from 2009). It's inexcusable.

  4. Definitely a huge improvement over the not so great 2013-2018 generation. This new body style makes the previous generation look incredibly frumpy.

  5. How did you get the keys to my Ride man? you could have asked🤣🤣! i have owned my Platinum VC turbo for 5months now. 0ddly your test cars twin hmm.. This is my 3rd Altima. I recently took first long trip from
    Wv—Myrtle beach (6hrs) got bout 37mpg. Love the pro-pilot on the straight stretches. only disappointment i have is the CVT-engine mix at times and some interior quality. Thank you for the review as always.

  6. The only problem I have with Nissan is the unreliable CVT transmission and it would be nice to get a proper transmission

  7. The 360 camera is amazing feature normally available from other manufacturers only on top trim SUVs and super expensive cars and makes you look like an incredibly skilled driver when parking. Once you have used it, you will require it on any future vehicle you own.

  8. if Japco gets its act together with the CVTs than maybe, but generally the Nissan transmissions are garbage. The interior is nicely laid out, they just need to make this car stand out someway because it doesn't

  9. Steve, I very much enjoy your reviews. Thanks for giving it to us straight without mixing words. Very refreshing. Just two comments: One, is there a relationship between Nissan and Mazda? The dash board of the Altima screams Mazda. Also, for the cost, I think the new Legacy XT might be the better value overall…it seems to be the more "updated" car in direct comparison. Thanks again for the great reviews.

  10. Quality control concerns and poor resale value due to the infamous JATCO CVT. Recommend leasing if you must have the Altima. Otherwise, the new generation Sonata is a better built vehicle and more stylish.

  11. These things are actually pretty good for white good motoring. I drove one for two weeks in the US and got 36MPG average on a 2017 model, comfy, not terrible on power and quiet

  12. Looks good to lease, but Nissan's reliability has fallen off of a cliff. All of those CVT transmission failures in most of their models. #lowconfidence

  13. Sorry Steve but I just don’t understand how you give Nissan a pass on their horrible CVT reliability. It might drive nicely but you’re really doing a disservice to the thousands of people who’ve been let down by that horrible transmission

  14. Likely conversation at a Nissan Dealer….

    Salesperson: "Hey take a look at our new Altima. A peppy turbo4 that combines performance and economy. And if that's not enough, how about its AWD. Nobody other than Subaru offers that."

    Customer: "That sounds great! Where do I sign?"

    Salesperson: "Uhhh…I should mention that you can't get that new motor with AWD and vice versa. Could I interest you in a volume discount for two?"

  15. Currently, I have a 2018 SR, it's stylish and comfortable but lacks the technology of the '19 SR. I'm scared of my current car with its CVT and am afraid of a new one.

  16. I don't know why people hate cvt's. I bought this car and it barely makes any engine noise. You get great fuel economy, less engine noise, and great acceleration. No problem driving it on the high way.

  17. My company gives us Altimas as company cars. Have had several. Drive the heck out of them for 3 years (20-30K miles annually) and get new ones. Not my self or any of my colleagues have had one problem out of the ordinary with any iteration we have had. No engine, no CVT and no infotainment problems. And we are talking hundreds of thousands of combined miles. Love my new 19. It is a nice improvement over previous iterations. Just thought id put this out there as there seems to be ALOT of hate for this vehicle for some reason.

  18. I think Nissan played it safe.. very old school as Steve sed… its very attractive and sits low… good features and a cvt with a turbo I’m sure is still fun to drive.. nissans are like bmw in a way..I’m saying they are focused on the drive not the ergonomics.. most of that near 40k tag is for that Vc turbo.. no it’s not accord good… but it is a solid choice in my opinion.. except u see huge issues out of them cvt’s

  19. From a stop, the Altima is a pig. So for example: if you are in the left lane, waiting at a light, and you realize that you have to make a right at the next light, then you can forget about accelerating ahead of the car to your right. Once it gets going, it has good acceleration.

    Not mentioned in this review is the handling.

    The Altima has excellent handling (well, at least the SV with the 19" wheels and sport tuned suspension has excellent handling). If it is safe to do so, you can take that turn at speed, and the car will have almost no lean, and the tires will stay planted.

    The all-wheel drive option is great. However, there is no switch to turn it on or off. It kicks in automatically if the front wheels slip. Otherwise, it is only front wheel drive.

    Also, if you get a blowout, and the tire needs to be replaced, then you will have to replace all four tires.

    The stereo sound quality is nothing special. Nissan dropped the ball with this part of the car. If all you care about is the song, and do not give a hoot about realism, you will have no problem.

    The USB port accepts a flash drive (also known as a thumb drive). So you can load up your flash drive with countless favorites, plug it in, and they will play.

  20. Throw away piece of crap.. My wife’s 2014 fell apart mechanically.. Nissans are garbage the jatco cvt pos.. I would advise anything other than a Nissan

  21. I will continue to trash Nissan until they make good on the 2014 Altima mechanical asshole I own .. 62k miles it’s on it’s 3rd transmission.. fuel pump went out struts had to be replaced airbag controller went out the dash is basically melting .. I asked there help line .. How big of a piece of crap does a car have to be before it’s considered a buyback .. I was basically laughed at ..

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