New 2020 Nissan Altima Sedan
Nissan Altima Sedan
Stylish, good to drive, thoughtfully equipped, and technologically advanced, the 2020 Nissan Altima makes a strong case for consideration.
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Last redesigned for the 2019 model year, the Nissan Altima is a roomy and comfortable midsize sedan seeking to distinguish itself through design, technology and efficient performance.
That’s not easy, because the Altima’s competition is doing the same thing, and in many cases doing it better than the Nissan. Furthermore, as consumers abandon sedans for SUVs, the latest Altima likely won’t sell as well as those that came before it — in spite of Nissan’s investment in an all-new design.
With Chevrolet and Ford slowly abandoning car buyers, the Altima’s primary competitors include the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Hyundai has a redesigned 2020 Sonata that poses a serious threat, while the Kia Optima remains the impressive value it always has been.
Buick and Mazda offer compelling alternatives if you want to drive something different, and the roomy 2020 Volkswagen Passat gets a much needed refresh this year. Let’s not forget about the redesigned 2020 Subaru Legacy, either, which has standard rather than optional AWD as well as a new turbocharged-engine option.
You'll Like This Car If...
- Efficient standard engine
- Available all-wheel-drive system
- Comfortable front & rear seats
- Standard rear-seat reminder system
- Lots of infotainment features
- Plenty of available safety technologies
You May Not Like This Car If...
- VC-Turbo engine more hype than substance
- Without big rebates, unclear value proposition
- No front-passenger’s seat-height adjuster
- Average trunk space
- We miss the old V6
What's New for 2020
- Popular S trim available with Safety Shield 360 driver-assistance tech
- Sporty SR trim adds Safety Shield 360 as standard equipment
- Piano Black interior trim standard for SV, SL, Platinum trims
- Platinum adds exterior mirror-position memory
Once upon a time, Nissan was considered the sportiest of Japan’s three biggest brands. Think Z, GT-R and 4DSC (4-door sports car). As of late, though, aside from some outright wild styling, Nissan’s mainstream cars and SUVs are as bland as a baked potato without butter and chives.
Maybe that’s why we’re surprised that the latest Altima is genuinely good to drive. Even when equipped with its standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, the car is reasonably zippy, fairly athletic and impressively compliant during the daily commute.
Of course, it all depends on which version you get. For this review, we focused on the popular Altima SV equipped with AWD, with a quick sampling of the SR VC-Turbo to see how well it performed.
How fast is the Nissan Altima?
The good news is that a standard Nissan Altima accelerates fast enough that you won’t feel like you’re holding up traffic. Response is a little sluggish right off the line, but then the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder and the CVT play nice with each other. If you’re looking to assert authority out on the road, though, this isn’t the right engine for you.
Get into an Altima with the VC-Turbo engine, and this stylish family sedan adopts a more aggressive character. It’s quick, and introduces a throatier note to acceleration. The CVT is dissatisfying when you explore the car’s performance potential, though, and the SR’s paddle shifters don’t add much in terms of driver engagement.
Does the Nissan Altima get good gas mileage?
Thanks to impressive EPA ratings, the answer is yes. Plus, the gas tank is large enough to provide more than 600 miles of highway driving range if you get the Altima S, SV or SL.
The question is, then, does the Altima get good gas mileage in the real world? During our testing, the Altima SV AWD averaged 29.3 mpg, coming close enough to its official 30-mpg rating that we’re willing to say you can count on the standard 2.5-liter to deliver on expectations.
The VC-Turbo engine is another story. Based on the window sticker, you’re going to assume that you’ll get 29 mpg in combined driving. While we were unable to obtain a reliable real-world figure during our short drive in an Altima VC-Turbo, our experience during a 12-month test of a 2019 Infiniti QX50 shows that this engine is thirstier than its EPA rating leads you to believe.
How does the Nissan Altima handle?
Even in SV trim, with its standard suspension tuning, 17-inch wheels and all-season tires, the Altima is satisfying to drive. The steering wheel is a delight to hold in your hands, and it responds with precision to input. Likewise, the brakes prove effective and supply perfect pedal feel and modulation. The Altima is remarkably quiet in the city and suburbs, too.
But the real stars of this car’s driving dynamics are two brake-based technologies that improve the Altima’s ride and handling. Active Ride Control helps to smooth out the holes, cracks and bumps in the road, and it soaks up speed humps with ease. Intelligent Trace Control provides brake-induced torque vectoring to keep the Altima on the intended path of travel.
On the twisty sections of our driving route, the Altima SV proved itself calm, cool and collected — when going downhill. Heading up into the mountains, the car’s lack of power made the Altima SV less pleasurable to drive.
That’s where the SR VC-Turbo shines brightest. With its thick band of torque, larger wheels and tires, and stiffer suspension, it’s the Altima you want for back-road romps. And it benefits from the same brake-based ride and handling tech as other Altimas.
How does the Nissan Altima ride on the highway?
Feeling solid and secure at speed, the Altima SV supplies a good blend of ride comfort and compliance with reasonable feel for the road. Noise levels rise the faster you drive, mainly due to road roar coming up through the floor. Naturally, the sport-tuned SR VC-Turbo is stiffer, which will likely please the people who choose it.
Are the Nissan Altima’s driving-assistance systems helpful?
Based on our test-driving, the Altima’s Nissan ProPilot Assist is one of the better implementations of semi-autonomous Level 2 driving-assistance technology, providing smooth and refined operation. Additionally, the Nissan Safety Shield 360 package of safety systems operated as expected during our testing, but the forward-collision warning system can be somewhat sensitive when programmed to its Medium setting.
Is the Nissan Altima fun to drive?
Rather than call the Altima fun to drive, we’d characterize the car as enjoyable to drive. In other words, it can make you crack a smile, but you’re unlikely to giggle.
The best thing about driving the Altima SV is that it rewards smooth inputs with confidence-inspiring handling. Otherwise, it draws no undue attention to itself, which is a good thing for most people but mildly dissatisfying for people who like to drive.
The Altima SR VC-Turbo supplies robust acceleration and a greater feeling of athleticism, but it requires premium gas to make maximum power and is unlikely to return the kind of fuel economy Nissan claims it will.
Buy a Nissan Altima with the standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, and you can equip it with all-wheel drive (AWD). The system sends up to half of the engine’s power to the rear wheels to improve traction and handling.
Keep in mind that the AWD option reduces horsepower from 188 to 182, and torque from 180 lb-ft to 178 lb-ft. The Altima AWD also takes a hit in fuel economy, sagging two mpg in combined driving compared to front-drive versions.
ACTIVE RIDE CONTROL
A standard feature on all 2020 Altimas, Active Ride Control helps to smooth out the ride over speed bumps and humps. In subtle fashion, it automatically adjusts engine torque and applies the brakes to reduce or eliminate the body motions that accompany these speed-control measures.
When you load a child, pet or other item into the Altima’s back seat before turning on the engine and driving the car, the Rear Door Alert system activates. When you reach your destination, it will remind you that perhaps someone or something important is in the back seat, and you should check before leaving the car and walking away.
ZERO-GRAVITY FRONT-SEAT DESIGNS
Rooted in NASA research about how the human body reacts to zero gravity environments in space, Nissan designs the Altima’s front seats to reduce stress and fatigue while maximizing comfort. Whatever the company does, it works, and as a result the Altima is one of the most comfortable midsize cars you can buy — aside from the fact that it lacks a front-seat height adjuster.
ProPilot Assist is Nissan’s name for its adaptive cruise control and lane-centering assist technology. The adaptive cruise control automatically maintains a safe following distance from traffic ahead, and its stop-and-go capability helps relieve stress in heavy traffic. The lane-centering assist helps to keep the car centered in the middle of the lane.
Use a typical embedded navigation system in a modern car, and it will direct you straight to the intended destination. But what if you need to park some distance away from where you ultimately need to be?
That’s where Nissan’s Door-to-Door Navigation function comes in handy. After you’ve parked, whip out your smartphone, and the NissanConnect app provides you with walking directions to find your final destination.
Seating up to five people and carrying up to 15.4 cubic feet of cargo, the 2020 Altima is smaller inside than class leaders, but remains a capable midsize family sedan. The interior is modern and technical in appearance, which some people might also call plain and simple. Limited color, upholstery and trim choices reflect either a lack of imagination on Nissan’s part, or a lack of budget.
Does the Nissan Altima have a nice interior?
Aside from plenty of hard plastic covering the lower half of the car’s cabin, the Altima’s interior features quality materials and robust switchgear. This is, however, a relatively simple and straightforward design, dressed up a bit for 2020 thanks to new Piano Black trim in most models. Versions with leather get an appealing layered wood-tone trim.
What Nissan Altima interior colors are available?
Nissan offers two interior colors for the 2020 Altima: Black and Gray. Fans of tan or other trendy colors like red, blue or shades of brown will need to shop elsewhere.
Are the Nissan Altima’s controls easy to use?
Thanks to clear markings, large buttons and knobs, and a logical layout, the Altima’s controls are easy to use. The large round gauges are outstanding, too, and a large button on the steering wheel provides quick access to the ProPilot Assist system.
The only minor quirks here are an engine start/stop button located on the center console instead of the dashboard, and dim orange backlighting for secondary controls at night, which makes them harder to see.
Is the Nissan Altima’s infotainment system easy to use?
Sitting high on the center of the dashboard as though somebody glued an iPad to it, the Altima’s NissanConnect infotainment system is easy to use. Its location makes it easy to reference while driving, and while some of the virtual buttons on the touch screen are tough to accurately activate on the fly, the system includes volume and tuning knobs as well as physical buttons to access radio, map and main menu screens.
Is the Nissan Altima comfortable?
Thanks to its Zero Gravity front-seat designs and standard 8-way-power driver’s seat adjustment, the Altima is comfortable for the driver. However, even with the wide range of adjustment, the seating position is fairly low, and that makes it harder to get into and out of the car.
Unfortunately, the front passenger has it worse. This seat does without a height adjuster, even in top-shelf Platinum trim. The cushions are still comfortable, of course, thanks to the Zero Gravity design. But plopping into it and hoisting yourself out of it isn’t much fun.
In the latest Altima, the back seat also feels like it is lower to the ground and less spacious than in the old Altima. And once you’re in, the seating position promotes slouching. Note, too, that air-conditioning vents are unavailable with S and SR trim.
Generally speaking, we think the previous-generation Altima, which also had Zero Gravity seat designs, was more comfortable front and rear.
Is the Nissan Altima’s cargo area useful?
Equipped with a 15.4-cubic-foot trunk, the Altima’s cargo space is typical for the segment, with some competitors offering more and some offering less. Nissan gets extra points for including an interior grip to use for closing the lid, which means you won’t get your fingers dirty when slamming the trunk closed.
What else should I know about the Nissan Altima?
With higher trim levels, a free 6-month trial of NissanConnect Premium Plus Services provides a range of helpful features.
Highlights include automatic collision notification, a way to find your car when you’ve forgotten where you parked it, remote operation of several vehicle functions through a smartphone app, and home voice-assistant integration. Safe-teen driving technology is also a part of the package, letting parents program alerts related to speed, curfew time and geographic boundaries.
Equipped with a dramatic but not distasteful version of Nissan’s V-Motion grille design, the Altima makes a bold visual statement while deftly incorporating the car’s attractive headlights. Nissan’s boomerang-shaped design accents are present and accounted for, but they’re tastefully applied to the latest Altima.
Nissan also makes this midsize sedan look sporty without resorting to ridiculously oversized fake air intakes, simulated vents or oversized spoilers and air dams. Nicely played, Nissan.
Most cars look better with bigger wheels, and that’s true of the 2020 Altima. However, in order to get a size larger than the 17-inch machined-finish aluminum wheels, you need to choose the SR or Platinum trim, with or without the turbocharged engine. The split-spoke 19-inch wheels on those models look terrific, and give the angular Altima some attitude.
There are a couple of missteps with the design. First, when viewing the car in profile, the front door handle looks like it’s in the wrong spot, as though hot sun caused underlying adhesive to melt and it slid down the door a couple of inches. Clearly, Nissan purposely placed it on the character line that sweeps up from the front fender to meet the taillights. But the end result looks a little off.
The other oddity is what resembles an SUV skidplate below the rear bumper. This is supposed to be a racy-looking diffuser panel, but when it’s painted the same color as the car, or gray, it looks strange. It should be black on all versions of the car.
What Nissan Altima colors are available?
Nissan offers the 2020 Altima in nine different colors. Some are exclusive to certain trim levels, and the final three on this list all cost an extra $395.
Deep Blue Pearl
Scarlet Ember Tintcoat
Pearl White Tricoat
Sunset Drift Chromaflair
Notable Standard Equipment
For 2020, the Nissan Altima is available in S, SR, SR VC-Turbo, SV, SL, Platinum, and Platinum VC-Turbo trim levels. Listed below, you’ll find the major differences between each version of the car.
What comes in the Nissan Altima S?
As is true of the base trim levels of most midsize sedans, the Altima S gives you everything you really need in a new family car and, as an added bonus, an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat. With its tiny little wheels, the Altima S might not look great, but that’s easy enough to solve through the aftermarket.
Highlights include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a hands-free text-messaging assistant, keyless entry with push-button and remote engine starting, and a forward-collision-warning system with automatic emergency braking. The Altima S also has Rear Door Alert, which is designed to remind you that you might have loaded a child, a pet, or something else of importance into the car before setting off on your most recent trip, so check before you lock up and leave.
What comes in the Nissan Altima SR?
We’re all in favor of the recent trend toward sporty and affordable sedans based on basic trim levels. Honda’s Accord Sport kicked it off years ago, and Nissan’s response is the Altima SR.
Equipped with a more sophisticated look and big, 19-inch aluminum wheels, the Altima SR looks the part. It also gets a useful sport-tuned suspension, somewhat useless transmission paddle shifters, and a long list of Nissan Safety Shield 360 driver-assistance and collision-avoidance systems.
What comes in the Nissan Altima SR VC-Turbo?
The Altima SR VC-Turbo costs a whopping $4,050 more than a standard SR, but you do get more than just the turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. Nissan installs active noise cancellation, heated side mirrors and front seats, a power sunroof, and a handful of other upgrades to go along with the extra power.
What comes in the Nissan Altima SV?
The Altima SV has most of the equipment from the SR VC-Turbo, minus the engine and sporty bits but with a set of machined-finish 17-inch aluminum wheels.
To these features, the SV trim adds dual-zone automatic climate control with rear air vents and a handy remote intelligent climate-control system that lets you pre-condition the cabin temperature before driving the car. A heated steering wheel is also in the Altima SV, along with an automatic hold braking system that’s helpful in traffic.
Nissan’s ProPilot Assist technology is standard in the Altima SV. It’s a semi-autonomous driving-assist system with adaptive cruise control, stop-and-go capability, and lane-keeping and lane-centering assist.
What comes in the Nissan Altima SL?
Your ticket to leather seats is the Altima SL. Nissan dresses this version up with wood-tone trim, too, but without height adjustment, the 4-way-power front-passenger’s seat is a disappointment.
What’s not disappointing is the Altima SL’s infotainment system upgrade. It includes HD Radio, free trial subscriptions to NissanConnect services and SiriusXM traffic and Travel Link, a Bose premium sound system, and a navigation system with door-to-door directions via smartphone app. The SL also includes a traffic-sign recognition system.
What comes in the Nissan Altima Platinum?
The short answer: not much. In fact, the Platinum’s 19-inch aluminum wheels, upgraded interior lighting, memory for the driver’s seat and mirror preferences, and 360-degree surround-view camera ought to be an option package for the Altima SL. That would allow Nissan to reserve the Platinum trim name for the loaded version with the VC-Turbo engine.
What comes in the Nissan Altima Platinum VC-Turbo?
A VC-Turbo engine comes in the Platinum VC-Turbo, and with it, active noise cancellation. Otherwise, this version of the Altima is just like the standard Platinum.
Notable Optional Equipment
One reason Nissan offers so many trim levels is because so few options are available. With a handful of exceptions, you choose the trim that has the content you want, decide whether or not you wish to upgrade with AWD or the VC-Turbo engine, and then select from a list of profit-padding factory- and dealer-installed accessories.
The first exception to this approach is extra-cost paint. For three of the fancier Altima colors, the charge is $395.
The second exception is the Driver Assist Package for the base Altima S. At $890, this is a worthy upgrade because it installs the Nissan Safety Shield 360 driving-assistance and collision-avoidance technologies. Considering that the purely cosmetic accessory illuminated kick plates for the doorsills cost almost half that amount, the Driver Assist Package is a genuine bargain.
The third exception is the Premium Package ($1,050) for the Altima SR. You might want this if you live where cold temperatures are common because it equips the car with heated front seats and heated side mirrors. Then, when summer returns, this package’s power sunroof lets the sunlight and warm temperatures flow in.
As is always true, prices may have changed since this review was published. Be sure to research current Nissan Altima prices on KBB.
Under the Hood
The Altima’s standard 188-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine provides good acceleration and impressive fuel economy. You should get to 60 mph in less than eight seconds, and travel a bladder-busting 600 miles or more on the highway.
A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard with this engine, and feeds the power to the front wheels. The CVT is relatively refined in operation, and features what Nissan describes as an adaptive shift controller and dynamic step shifting to make it sound and feel more like a traditional automatic. With the SR trim, it includes paddle shifters that are more for show than go.
Note that due to their larger 19-inch aluminum wheels, the SR and Platinum versions get slightly less fuel economy.
2.5-liter inline-4 (S, SV, SL)
188 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
180 lb-ft of torque @ 3,600 rpm
Fuel tank size: 16.2 gal.
EPA fuel economy (city/highway/combined): 28/39/32 mpg
Driving range (city/highway/combined): 453/631/518 miles
2.5-liter inline-4 (SR, Platinum)
188 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
180 lb-ft of torque @ 3,600 rpm
Fuel tank size: 16.2 gal.
EPA fuel economy (city/highway/combined): 27/37/31 mpg
Driving range (city/highway/combined): 437/599/502 miles
An all-wheel-drive system is optional with the standard 2.5-liter engine, making the Altima the first AWD sedan Nissan has ever sold in the U.S. Under normal conditions, the Altima operates in front-wheel drive (FWD). When slippery conditions or enthusiastic driving require it, the AWD system sends up to 50 percent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels.
Fuel economy takes a hit when you get AWD. And note that the bigger wheels on the SR and Platinum trim levels nibble at official EPA ratings, too.
2.5-liter inline-4 with AWD (S, SV, SL)
182 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
178 lb-ft of torque @ 3,600 rpm
Fuel tank size: 16.0 gal.
EPA fuel economy (city/highway/combined): 26/36/30 mpg
Driving range (city/highway/combined): 416/576/480 miles
2.5-liter inline-4 with AWD (SR, Platinum)
182 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
178 lb-ft of torque @ 3,600 rpm
Fuel tank size: 16.0 gal.
EPA fuel economy (city/highway/combined): 25/35/29 mpg
Driving range (city/highway/combined): 400/560/464 miles
Nissan’s variable-compression turbocharged (VC-Turbo) 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, reportedly a 2-decade engineering project, debuted as the standard engine in the 2019 Infiniti QX50 and as an option in the 2019 Altima SR and Platinum models.
So, what took 20 years to figure out? The VC-Turbo automatically changes its compression ratio depending on how you’re driving. When cruising on the highway, it adjusts to maximize fuel efficiency. When you’re accelerating hard, it adjusts to provide maximum performance.
The goal, according to Nissan, is to provide the power of a V6 engine with the fuel economy of a 4-cylinder engine. Last time we checked, that’s the goal of every turbocharged 4-cylinder engine.
The VC-Turbo replaced the Altima’s previous 3.5-liter V6, a creamy-smooth, free-revving delight of an engine. That engine made 270 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque. The VC-Turbo engine, as long as you burn premium gas, delivers 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft. It also gets 29 mpg in combined driving, beating the old Altima’s V6 by three mpg.
As is always true, your results may vary. And since the VC-Turbo works harder in the real world than did the V6 engine, well, you might find this whole VC-Turbo thing to be a wash. But it scores a higher EPA number, and that, apparently, is what mattered.
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (SR, Platinum)
248 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm (236 horsepower burning regular gas)
273 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm (267 lb-ft burning regular gas)
Fuel tank size: 16.2 gal.
EPA fuel economy (city/highway/combined): 25/34/29 mpg
Driving range (city/highway/combined): 405/550/469 miles
You can buy a Nissan Altima S with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of as little as $24,995, including the reasonable $895 destination charge. The sporty Altima SR costs $26,595, the mid-grade Altima SV is priced from $28,775, the upscale Altima SL wears a $31,135 sticker price, and the ritzy Altima Platinum goes for $33,075. An AWD system is available for each of them, adding $1,350 to the price.
Upgrade to the Altima SR VC-Turbo, and you’ll pay a minimum of $30,645. The top-of-the-line Platinum VC-Turbo commands $36,075 of your hard-earned dollars.
Based on these prices, the Altima isn’t a notable bargain except when compared to the Buick Regal, which has a handy 5-door hatchback body style with lots more utility to help justify its loftier price. And in comparison to the 2020 Chevy Malibu and 2020 Kia Optima, all midsize cars including the Altima appear to be overpriced.
Note that top-end prices for the Fusion, Accord, Sonata, Optima and Camry do not include their hybrid or plug-in hybrid options, but do include AWD.
Before buying a new Nissan Altima, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what other people in your area are paying. If you have an old car to sell, be sure to consider the simple, easy and fast KBB Instant Cash Offer program. It’s easier than selling the car on your own.
Lastly, remember that all prices mentioned above may have changed since this review was published. Be sure to research current vehicle prices on KBB.com.
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How does it compare?
|#1||2020 Toyota Camry||203|
|#2||2020 Hyundai Elantra||201|
|#3||2020 Honda Accord||192|
|#4||2020 Hyundai Sonata||191|
|#5||2020 Nissan Altima||188|
|#1||2020 Honda Insight||52|
|#2||2020 Honda Civic||36|
|#3||2020 Toyota Camry||34|
|#4||2020 Honda Accord||33|
|#7||2020 Nissan Altima||32|
|#1||2020 MAZDA MAZDA3||5 / 5|
|#2||2020 MAZDA MAZDA6||4.7 / 5|
|#3||2020 Nissan Altima||4.5 / 5|
|#4||2020 Honda Insight||4.5 / 5|
|#5||2020 Ford Fusion||4.5 / 5|
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