Nissan's US-made Altima is unique in size among its peers

When Nissan introduced the Altima it purposely made it slightly smaller than the best selling Toyota Camry and Honda Accord but slightly bigger than the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. It's an in-between-er for want of a better word.

The result is a car that performs well if you compare it with its smaller competitors and yet provides almost as much interior space as its bigger competitors. Unlike most of its competitors the Altima does not have a wide variety of options. It is only available as a four-door and comes with just one engine configuration, and the vast majority of cars sold have automatic transmission and air conditioning. For those looking for a touch of luxury, a sizeable percentage of Altimas were fitted with leather seats and fake wood trim.

The Altima has a good reputation for reliability and makes a solid choice for those looking for a compact sedan with a little something extra.


What You Need To Know:

1. Review of a 1995 Nissan Altima
2. Summary of Good and Bad Points by Owners
3. History of Altima
4. Review of Current Model
5. Basic Facts
6. Changes Year-to-Year
7. Safety Information
8. Value Guide
9. Option Installment Rate
10. Sales History
11. Awards and Commendations Earned
12. Other Reviews
13. Recall Information
14. Price of Spare Parts


1. Pre-Owned Vehicle Evaluation - 1995 Nissan Altima GXE

Likes: spacious, solid feel
Dislikes: ordinary looks
Competitors: Ford Contour, Mazda 626, Mitsubishi Galant, Volkswagen Passat

Miles: 67,590
Condition: B
Price when new: $18,533 (est.)
Present Book Value: $9,640 (Feb. 2000)

The Nissan Altima has built up a decent reputation as a good solid reliable car, if somewhat bland in style. Yet when I got inside this five-year-old car, I was struck at how the interior felt quite classy. This was the GXE model which is only one step above the base model yet it had fake wood trim running across the dashboard, but it was good enough that it looked like real wood. The instrument panel is housed in a nicely curved pod with discrete buttons and climate controls conveniently located high up to the right. The radio is not quite as easy to get to as it is located lower down, at the front of the center console.

The person who owned this car was very happy with the car's performance. I found that the car was peppy enough as long as you floored the gas pedal to get the automatic transmission to shift down when you wanted rapid acceleration. As always, with virtually any four-cylinder car, the engines power is sapped somewhat by the automatic transmission. Handling is good, though it is no sporty sedan.

The front seats are comfortable with a decent amount of room for tall people. Rear seats are also comfortable and the headroom is above average. However, rear seat legroom is below average for this segment. The center armrest folds down for limited pass-through access to the trunk. The trunk has a decent capacity although the high lip and narrow opening restrict access to the trunk somewhat.

Overall the Altima is a competent car. It succeeds in accomplishing what it sets out to do. It is a good four-door family sedan with a solid feel for those who want something more substantial than a Honda Civic or a Chevrolet Cavalier but don't want something quite as big as a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry.


2. Summing It Up - Owners' Views

I like the power, it feels like a V6
Get 18 to 24 mpg around town
Great trunk

Only problem in 60,000 miles a broken brake relay
No problems


3. History of Altima

Nissan first introduced the Altima in 1993 when it replaced the boxy Stanza model. Unlike most Japanese cars, the Altima is unique to North America and is only built in the U.S. It remained largely unchanged until 1998. The newest version has an even sleeker look although it still rides on the same floorpan.


4. Review of Current Altima

In terms of driving there is not a lot of difference between the current model and the pre-owned example I test drove. The newer model looks sleeker and is a little quieter. Although the bodywork changes made in 1998 were more substantial, the real improvements came in the 2000 model. This model has refined engine truning, transmission gearing and changes to the suspension and bigger wheels on all but the base models. All told the refinements have helped improve the car significantly.


5. Basic Facts: 1993 - 1997 Altima

Vehicle Type: Compact Sedan

No. Passengers: up to five

Origin of assembly: Smyrna, TN

Engine: (standard): 2.4-liter 150 hp DOHC I-4

Transmission: 5-spd manual, 4-spd automatic; front-drive

Length: 181 inches

Wheelbase: 103 inches

Width: 67 inches

Height: 56 inches

Curb weight: 2850 lbs. (approx.)

Cargo volume: 14 cu. ft.

Fuel tank capacity: 16 gals.

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway): 24/30 (2.4-liter, manual); 21/29 (2.4-liter, auto)


6. Changes in the Nissan Altima Line 1993 - 2000

1993 Model Year (first year of model)
All new car replaces Stanza

1994 Model Year
Passenger side airbag added

1995 Model Year
Redesigned grille and rear tail lights

1996 Model Year
No changes

1997 Model Year
Side-impact door beam added later in model year

1998 Model Year
Revised version of Altima, with a longer body and slightly more ineterior room
Engine and transmission tuned for better low-end performance

1999 Model Year
No changes

2000 Model Year
Many changes made to further improve the car
Revised front and rear bodywork
Steering and suspension modified
Engine gains five horsepower


7. Safety Notes

NHTSA Crash rating (96 model year): Driver 4; Passenger 4 (5 is best)
ABS optional on all Altima models
Dual air bags standard from 1994


8. Value Guide

Prices listed are for base models. Options can add considerably to the lowest price listed as these are usually stripped models. In many cases, very few vehicles are ever sold at the lowest price listed! Source: Kelley Blue Book

1993 Model Year (first year of model)
New: $13,349 to $18,699

1994 Model Year
New: $14,119 to $19,559

1995 Model Year
New: $15,374 to $20,404

1996 Model Year
New: $16,054 to $21,404

1997 Model Year
New: $16,269 to $21,319

1998 Model Year (first year of revised model)
New: $15,410 to $20,310

1999 Model Year
New: $15,510 to $20,510


9. Option Installment Rate

Generally, when you order a new car you have a choice of factory-installed options. When you buy a pre-owned vehicle, the choice is limited to what was actually installed on vehicles sold in that model year. Use this option installment rate as a guide to the chances of finding particular options on a pre-owned vehicle. Source: Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

1993 Model Year
Installment Rate

Auto 82%
Manual 18%

Air Conditioning: 97%
Cruise Control: 97%
Power Windows: 94%
ABS Brakes: 18%

1994 Model Year
Installment Rate

Auto 81%
Manual 19%

Air Conditioning: 97%
Cruise Control: 98%
Power Windows: 97%
ABS Brakes: 14%
Remote/Keyless Entry: N/A

1995 Model Year
Installment Rate

Auto 84%
Manual 16%

Air Conditioning: 100%
Cruise Control: 99%
Power Windows: 98%
ABS Brakes: 8%
Remote/Keyless Entry: N/A
Leather Seats: 10%

1996 Model Year
Installment Rate

Auto 86%
Manual 14%

Air Conditioning: 100%
Cruise Control: 99%
ABS Brakes: 4%
Remote/Keyless Entry: 22%
Leather Seats: 3%

1997 Model Year
Installment Rate

Auto 89%
Manual 11%

Air Conditioning: 100%
Cruise Control: 99%
ABS Brakes: 8%
Remote/Keyless Entry: 18%
Leather Seats: 2%

1998 Model Year
Installment Rate

Auto 90%
Manual 10%

Air Conditioning: 99%
Cruise Control: 99%
ABS Brakes: 11%
Remote/Keyless Entry: 64%
Leather Seats: 21%

1999 Model Year
Installment Rate

Auto 92%
Manual 8%

Air Conditioning: 100%
Cruise Control: 99%
ABS Brakes: 1%
Remote/Keyless Entry: 58%
Leather Seats: 17%


10. Production/Sales Volume History

Normally a model year runs from October to September. Often though, when a new version is introduced, it hits the market before October. Legally, a model year can start as early as January of the preceding year. Accurate model year sales counts are almost impossible to collect as different model year vehicles are regularly sold side-by-side for several months. Production figures, when listed, often include vehicles made for export to Canada, Mexico and overseas. Source: manufacturers/Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

1993 Model Year (first year of model)
Production run: Oct.1992 through Sept. 1993
Total number produced: NA
Total no. sold in U.S.: 126,694

1994 Model Year
Production run: Oct. 1993 through Sept. 1994
Total number produced: NA
Total no. sold in U.S.: 143,491

1995 Model Year
Production run: Oct. 1994 through Sept. 1995
Total number produced: NA
Total no. sold in U.S.: 165,697

1996 Model Year
Production run: Oct. 1995 through Mar. 1996
Total number produced: NA
Total no. sold in U.S.: 92,138

1997 Model Year
Production run: Apr. 1996 through June 1997
Total number produced: 191,847
Total no. sold in U.S.: 178,127

1998 Model Year (first year of revised model)
Production run: July 1997 through Sept. 1998
Total number produced: 161,738
Total no. sold in U.S.: 144,287

1999 Model Year
Production run: Oct. 1998 through Sept. 1999
Total number produced: NA
Total no. sold in U.S.: 155,530


11. Awards and Commendations

"Best Lower Midsize Car in Initial Quality" - J.D. Power and Associates

"Best Lower Midsize Car in Initial Quality" - J.D. Power and Associates

"Best Buy" - Consumer Guide
"Best Buy" - Consumers Digest



"Our evaluation notes reflected admiration for the engine, the smooth-yet-direct-shifting transmission and the effective brakes. The Altima's ride and handling mix gleaned several compliments too." - Road & Track, Dec. 1992.

"For 1998, the comfortable and capable Altima continues to fill a niche between larger midsize cars and smaller compacts, but it does so at a price that's significantly lower than last year's models." - Consumers Digest, April 1998


13. Recalls (Only major recalls listed)

ID Number: 94V035000
Component: fuel: throttle linkages and control
Potential Number of Units Affected: 206,000
Year: 1993-1994
Manufactured From: June 1992 To: Feb. 1994
Year of Recall: '94
Summary: Engine movement can be transmitted to the airflow meter/filter housing and support bracket, which is mounted in the engine air duct, causing the throttle cable housing to pull out of the cable guide. This may prevent the throttle from returning to the idle position when the gas pedal is released. If this were to occur while the vehicle is in motion, loss of throttle control could result in an accident.

ID Number: 96V185000
Component: interior systems: active restraints: belt buckles
Potential Number of Units Affected: 36,000
Year: 1997
Manufactured From: June 1996 To: Sept. 1996
Year of Recall: '96
Summary: Certain buckle assemblies were produced with a "buckle base" that was improperly heat treated. This can cause the "buckle base" to be brittle failing to comply to FMVSS No. 209, "Seat Belt Assemblies." In the event of a collision, these seat belts may not restrain an occupant increasing the risk of injury.


14. Cost of Parts (relative to other vehicles)

Headlight unit: $206 (above average)
Side marker lamp: $27 (below average)
Door (left front): $446 (average)
Fender (left front): $207 (average)

Note: these are estimated retail prices for commonly replaced body parts on a 1996 model. Prices are current as of Feb. 2000 but will vary from region to region and are subject to change at any time. Source: ADP Collision Repair Services

The Rettie Report and Pre-Owned Profiles contain objective information from a variety of sources. The subjective comments are those of John Rettie.

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