The 2018 Nissan Altima continues to improve, gaining new standard safety features like automatic emergency braking and more competitive pricing. Both features are good news, because the midsize sedan market is heating up fast, with newer competitors like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry offering more features, more sophisticated engines and more interior room.
To help its affordable family sedan stand out, Nissan wraps the Altima in Maxima-like styling and then fills it with innovative features, including NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats. The Altima also offers a substantial roster of the safety and technology features demanded by today’s tech-savvy consumers.
To compete in this rather competitive segment, Nissan attained maximum efficiency, producing the lightest car in the segment and using a continuously variable transmission to achieve an impressive 38 miles per gallon on the highway with the 4-cylinder engine. Those more impressed with performance than fuel economy can opt for a potent V6, an option that’s increasingly rare in the family-sedan category.
What’s New for 2018?
For 2018, the Altima gains automatic emergency braking and intelligence forward-collision warning. The top-line SL trim gains adaptive intelligent cruise control and an upgraded NissanConnect system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The Altima lineup is simplified this year with the deletion of the 2.5 and 3.5 SR. See the 2018 Nissan Altima models for sale near you
What We Like
Handsome styling; comfortable front seats; easy-to-use and affordable navigation radio; standard advanced collision-avoidance technology
What We Don’t
The Nissan Altima offers a choice between a frugal 4-cylinder engine and a potent V6. The 2.5 models use a 179-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, while 3.5 versions employ a 270-hp 3.5-liter V6. The 4-cylinder’s fuel economy ratings are 27 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg hwy, while the SR trim gets 26 mpg city/37 mpg hwy, and the V6 scores 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Nissan Altima comes in four trims with two engine choices. The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder cars come in S, SV, SR and SL versions, while the V6-powered 3.5-liter comes in the SL trim.
The 2.5 S ($24,025) features a 6-way power driver’s seat, cruise control, Nissan’s Intelligent Key system, auto-off headlights with wiper activation, and a 6-speaker audio upgrade with a 5-in display, a USB port and speed-sensitive volume. Also standard is NissanConnect with mobile apps, a fill-tire pressure alert system, automatic emergency braking, intelligent forward-collision warning, Siri Eyes Free and a rearview monitor.
The 2.5 SR ($25,085) adds a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a rear spoiler, seven simulated gears in manumatic mode, paddle shifters, cloth-covered sport seats, an 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar control and unique interior sport accents.
The 2.5 SV ($26,670) brings 17-in alloy wheels, an 8-way power driver’s seat with 2-way power lumbar, fog lights, remote start with climate control, SiriusXM radio, a hands-free text-message assistant, NissanConnect apps, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote starting, rear cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitoring system.
The 2.5 SL ($29,880) includes a heated steering wheel, 9-speaker Bose audio, a 4-way power passenger seat, integrated mirror turn signals, leather seating, rear heating and cooling vents, LED taillights, heated front seats, heated folding side mirrors and an auto up/down front passenger window.
The 3.5 SL ($36,395) includes all the 2.5 SL features, plus the V6 engine, 18-in alloy wheels, a 7-in VGA color monitor, navigation, Sirius XM Traffic and Travel Link, adaptive intelligent cruise control, a power moonroof and front and rear sonar parking sensors.
There are four options packages, all applied to the 2.5 models. The S offers the Convenience package, with a 6-way power driver’s seat and remote start. The SR Special Edition package brings NissanConnect with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, faux-leather seating, remote start, heated front seats and a unique wheel finish.
The SV Technology package adds a power moonroof, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 7-in color touchscreen, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, heated cloth front seats, heated outside mirrors, a heated steering wheel, integrated turn-signal side mirrors, Homelink and a compass.
Lastly, the SL Tech package adds the moonroof, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, adaptive intelligent cruise control and LED headlights.
In crash tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2018 Altima an overall rating of five (its highest score), with five stars in the front- and side-impact tests and four stars in the roof-strength test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the Altima a Top Safety Pick, giving it top marks in all tests, including crash avoidance and mitigation.
Nissan offers lots of accident-avoidance technology on the Altima, including lane-departure warning, a blind spot monitoring system and moving-object warning. Every trim comes standard with a series of collision-warning and -avoidance systems. The Easy-Fill Tire Alert system simplifies pumping up the tires by chirping the Altima’s horn when you’ve put in enough air.
To supplement the usual new stability-control technologies, the Altima features Active Understeer Control. This automatically brakes the inside front wheel when the car is going too quickly into a turn, reducing the understeer effect common in front-wheel-drive cars. (Understeer is when a car doesn’t turn as much as the driver intends because the front tires are sliding.)
Behind the Wheel
The Altima’s styling, comfort and efficiency make it an excellent contender against the top-selling family sedans. Unfortunately, despite revisions to the car’s steering and suspension, the Altima’s performance credentials still lag behind those of its competitors. In turns, the revised steering provides a somewhat vague feel for the road, although we do appreciate the added feedback and weight. We suspect the 2.5SR trim resolves this issue, but we have yet to test it.
The Altima also suffers from torque steer while accelerating. It isn’t the seriously bad kind of torque steer in which the engine wrenches the front wheels to the side and tries to change lanes when the driver intended to go straight. This is the more subtle sort, when the car resists the driver’s attempt to turn the steering wheel — for instance, when unwinding the wheel while accelerating from a turn.
On the plus side, standard Active Understeer Control and a revised suspension keep the Altima on track in tight cornering. The driving dynamics are not as precise as in a Mazda6, Ford Fusion or Chevrolet Malibu, but most families will find the soft ride an appealing attribute.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Chevrolet Malibu — The Malibu is a smaller, tauter, 4-cylinder-only car.
2018 Ford Fusion — The Fusion combines winning style with a huge variety of power sources, including a standard 4-cylinder, a turbo, a hybrid electric and a plug-in hybrid. It also offers the option of all-wheel drive.
2018 Honda Accord — The old standby is all-new this year and remains a solid, efficient and responsive sedan. Bold styling and two new turbocharged engines make the Accord one of the best family 4-doors on the market.
2018 Hyundai Sonata — The exciting-looking Sonata isn’t that exciting to drive, but it is a great car, delivering the combination of price, efficiency and quality, plus an outstanding warranty.
Used Nissan Maxima — A 2014-2016 Nissan Maxima delivers better performance, more features and superior interior appointments, and it can comfortably seat four adults.
For its combination of features, styling, safety equipment and price, we’d pick the 2.5 SV trim and then add the $1,280 SV Technology package.