The Nissan Altima was starting to get a little lost in the fray in the shadow of some stellar competition. With the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord benefiting from major redesigns for 2018, the Altima became a bit of an afterthought. Nissan has remedied that by introducing an all-new Altima for 2019 and it’s a serious competitor in an increasingly competitive midsize sedan market. With a sharp new look and some very appealing mechanical features available plus a nice interior with plenty of modern technology, the 2019 Nissan Altima is back in the game.
What’s New for 2019?
The Nissan Altima has been fully redesigned for the 2019 model year. The new Altima has replaced its predecessor, which was becoming a bit forgettable when compared to the very strong competition from recently updated competitors.
The new Altima has a new look that is leading an updated design language for the rest of the Nissan brand. There are some noticeable similarities in design with the previous Altima, but the new generation looks a bit sportier and more premium.
The 2019 Altima has an efficient naturally aspirated base engine similar to the one in the outgoing model plus a very interesting new VC-Turbo 2.0-liter inline-four engine available. It’s the variable compression engine first introduced in the Infiniti QX50, which can actually change its compression ratio on the fly depending on the driver’s inputs. We won’t get too deep into the mechanical details, but it means it can deliver stronger performance when the driver demands it and better fuel economy at steady cruising speeds. The VC-Turbo engine makes 236 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, which is less horsepower, but more torque than the available V6 in the outgoing Altima.
Another big feature available on the new Altima is all-wheel drive, which is uncommon in non-luxury midsize sedans. Curiously, AWD is only available with the base engine. If you want the VC-Turbo engine, you can’t get it with AWD, and vice versa. However, AWD makes the Altima more competitive and should make it a popular choice in snowy climates where that extra traction can go a long way in the winter. See the 2019 Nissan Altima models for sale near you
What We Like
- Sport sedan-like handling in the SR trim
- Interesting available VC-Turbo engine
- Efficient base engine, available AWD on all trims
- Sharp styling
- Nicely designed interior with a roomy back seat
- Standard 8-in infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
- Standard USB-C outlets
- Standard forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking
- Affordable luxury in the higher trims.
What We Don’t
- Can’t be optioned with both the VC-Turbo engine and AWD
- No hybrid option
- Some low-rent interior materials in lower trims
Front-wheel drive Altima models equipped with the base engine achieve pretty strong fuel economy numbers of 28 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway, which is on par for non-hybrids in this class. Upgrading to the VC-Turbo engine brings fuel economy down to 25 mpg city/34 mpg hwy, which is pretty good considering the car’s performance. For reference, a VC-Turbo Altima is more efficient than the higher-performance versions of the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry.
As always, adding AWD means a slight fuel economy penalty. The AWD Altima gets 26 mpg city/36 mpg hwy, which makes it the most fuel efficient AWD midsize sedan in its class beating the Subaru Legacy and the AWD Ford Fusion.
Standard Features & Options
Standard features is one of the strong suits of the 2019 Altima. The base S trim ($24,795) includes the base engine making 188 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque linked to a continuously variable transmission. Some standard driver-assistance tech includes cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, a backup camera and intelligent driver alertness. You get the basics like air conditioning and power windows plus standard remote start, a power driver’s seat, and a nice 8-in NissanConnect infotainment system, which comes loaded with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth. These are connectivity features we always like to see come as standard.
Upgrade to the SR trim ($26,145) and you get a sporty appearance package with 19-in wheels, LED headlights, and a dark chrome grille plus paddle shifters and an impressive sport-tuned suspension. The SR model is the trim where the VC-Turbo engine becomes available ($30,195). Other perks of the SR trim include blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, sport cloth seat trim, and faux carbon fiber interior trim.
The next step up the model range is the Altima SV ($28,975), which adds adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, rear sonar with rear automatic braking, high-beam assist, and intelligent lane intervention, and ProPilot Assist, which helps you keep your car in your lane at a safe distance from the car in front of you during highway driving and can even come to a full stop and continue moving when traffic gets moving again. The SV trim also adds automatic dual-zone climate control, back seat air vents, remote start with intelligent climate control, a universal garage door opener, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, LED fog lights and a power moonroof. The Altima SV is a safe and comfortable family sedan that doesn’t break the bank.
The Altima SL ($30,885) further adds to what the SV model throws in. It gets into luxury territory with leather seats, a power adjustable front passenger seat, navigation, Bose premium audio, HD radio, wood tone interior trim, traffic sign recognition and active noise cancellation.
If you want to move up even further, you can upgrade to the Altima Platinum ($32,825), which adds beautiful 19-in alloy wheels, an Intelligent Around View Monitor 360-degree camera, a driver’s memory seat, and interior accent lighting. The Altima Platinum is a really nice car, but we’re not sure it’s worth the upcharge over the SL model if you’re going with the base engine. However, it’s worth noting that the Platinum trim is available with the VC-Turbo engine and the SV and SL trims aren’t.
For the height of luxury in a Nissan Altima, you can upgrade to the Edition ONE VC-Turbo model ($36,645). This special trim is only available with the VC-Turbo engine and comes with special 19-in dark gray alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, external ground lighting, Edition ONE floor mats, and the Nissan Concierge service, which, as of this writing, is exclusive specifically to this car. It works a lot like a concierge at a hotel. It’s a 24/7 service where someone from Nissan’s live concierge team can help you with hotel and restaurant suggestions and reservations, weather forecasts, movie listings, events and festivals, wake up calls, and even gift recommendations. This is a neat idea, but frankly, many of these services can be achieved with a smartphone.
The 2019 Nissan Altima earns a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It scores Good in all of the criteria of IIHS testing with the exception of an Acceptable rating for headlights and a Superior score for front crash prevention. As of this writing, safety ratings for the 2019 Altima from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are not available.
Behind the Wheel
The Altima we drove is the SR VC-Turbo model. We were expecting a mildly sporty version of a humble midsize sedan and what we got is more than we bargained for. The VC-Turbo engine is extremely responsive with big torque coming on early in the rev range partly thanks to the engine’s variable compression. Once you get up to highway cruising speed, you can watch a gauge in the screen in the dash showing whether the compression of the engine is leaning more towards performance or efficiency. When you’re consistently on the efficiency side of the variable compression, the Altima is, indeed, good for mpg in the mid-30s on the highway.
We had a chance to take on some of the fun winding canyon roads of Ojai, California, which was more fun than we expected in this Altima. "Sport-tuned" means different things to different carmakers and Nissan really means it with the Altima SR. The car is planted on winding roads without ever feeling uncomfortable as it maintains a composed ride in more mild, straight-line driving. The VC-Turbo engine turns the Altima into a bit of a Swiss Army Knife of midsize sedans, being a blast on winding roads to satisfy the enthusiast and a comfortable, efficient highway cruiser to satisfy the everyday commuter. However, we wish you could get the VC-Turbo engine with AWD.
One of the biggest upgrades to the Altima compared to the outgoing model is the interior. The design of this interior has such a premium look that it might make you feel like you’re in a more expensive car. There are a few low-rent materials here and there in the lower trims, but from the midrange on up the interior gets nicer. We also love that the 8-in infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay comes standard on every model. The NissanConnect system is snappy and responsive making it easy to get to what you actually want to be looking at on the screen whether it’s your music, your navigation, or one of the mobile connectivity features.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Toyota Camry— The Toyota Camry’s big update in 2018 made a midsize sedan that’s traditionally quite boring a lot more interesting (sound familiar?). It has a bold new look and a base engine that’s slightly more fuel efficient than the one in the Altima, plus a brawny available V6 engine that beats the horsepower rating of the Altima’s VC-Turbo engine. There’s also a super efficient hybrid available. However, what the Camry doesn’t offer is AWD. Pricing for the Camry is very similar to that of the Altima.
2019 Honda Accord — Another midsize sedan stalwart is the Honda Accord, which was also all-new in 2018. The Accord has two turbocharged engines available, the bigger of which actually makes slightly more power and torque than the VC-Turbo engine without the fancy variable compression engineering, but the Honda engine is also slightly less efficient. Something the Camry has that the Altima doesn’t is an available manual transmission, but again, no AWD in the Honda. Like the Camry, the Accord is also priced very similarly to the Altima.
2019 Subaru Legacy — The Subaru Legacy is one of the few midsize sedans that offers AWD and has the distinction of having standard AWD on every model. However, the Legacy is a bit lacking in the fun-to-drive factor with an underpowered base engine and uninspired handling. It’s also not as fuel efficient as an AWD Altima. What the Legacy does offer on top of its standard AWD is the Subaru EyeSight safety tech suite coming standard and a nice big interior. The Legacy starts at $23,430, which is a bit more affordable than a base AWD Altima.
2019 Nissan Maxima — The Altima’s sportier, more luxurious big brother, the Maxima, got a nice face-lift for 2019, making it an attractive alternative to the Altima. The Maxima is more of a sport sedan with a standard V6 engine and an upscale interior. The starting price of the Maxima is similar to that of an Altima Platinum with the base engine, but if you have a little more room in your budget and want a premium sedan with a little more muscle, the Maxima is worth a look.
The new Altima is a well-rounded sedan what’s big on value with generous standard features and some very interesting available features and tech. For the enthusiast who needs the practicality of a midsize sedan, you won’t be disappointed by a VC-Turbo Altima, especially a sporty SR model, which is a surprising sport sedan bargain. If you don’t care so much about performance and are more concerned about all-weather traction, the fact that AWD is available on every trim (plus the car’s impressive AWD fuel economy) is a huge plus that gives the Altima a competitive edge over its tough rivals. It’s hard to say which model we recommend, since the car’s personality can change quite a bit to suit different wants and needs, but we think the Altima SV is in a sweet spot of safety, features and value that will satisfy most drivers. Find a Nissan Altima for sale