An all-new Nissan Altima was released for the 2019 model year and represented a massive improvement over the outgoing model. Given that it was redesigned just last year, the 2020 Nissan Altima sees only slight tweaks taking place to trim levels and packaging. Two engines are offered: a naturally aspirated 4-cylinder and a more potent, turbocharged 4-cylinder, both of which come mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which allows for improved fuel economy when compared to a traditional geared transmission. One of the new Altima’s calling cards is its available all-wheel drive (AWD), which is optional on all Altimas equipped with the less-powerful non-turbo engine — unfortunately, the Altima turbo is front-wheel drive (FWD) only. Additionally, every Altima comes with an 8-in infotainment screen with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a comprehensive array of available active safety features. Altogether, the recently redesigned Altima is a compelling sedan offering and should give the segment-leading Toyota Camry and Honda Accord a run for their money.
What’s New for 2020?
The Altima was all-new for the 2019 model year and therefore only receives small tweaks to its trim levels and packaging structures for 2020. Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 suite of active safety features now comes standard on the SR trim, while a memory mirror has been added to the Platinum trim. A new piano black interior finish is now available for SV, SL and Platinum trims as well. See the 2020 Nissan Altima models for sale
What We Like
- Available AWD
- Efficient powertrains
- Sharp styling
- Available turbocharged engine
- Nice interior
- Standard 8-in screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
- Standard USB-C outlets
- Standard active safety features
What We Don’t
- AWD isn’t available with more powerful turbocharged engine
- No hybrid option
- Interior can feel a little cheap on lower trim levels.
With the base 4-cylinder engine and FWD, the Altima achieves pretty strong fuel economy numbers of 28 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway, which is on par with the rest of the segment. 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. Worth noting is that 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
The new Altima is offered in five trim levels: S, SR, SV, SL and Platinum. SR and Platinum models are available with the optional turbocharged engine. Any Altima equipped with the base engine can be optioned with AWD.
The entry-level S trim ($24,795) includes the base engine making 188 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque linked to a CVT. Some standard driver-assistance tech includes cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, a back-up camera and intelligent driver alertness. New to the S trim for 2020 is the Driver Assist Package, which adds rear automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic monitoring and automatic high beams. Beyond this, the Altima S comes with all of the basics like air conditioning and power windows plus standard remote start, a power driver’s seat and a nice 8-in infotainment system with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, along with Bluetooth.
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 also available with the VC-Turbo engine ($30,645), and gets Nissan’s suite of active safety features, which the company refers to as Safety Shield 360 as standard for 2020. 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). Perhaps most notable about the SV is the inclusion of Nissan’s ProPilot Assist feature, which uses elements of radar cruise control and lane-keeping assist to help you keep your car in your lane at a safe distance from the car in front of you during highway driving, bringing the vehicle to a full stop and starting it again once traffic gets moving. 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. Altogether, the SV offers a great mix of safety and comfort without breaking 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 19-in alloy wheels, an Intelligent Around View Monitor 360-degree camera, a memory driver’s 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.
The 2020 Nissan Altima carries a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It earns a score of Superior for its front crash prevention technology and scores of Good in all other criteria with the exception of an Acceptable rating for its headlights. Optional on the base S trim and standard on every other trim is Nissan’s suite of active safety features that the company refers to as Safety Shield 360. This consists of automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic monitoring and automatic high beams. Adaptive cruise control with low-speed stop-and-go functionality is also available.
Behind the Wheel
The Altima we drove was 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, a display shows 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 milder, 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.
The new Altima offers a slightly premium-feeling cabin that serves to raise the standards of the midsize sedan segment. 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 quick 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
2020 Toyota Camry — The Toyota Camry’s big update for 2018 made what had historically been a boring, ho-hum sedan into something much more interesting. 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 offers considerably more power than 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.
2020 Honda Accord — Another midsize sedan stalwart is the Honda Accord, which was also all-new for the 2018 model year. The Accord offers buyers their choice of two different turbocharged 4-cylinder engines, the more potent of which actually makes slightly more power and torque than the Altima’s turbo without the fancy variable compression engineering, but the Honda engine is also slightly less efficient. Something the Accord offers 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.
2020 Subaru Legacy — The Legacy is all-new for 2020 and is the main competitor to an AWD-equipped Altima. Given that like on most Subarus, the Legacy’s AWD is standard across the board, buyers can have either the base engine, or the Legacy’s new, more powerful turbocharged option with 4-wheel traction. Fuel economy from the nonturbo Legacy is comparable to that of the AWD Altima, and both vehicles come standard with a CVT.
2020 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 300-hp 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. Keep in mind though that the improved Altima closes the gap with the Maxima considerably when it comes to refinement and experience, with many reviewers arguing that the Maxima just may now be obsolete.
The 2020 Nissan Altima is a well-rounded sedan that’s big on value with a generous offering of infotainment and safety tech. For the enthusiast who needs the practicality of a midsize sedan, you won’t be disappointed by the Altima’s optional VC-Turbo engine, especially in sporty SR guise, which makes for 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 (and still allows for impressive fuel economy) is a huge plus, and gives the Altima a genuine competitive advantage when compared to rivals like the Camry and Accord. 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 sits in a sweet spot of safety, features and value that will satisfy most drivers. Find a Nissan Altima for sale