By Peter Perrotta
When it comes to Nissan’s Altima – their best-selling sedan – my household is no stranger.
When my wife first started to drive, we purchased a pre-owned Altima (1998) that served us well. That vehicle was passed down to my 22-year-old son when he first started to drive. It logged over 150,000 miles without asking for much.
After laying the ’98 to rest, we purchased a 2011 pre-owned Altima, several years ago, which we still own and love. That car still runs strong. It only has about 88,000 miles on it and has never needed much maintenance.
Needless to say, my family is a big fan of the Altima.
Recently, I jumped behind the wheel of a brand new Altima to see what the latest version of this popular mid-sized sedan was offering these days.
The vehicle I tested for one week is the 2021 Nissan Altima 2.5 Platinum AWD sedan.
The Altima got a fresh new top-to-bottom and inside out redesign two years ago. That look still carries with the 2021 models.
The top-of-the-line Platinum edition carries a base price of $34,100. My tester stickered at $36,745.
Additional options added to my tester included: $205 for splash guards; $395 for premium paint (Pearl White); $300 for floor mats, trunk mat and a hideaway net; $400 for illuminated kick plates; $420 for rear spoiler and $925 for destination and delivery.
When it comes to which model Altima to choose, there are several options.
“Enhancements for the 2021 model year include revised grade level content, with the SR grade now slotted above the SV,” says a release from Nissan. “This brings the lineup order of S, SV, SR and Platinum in line with the other Nissan sedans. There is also the addition of a new SV premium package.”
The Altima is offered with two different engine choices – a 2.0 liter, 4 cylinder variable compression turbo engine which generates about 248 horsepower and a standard 2.5 liter, 4 cylinder (non turbo) that gets about 188 horsepower. Both engines are paired with Nissan’s continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
My tester was equipped with the 2.5 engine. I found the 2.5 to be adequate enough for around town driving. I was a bit disappointed in its performance when I tried to push it when I needed to make an aggressive passing move or needed it to accelerate for getting on the interstate.
However, that being said, I tend to be more of an aggressive driver. For someone who drives more conservatively – like my wife – this engine and power is more than adequate.
My overall impression of the fairly newly redesigned Altima is that it is a very competent mid-sized sedan that checks a lot of the right boxes.
It has an attractive appearance, inside and out. The exterior is more up-to-date looking and sportier and more aggressive looking. The inside is plenty comfortable and roomy and offers enough attractive ergonomics to make it appealing to most.
The overall ride and handling is above average. The steering is smooth and easy. It handles and corners well and takes bumps without much jostling.
The only thing I would add here is this: For me, the Altima doesn’t provide a tremendous “Wow!” factor – if that’s what you’re looking for.
And, mind you, not everyone cares about a “Wow!” factor for their cars. Most people are content with a good, solid car that checks a lot of the aforementioned boxes. And, this car does do that.
The folks over at Car and Driver gave the 2021 Altima high marks for having a “quiet and efficient standard powertrain, spacious and comfy cabin and available four-wheel drive.”
Car and Driver knocked the Altima because they said its turbo engine was not compatible with its all-wheel drive system, had brittle ride quality and wasn’t as engaging as its top rivals (Honda and Mazda).
I didn’t drive the turbo engine Altima so I can’t comment there.
Car and Driver’s overall verdict hits at my “Wow!” factor comment. “The Altima has some unique options and sporty characteristics, but it doesn’t inspire like the segment’s best,” says the editor at Car and Driver.
Well, I’m not sure I totally agree with that comment.
I don’t find the Honda Accord or the Mazda 6 all that inspiring either. Like the Altima, both are very competent mid-sized sedans with good track records for reliability, but their “Wow!” factor is about the same as the Altima, if you ask me.
The Altima I drove for one week has an EPA gas mileage rating of 29 miles per gallon overall – 35 miles per gallon in highway driving and 29 mpg in city driving.
The EPA estimates that the Altima will cost about $1,400 per year to run on fuel as it uses about 3.4 gallons of gas per every 100 miles driven.
The Altima received impressive results in the government’s 5-star safety ratings crash test. It got 5 stars for its overall vehicle score.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. For questions or comments he can be contacted at email@example.com.