Despite crossovers taking the country by storm, midsize sedans -- formerly one of the biggest, hungriest segments -- are still going strong. More than ever, automakers need to build cars that can compete with some of the best nameplates of all time, and the latest generation of Nissan Altima does exactly that.
The Altima emerged for the 2019 model year sporting a major overhaul that immediately put the sedan back in the midsize-segment fray. Thus, for 2020, the adjustments are few and far between, but some are still pretty important.
Powertrain and specs
A hefty majority ofwield the same engine. It's a 2.5-liter, naturally aspirated I4 gas engine making 188 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque with front-wheel drive, but adding all-wheel drive ($1,350) drops those numbers to 182 and 178, respectively. No matter the number of driven wheels, a continuously variable transmission is standard.
If you're after something with a bit more gusto, the SR and Platinum trims can be equipped with Nissan's VC-Turbo engine. This 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 is capable of changing its compression ratio on the fly, favoring performance or efficiency as the driver's right foot demands. Output rises to 248 hp and 273 lb-ft, but it's only available with front-wheel drive.
Efficiency is pretty darn solid for both cars. Low-trim 2.5-liter cars are EPA-rated at 28 miles per gallon city and 39 mpg highway, while moving up to the SR or Platinum trim drops those numbers to 27 and 37, respectively. Adding all-wheel drive on the base trims lowers those numbers further, to 26 mpg city and 36 mpg highway, while AWD SR and Platinum models fall further, to 25 city and 35 highway.
The VC-Turbo is the least efficient variant of all, but only barely. At 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, it's a small price to pay for having a little more fun.
The 2020 Nissan Altima has seating for up to five individuals. The forward half of the cabin is no-nonsense, with a "floating" infotainment screen atop an uncluttered dashboard that features some clever layering. Beneath the telematics setup is a space for climate controls, with USB and AUX ports just beneath that.
S and SV trims make do with woven fabric seats, while the SR has a sportier combination of textiles, with leather reserved for SL and Platinum trims. A power driver's seat is standard across the lineup. The rear bench has a 60/40 split, with release mechanisms in both the cabin and trunk. The trunk promises 15.4 cubic feet of space, which bests the Toyota Camry but lags behind the Honda Accord.
The biggest update for the Altima's 2020 model year comes from its safety systems. Nissan Safety Shield 360 is now standard on the Altima SR trim. This suite includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and automatic high beams. It's standard on every trim except the base S, where it's available as an option.
All Altimas receive the same infotainment system. NissanConnect runs on an 8-inch touchscreen on the center of the dashboard. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the lineup, as are two USB ports (one Type-A, one Type-C) in the front row and an additional two (one Type-A, one Type-C) in the second row. The bottom trims make do with a 6-speaker audio system, while SL and Platinum variants get upgraded to a 9-speaker Bose sound system. Those same trims also receive embedded navigation.
And then there's ProPilot Assist. Standard on SV, SL and Platinum 2.5-liter trims, as well as the Platinum VC-Turbo trim, this suite of active and passive driver aids is capable of holding the vehicle in the center of its lane on the highway, staying with the flow of traffic as it speeds up or slows down. Think of it as a highly capable combination of adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist.
Nissan's Rear Door Alert is also standard across all trims. If a rear door is opened prior to beginning a journey, the car will alert the driver at the end of said trip to check the back seat. This should help busy folks from forgetting people, animals or other items in the car -- after your first time leaving leftovers in a car for a whole weekend, it's not a mistake anyone is keen to repeat.
Options and pricing
The 2020 Nissan Altima starts at $24,995, including the mandatory destination charge. That'll net you an Altima S with all the standard tech I just mentioned, in addition to a 7-inch display in the gauge cluster, a power driver's seat, 16-inch steel wheels and halogen headlights. An optional driver-assistance package adds in the Nissan Safety Shield 360 technologies.
The $26,595 SR trim adds 19-inch alloy wheels, a sport suspension (for FWD models only), sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED headlights, body colored door handles and Nissan Safety Shield 360. An optional premium package adds a moonroof, heated front seats and heated side mirrors.
Move up to the $28,775 SV trim, and you get a moonroof, LED fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, ProPilot Assist, heated side mirrors, rear HVAC vents and dual-zone automatic climate control.
The $31,135 Altima SR ramps up the fancy with leather-appointed seats, a 9-speaker Bose premium sound system, embedded navigation and a four-way power passenger front seat. Drop $33,075 on the Platinum trim, and you'll be rewarded with 19-inch alloy wheels, a surround-view camera system and interior accent lighting, in addition to memory functions for the seat and mirrors.
Bear in mind, those prices are only for the 2.5-liter variants with front-wheel drive -- adding AWD tacks $1,350 onto the price tag. The VC-Turbo 2.0-liter Altimas are a bit more expensive than their lower-powered counterparts, with the SR trim commanding $30,645, while the Platinum trim is a hefty proposition at $36,075. Both are only available with FWD.
The 2020 Nissan Altima is now on sale nationwide.