According to certain pundits and prognosticators, the sedan is dead. Modern drivers only want pickup trucks and crossovers. Or do they?
Base Engine: 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder
Output: 188 horsepower, 180 pound-feet of torque
Optional Engine: 2.0-liter variable compression turbocharged four-cylinder
Output: 248 horsepower, 280 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic
U.S. Fuel Economy (MPG): 25 city, 34 highway, 29 combined
2.5L AWD CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 9.3 city, 6.7 highway, 8.1 combined
U.S. Base Price: $24,645
CAD Base Price: $29,793 including $1,795 for delivery
U.S. As-Tested Price: $35,675 including $895 for d
In spite of these assertions, millions upon millions of four-doors are still sold in North America every year, meaning there’s still plenty of money to be made competing in the traditional car market. This is why Nissan continues to offer four different sizes of sedans, from the subcompact Versa to their sporty Maxima.
But the heart and soul of this Japanese automaker’s car range is unquestionably the Altima, which has the mantle of contending with models like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Chevy Malibu. And compete it does.
Dealerships moved more than a quarter million of them last year, making it by far Nissan’s most popular car and the brand’s second-best seller, tucking neatly into the Rogue crossover’s slipstream, which blew the doors off in 2017 with sales eclipsing 400,000 units.
All-New for 2019
The current Altima is a competent if uninspiring four-door that’s gotten rather long in the tooth at this point in its lifecycle, a fact that’s become all the more apparent after two of its biggest rivals were completely overhauled last year. New versions of the Camry and Accord have been duking it out for supremacy in the midsize market for a full turn of the calendar.
Addressing this nameplate’s weaknesses, it’s been completely overhauled for 2019, from platform to powertrains, headlamps to tail lights. The result of this feverish work is a stylish and spacious sedan that’s no longer a straggler in the segment.
The most noticeable thing about this new Altima is the exterior design. It’s dominated by an unmistakable grille that plunges downwards into the front bumper, almost like something from Ingolstadt. It’s certainly bold, but the car manages to be both in your face and tasteful at the same time, a difficult thing to achieve.
The sixth-generation model’s bones are stiffer and sturdier than ever, providing a solid foundation for a fine midsize sedan. The new architecture has allowed the Altima to grow slightly, lower, longer and wider, all by about an inch (2.54 cm), though the wheelbase has been stretched by nearly two inches (4.8 cm), giving it a more planted feel and spacious interior.
Highlighting the totality of this redesign, two brand-new engines are also on the menu. There’s a base, naturally aspirated four-cylinder in addition to an optional turbocharged unit.
Just like in the outgoing Altima, this car’s entry-level powerplant displaces 2.5-liters, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. For 2019 it’s been comprehensively reworked and is about 80 percent new, boasting of features like direct fuel injection, mirror bore cylinder coating, a variable-displacement oil pump and more. This redesign focused on improving output and smoothness while reducing fuel consumption. Accordingly, this engine is rated at 188 horses and 180 pound-feet of torque.
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Unlike most rivals in the midsize segment (only the Subaru Legacy and Ford Fusion come to mind) you can get the new Altima with all-wheel drive, a disconnecting system that provides added grip when needed and enhanced economy when cruising fair-weather roads. In normal conditions, 100 percent of engine torque is routed to just the front wheels, but as required, up to 50 percent of that twisting force can be sent to the back axle. Curiously, all-wheel drive is only offered with the base engine, supposedly to keep it at a more affordable price point.
But for drivers that want more, Nissan also offers a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that replaces the optional 3.5-liter V6. It boasts of a groundbreaking technology that varies its compression ratio, anywhere between 8-to-1 and 14-to-1, something that delivers the best performance and efficiency. With both direct and port fuel injection it’s rated at 248 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of twist, when you fill the tank with premium fuel, that is.
Canadian customers have to make do with the base engine only; the brilliant turbocharged unit is not offered, at least at this time. All-wheel drive is standard equipment north of the border as well.
No matter the engine you choose, both are matched to an Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmission. Sadly, a manual gearbox is unavailable, something that’s par for the midsize-sedan course these days, though the Accord still stirs our souls with a six-speed stick.
But the one advantage of CVTs is their ability to stretch every drop of gasoline, and the 2019 Altima is certainly efficient. With the turbocharged engine, expect it to sticker at 25 miles per gallon in the city and 34 on highway drives. Combined, it’s rated at 29 mpg, giving it an advantage over a 2.0-liter-equipped Honda Accord or V6-powered Toyota Camry.
Naturally, the base engine is even more economical, delivering 28 around town and 39 on long hauls; in mixed use they should average 32 mpg. Opt for all-wheel drive and those figures drop by two, three and two miles per gallon, respectively. In Canada, the car is estimated to burn 9.3 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers if driven in the city and 6.7 on highway trips, figures that result in a combined consumption score of 8.1.
In addition to all this, the new Altima offers loads of amenities. Convenience features like forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, remote start, and a driver-alertness monitor are standard on all of its five trim levels.
In addition to this, Nissan Safety Shield 360 is included on midrange SV models and above. This suite of cutting-edge driver aids bundles things like rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist and more into one package for ‘round-vehicle protection.
ProPILOT Assist is also available on those higher-end models. It’s Nissan’s latest adaptive cruise-control system with lane centering. It takes the stress out of long-distance driving by seamlessly adjusting vehicle speed to match traffic conditions and effortlessly keeping the car within its lane of travel, minimizing driver effort. It can even bring the Altima to a complete stop and restart driving again when the vehicle ahead starts moving. Think of it as a poor-man’s version of Cadillac Super Cruise.
Every 2019 Altima is equipped with NissanConnect, which includes an eight-inch multi-touch display as well as support for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. As infotainment systems go, this one is relatively easy to figure out and speedy, though pinch-to-zoom on the optional navigation system is disappointingly sluggish.
A Bit Disappointing
Matching its exterior design, the interior of this car is elegantly laid out and refreshingly simple, with strong horizontal cues and straightforward ergonomics. Thanks to a lowered hood, which was enabled by repositioned powertrains, forward visibility is improved.
With the 2019 Altima, designers were shooting for a segment above, but unfortunately, they fell a little short. Some of the materials aren’t quite as nice as what you get inside a Mazda6 or the Honda Accord. But more disappointing than this, a number of components feel quite flimsy, especially the unsupported headliner around the sunroof or the tops of the rear door panels.
But there’s still plenty to praise inside. The Zero Gravity front buckets are extremely comfortable, and the back seat has plenty of sprawlin’ room. Additionally, the trunk is both broad and deep, a rival to anything in the segment.
The new Altima feels light on its feet and agile, with a nice amount of heft to the steering system, which is electrically assisted and of the dual-pinion variety for enhanced feel and reduced noise. Body motions are well-controlled thanks to monotube rear shock absorbers and a reinforced chassis. Intelligent Ride Control also helps smooth things out. It uses the rear brakes to prevent exaggerated body movements when driving over larger road imperfections.
This car’s CVT is agreeable, extracting maximum performance out of the turbocharged engine while delivering enhanced economy. D-step shifting simulates traditional gearchanges under heavy acceleration to prevent the engine from droning annoyingly.
Not that the variable-compression turbo would make uncouth noises. Louder than expected and surprisingly rorty, this four-banger provides plenty of thrills, pulling with absolute authority from about 3,500 on the tachometer upward beyond five-grand. It makes the new Altima properly fast, with it surging ahead like an Olympic sprinter when you bury the accelerator, every one of those 280 pound-feet being felt in the seat of your pants.
Side benefits of variable-compression technology include enhanced efficiency and smoothness. The physical componentry that enables this feature reduces the angularity of the connecting rod as it moves up and down, which reduces side thrust and ultimately friction. Beyond this, the system provides better internal balance and less vibration than if the engine were equipped with an NVH-quelling balancer shaft, a win-win.
The Verdict: 2019 Nissan Altima Review
Base price for this stylish new midsizer is $24,645, including $895 for delivery. All-wheel drive adds $1,350 to that figure. As tested, the top-tier Platinum model tested here checked out for just shy of 36 grand. Canadian drivers can scoot away in a 2019 Altima for as little as $29,793 including $1,795 for delivery.
Nissan’s latest midsize sedan is enjoyable to drive even if it’s not quite as dialed in as the Mazda6 or Honda Accord. Still, it’s more than a match for the ever-popular Toyota Camry and likely superior to Hyundai’s Sonata or rivals from Detroit. Once again Nissan’s family four-door finds itself in the thick of the midsize-melee, an excellent place to be, a segment that’s far from dead.
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