The 2019 Nissan Altima charges into the midsize sedan segment, ready to battle the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry with available all-wheel drive, a couple key standard features, and a new upgrade-engine option. The Altima has traditionally placed third in annual midsize sedan sales, far behind the Toyota Camry and also falling short of the Honda Accord. With the 2019 Altima’s thorough updates inside and out, could this Nissan four-door finally pull ahead of the Honda by the end of the year?
Although the new-for-2018 Camry has been winning the sales race, the also-new-for-2018 Accord won our hearts, beating the Toyota in two comparisons. The 2019 Altima enters the segment with available all-wheel drive, a feature offered by the Ford Fusion and Subaru Legacy but not available at any price on the Toyota and Honda. The new all-wheel-drive system defaults to sending all of the torque to the front wheels but can change that torque split to 50/50 front/rear depending on the conditions. Like the standard front-drive models, all-wheel drive will be offered with every trim on the base engine, a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated I-4 said to be made with 80 percent redesigned or new parts. The 2019 Altima 2.5 is good for 188 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque, and the direct-injection engine is paired to a CVT.
The base-engine Altima was always one of the quicker cars in its segment; we tested a last-generation model hitting 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, just two-tenths off the pace set by similar 2018 Accord and 2018 Camry sedans. For the more lead-footed drivers out there, the 2019 Altima will offer a new four-cylinder VC-Turbo engine in place of the 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V-6 on the outgoing model. The 2019 Altima with the VC-Turbo engine makes 248 hp (22 hp less than the outgoing V-6) and 273 lb-ft (22 lb-ft more than the V-6) on premium gas. How those figures translate to on-road performance and a 0–60 time is something we look forward to testing on the VC-Turbo model, which is only offered with front-wheel drive and a CVT.
Once the 2019 Altima is on the road, drivers might appreciate the car’s new dual-pinion electric power-steering system, which Nissan says improves feel and is quieter. All Altimas should benefit from dynamic updates, which include monotube rear shocks and suspension reinforcements to make the car feel more responsive without adding unwanted harshness. As someone who spent a year in a 2013 Altima 2.5 SL and reviewed a more recently updated Altima 2.5 SV, I’m also interested in Nissan’s claim of lower NVH thanks to the new platform and engines. Although the 2016–2018 models improved the Altima’s NVH performance, the earlier cars’ engine and transmission were never on the quiet side.
Some 2019 Altimas will come with active noise cancellation to make the cabin a bit quieter, but it’s the 8.0-inch touchscreen most will notice when they step inside an Altima. Every 2019 Altima has that screen, which is mounted higher on the center stack than the too-low placement on the outgoing model. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and push-button start with hands-free keyless entry are all standard. The latest version of Nissan’s so-called Zero Gravity seats are also standard, and again, as someone who spent a year in a last-gen Altima, I can tell you that those Zero Gravity seats were a real highlight for a car intended to be an easy and comfortable commuter. Every 2019 Altima will also get a 7.0-inch color display in the center of the instrument cluster.
What you won’t find standard on the 2019 Altima S or SR trims is Nissan’s ProPilot Assist, a comprehensive package of active safety tech. The tech, which is standard on the SV, SL, and Platinum trims, includes a number of features that, arguably, are kind of like your first smartphone in that you never knew you needed them until you used them on a regular basis. The most important part of the package is automatic emergency braking, which can apply the brakes if the car detects a potential obstacle ahead. The SV, SL, and Platinum trims also get lane departure mitigation and an adaptive cruise control system that can function in stop-and-go traffic. A rear automatic braking system is new and, like the similar system we’ve seen on Infinitis, can apply the brakes to avoid a potential collision when you’re reversing (after providing visual and audio cues to the driver that something’s up). Although it’s a shame that 2019 Altima S and SR customers won’t have these features standard—Toyota makes a suite of active safety tech standard on every Camry, and Honda includes its version on every Accord—we hope this strategy will allow Nissan to keep the lower trims more affordable.
On the other side of the spectrum, loaded 2019 Altimas will include a nine-speaker Bose sound system, LED headlights and foglights, and leather seats with perforated inserts. Heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are available, but unlike the Accord, ventilated front seats and heated outboard rear seats are not. The new Altima is the latest new car to wear a floating roof design, but that bold design choice isn’t the only detail that might make an impression on those familiar with the outgoing Altima’s design. The Altima’s wheelbase has been stretched by 1.9 inches, and the car is about 1 inch longer, wider, and lower than the last-gen model. The front overhang has also been trimmed.
For the more practically minded buyers, the 2019 Altima will also likely build on the outgoing car’s already impressive EPA ratings. The 2019 Altima 2.5 could hit an EPA-rated 40 mpg on the highway (non-SR trims of the 2018 model are rated 27/38 mpg city/highway), and Nissan suggests the Altima VC-Turbo model might hit an EPA-rated 35 mpg on the highway. A limited edition launch model based on the VC-Turbo model will be offered this summer; otherwise, the 2019 Altima goes on sale this fall.
So the new 2019 Nissan Altima has some cool standard and available features and offers all-wheel drive, and its base engine is more powerful than before, yet the car will probably be more efficient than its predecessor. Will that be enough to convince buyers already set on an Accord or another midsize sedan to reconsider the Altima? As an increasing number of buyers skip midsize sedans altogether for a crossover, the 2019 Altima at least looks like it has what it needs to maintain its relevance in this still-competitive class.