9 Cool Design Details on the New 2019 Nissan Altima


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The 2019 Nissan Altima is just as significant as the Nissan Rogue crossover—just in a different way. Although the Altima midsize sedan has ceded its title as Nissan’s best-selling vehicle to the Rogue, sedans still drive the way some consumers perceive automakers. Some buyers might walk into a dealership to see how the Altima has changed only to drive out in a new Rogue. With well over 5 million Altimas sold since the nameplate first arrived for the 1993 model year (that’s 15 years before the Rogue arrived), Ken Lee was charged with overseeing the design of the new 2019 Altima. We spent some time with Lee and the 2019 Altima to get the story on Nissan’s design choices inside and out.

Keep reading to find out what we learned.


No Really: Longer, Lower, and Wider

Maybe you’ve heard automakers boast that their cars are longer, lower, and wider than their predecessors—in the 2019 Altima’s case, the car’s dimensions have changed about an inch in each dimension. Although I can’t say I instantly noticed the change walking around the car, the low hood as well as those slim-and-stretched headlights definitely make an impression. By the way, LED headlights are standard on all but the base S trim.


My 19s Look Bigger Than Your 19s

The 2019 Altima offers 19-inch wheels, and Lee presented an interesting suggestion that the wheels might look subtly bigger thanks to the car’s slimmer fenders and tweaked proportions.

“It goes against the current trend of cars getting thicker and thicker, the body size is getting heavier, and the windows are getting slim,” he said. “And you have to have bigger wheels to balance it out, and it all gets heavier. But [with the 2019 Altima], we want to go for lightweight, athletic feeling.”

The 2019 Altima S wears 16-inch steel wheels with covers, the SV and SL get 17-inch alloys, and the SR and Platinum are fitted with 19-inch alloys.


Why the Altima Has a Floating-Roof Look

The floating-roof design trend has spread across numerous automakers and across car and crossover designs. The Altima may be following the trend with this design detail, but it does make the car look bolder. Also, Nissan’s own Murano crossover and Maxima sedan have worn variations of that design detail for years, so in a way, it already runs in the family. Lee said the floating-roof look can help communicate the interior’s “spacious and airy feeling,” plus it increases the amount of glass onlookers think the car really has.

The 2019 Altima’s interior is spacious, though the way the C-pillars pull inward does affect rear visibility a bit.


How the Altima is Different From a GT-R (and Maxima)

The 2019 Altima has a partially floating-roof look from the back, but the A-pillars are body-colored. That distinguishes the more mainstream Altima from the GT-R and Maxima—two Nissans with blacked-out A-pillars and a sportier focus. In the early design stages, various combinations of blacked-out pillars were considered, but the way the (body-colored) arched roof and pillars reach back to the blacked-out C-pillars won out.


Think of a Pendulum

The 2019 Altima’s design is definitely bolder than that of the outgoing model, but it’s not quite as bold as that of the Maxima, which features swoopy surfacing across the doors and those blacked-out pillars. When it comes to the somewhat “flamboyant” Maxima and Murano designs, Lee said, “We felt it was appropriate at the time.” The Altima, which is a tenth of an inch longer than the Maxima flagship sedan, reflects a focus on a slightly different segment—and on a buying public whose tastes might have changed a tad. “I think people are looking for more maturity now in the next generation of design,” Lee said.


About that Grille

The influence of the Japanese design studio can be seen most prominently, Lee said, in the front end’s big-grille, slim-headlights styling. Although I’m still getting used to the huge front grille, in person, I do like the way the line created by the V-Motion grille’s chrome trim carries through the hood and onto a couple sharp character lines up the side of the car.


The Plate Will Fit

In case you’re wondering, Lee said the front-end styling was sketched with a license plate, so if you live in a state requiring front license plates, an American license plate should fit just fine without covering up the chrome trim. We look forward to seeing whether a plate changes the look of the car.


Designers, Engineers, and a Turn Signal

As with any automotive design, designers and engineers collaborate to make sure that various project directives are accomplished. When it came to the 2019 Altima’s front turn signals, one alternate design idea integrated the front turn signals into the lower foglight cluster to avoid having the turn signal make the whole headlight cluster look too boxy. That change would facilitate making the headlight “slimmer and more swept back” in style, Lee said. The final design positions the turn signal elements at the rear of the stretched-back headlights in a shape that’s a subtle reference to the boomerang lights we’ve seen from Nissans over the last few years.


A Question of Refinement

Lee said the design team spent a lot of time in the clay model stage to get the proportions just right.

“Finding the theme was actually not hard—we knew what we were after, this horizontal, sharp theme,” Lee said, adding that the key was in refining various details such as how far should the fender flares come out.


What Does the Altima Designer Drive?

Now that Lee lives in Japan, he drives a Nissan Elgrand, a Japanese-market van that, like the discontinued U.S.-market Quest, has blacked-out D-pillars. He likes the van’s comfort and space-efficiency and notes that he tries to drive a vehicle that’s unique or special in some way to the market in which he’s living. In Europe he drove a Qashqai crossover, and when he lived in San Diego, he daily-drove a 1990 300ZX, a car whose design he still admires.

So About the Altima’s Design …

The 2019 Nissan Altima really does look more refined. If you’re considering the Altima—as with any car—we’d recommend seeing one in person after viewing photos on a smartphone. Seeing that floating rear roof in person, it might seem a bit overdone or perhaps just right for your tastes. To me, the lower hood makes an impression, and I find the character lines running up the side of the car do look sharper. Whether the design and the rest of the car’s package will be enough to sway some buyers from the comparison-test-winning Accord and still-best-selling Camry is something we’ll discover after the 2019 Altima goes on sale this fall.