The 2017 Nissan Altima remains a fine mainstream choice, but rivals with newer designs offer far more technology.
One of America's best-selling cars, the Nissan Altima has kept up with the times. It's available in an especially wide range of powertrain and trim configurations, all of which share essentially the same overall goodness.
Base, S, SV, SR, and SL trim levels are on offer, and combined they work out to a 7.2 out of 10 thanks to their roomy interiors, excellent safety and fuel economy figures, and wide range of options. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
But the Altima could stand some improvement in terms of its advanced safety tech and its styling is decidedly dowdy parked against rivals like the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, and Mazda 6.
The Altima was once a far sportier offering than it is today, but a new sporty SR trim level added last year along with a slew of minor updates shows some signs of a low-key comeback.
2017 Nissan Altima styling and performance
Revised styling last year more closely aligns the Altima's front and rear fascias with the design language introduced on the slightly more upscale Maxima sedan (with which it shares running gear) and the Murano crossover. Notable changes include a V-shaped grille, re-sculpted fenders, and the availability of LED headlights. In profile, though, the latest Altima's sheet metal essentially carries over.
Inside, the Altima's dashboard is clean and controls are logically arrayed. It betrays its age against rivals like the Honda Accord and Chevrolet Malibu in its detailing, however.
Nissan offers a pair of engines for the Altima. The base 2.5-liter 4-cylinder makes 182 horsepower, and mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), is tuned for maximum efficiency and not sportiness. But Nissan has been at the CVT game longer than most, and it shows.
A larger, far thirstier V-6 is available on SR and SL models, and it's rated at 270 hp and 258 lb-ft. Like the 4-cylinder, the V-6 is mated to the CVT—with paddle shifters to mimic conventional gear ratios here.
Electrohydraulic steering is somewhat on unusual in this era of fully electric units, but enthusiasts shouldn't expect an especially sporty feel even on the SR. That said, the SR utilizes thicker stabilizer bars and stiffer dampers that do a nice job of straddling the line between firm and comfortable; other Altimas can feel floaty over poor pavement. But they're so quiet that they could be mistaken for mini-luxo barges, which may work well for most passengers.
2017 Nissan Altima quality, safety, and features
The Altima remains a five-seater, and its long wheelbase gives it excellent rear seat room. Its front thrones were designed with some input from NASA, of all organizations, and while they won't blast you into space, they're quite comfortable. Acoustic glass and additional sound deadening last year go a long way to making the Altima a quiet highway companion.
Though there's nothing especially upmarket or exciting about its interior, most materials are soft-touch and the optional leather seats feel especially decadent.
The Altima has aced the IIHS' demanding tests and is rated as a Top Safety Pick+. The federal government agrees, rating the Altima five stars in its frontal and side impact tests, although it dings the sedan a star for rollover. While the expected airbags and stability control are standard across the range, only the range-topping SL offers automatic emergency braking. And even then it's bundled in a pricey package; rivals like Subaru and Honda have democratized this safety tech and made it available on virtually every trim level.
Still, Nissan offers a decently wide range of Altima configurations. The base model is pretty sparse, but the S is only $400 more and adds a color display for the audio system and a proximity key. SRs are the next step up, and they add some styling add-ons plus special suspension tuning and upsized alloy wheels. The SV, the mainstream Altima, has some nice surprise and delight features like remote engine start and a blind spot monitor. Opt for the SL and you'll add leather seats and Bose speakers.
Optional equipment varies by model, but the Altima is light on infotainment features unless you opt for the navigation system that's optional on SVs and SLs. It includes some smartphone-based apps like Pandora and Facebook—because who doesn't need to update their status while on the go?
The Altima's frugal 4-cylinder powertrain delivers 27 mpg city, 39 highway, 31 combined, according to the EPA. On the sporty SR model, however, it drops to 26/37/30 mpg. With the V-6 and CVT, the Altima is rated at 22/32/26 mpg.