The 2018 Nissan Altima does almost nothing out of the ordinary.
The 2018 Nissan Altima will go down as one of the best-selling family sedans of its time.*
There’s an asterisk, of course. Crossovers are the new family cars, and the Altima doesn’t have much in the way of ground clearance or all-wheel drive. It sells well, but it’s way behind Nissan’s own Rogue in raw volume.
It’s still a respectable, value-packed four-door with great safety and fuel economy to its credit. Perversely, it’s also a car that’s more rewarding the less you spend on it. That’s 2017 in a nutshell—don’t get too involved—and it’s the sad fate of so many $25,000 sedans in this era of warped sensibilities.
We’ll spare you more philosophy and boil it down to a 7.2 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The 2018 Altima comes in S, SR, SV, and SL trims. All but the SR have a common look, with a handsomely sculpted body that’s grown familiar in its five years on the road. It’s conventional by today’s sheet-metal standards and its interior might have come from a mid-1990s Volkswagen, so traditional it is in its layout and subdued trim. Parked next to the striking new Chevy Malibu and Honda Accord, the Altima looks like the car of some rental fleet manager’s dream—if rental fleet managers were allowed to dream without the usual contractual waiver or add-on fee.
Relentlessly tuned for that imaginary place we call the mainstream, the 4-cylinder Nissan Altima has 179 horsepower, a plush ride, and a CVT that’s been so heavily reworked and programmed it’s almost unrecognizable from a 6-speed automatic. Those are strong words for a device so reviled through history, but it’s true, and it’s one reason the 4-cylinder Altima still deserves a look. That, and 38 mpg highway will get you somewhere, inexpensively.
The 270-hp V-6 promises good times, but the Altima’s steering is hard to roust from its nap. Altima SR models have slightly stiffer tuning, but on the whole, we’d rather have the luscious Maxima and its nifty blend of ride and handling.
The five-seat Altima has fine interior room and a good level of trim and seat comfort. It’s quieter than in past years, too. There’s nothing especially decadent about its interior trim, but it’s less spartan than a Fusion and admittedly less adventurous than the Accord and Camry and Impala.
The Altima continues to do well in crash tests, and this year Nissan makes forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking standard across the line. That leaves little impulse to spend a lot on the Altima: for $25,000, that safety technology is joined by Bluetooth audio streaming, a rearview camera, and your choice of paint color. Pay more for blind-spot monitors, leather, and a larger touchscreen? We’d go that far, but the pricey Altima SL with Nissan’s navigation and adaptive cruise control? As Drew Carey might chide us on network TV, “that’s too much!”