Crossover SUVs have usurped mid-size sedans as the go-to family car, with some companies, such as Ford, vacating the sedan segment altogether to concentrate on higher-riding vehicles. But a contingent of holdouts still sells in sizable numbers. While the Nissan Altima trails the perennial frontrunners—the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord—it remains Nissan’s second-bestselling model after the Rogue crossover. The Altima’s sixth generation launched for 2019, with a refresh for 2023 bringing sharper styling and a larger touchscreen. But with Honda and Toyota treating their sedans to major overhauls for 2023 and 2025, respectively, the Altima’s upgrades aren’t enough to move the needle, with the Nissan falling even further behind.
We tested a 2024 Nissan Altima SL AWD, which sported an eye-watering $37,030 window sticker. The Garnet Pearl Metallic paint—a new color for 2023—was a no-cost option, but the sedan was fitted with several add-ons that raised the price. An all-wheel-drive Altima starts at $29,145, but to step up from the base SV trim to our top SL tester is a $5900 upcharge and includes things such as leather seats, 19-inch wheels, a larger 12.3-inch center touchscreen, and upgraded Bose audio. Our car also added floor mats, exterior ground lighting under the side sills, a rear spoiler, and illuminated kick plates.
The 2023 refresh didn’t include any mechanical changes, so the Altima soldiers on with the same standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder—making 182 horses in SL AWD form—paired with a continuously variable transmission. The unrefined powertrain is the Nissan’s biggest flaw, with unsettling vibrations shimmying through the steering wheel at rest that only worsen at highway speeds. A low rumbling reminiscent of agricultural heavy machinery is always present in the background, and asking for even moderate acceleration brings a cacophony of engine noise as the 2.5-liter groans and the CVT sends revs skyward.
The Altima is sluggish relative to its peers. Hitting 60 mph from a standstill takes 7.6 seconds, three-tenths behind a front-wheel-drive Accord EX and a half-second behind a less powerful front-wheel-drive 2023 Hyundai Sonata. It matches the outgoing Camry (we’ve yet to test the new hybrid-only 2025 model) but feels slower, the lethargic acceleration exacerbated by the engine’s strained aria and the clunky, confused CVT that always allows a beat to pass before responding to throttle inputs. While the Altima feels a bit perkier at highway speeds, the numbers once again disappoint. The 50-to-70-mph passing test takes 5.5 seconds, four-tenths adrift of the Honda and the Camry and eight-tenths behind the Sonata.
The Altima shines brighter in the corners. The sedan is fairly nimble, with minimal body roll contributing to a sense of stability. We recorded 0.89 g on the skidpad, better than both the Accord and Camry, but the Altima is let down by its steering, which is completely devoid of feedback. This detracts from the confidence instilled by the suspension—in spirited driving on curvy roads, the detached feeling from the steering wheel makes the Altima seem less surefooted than it actually is. The Honda, meanwhile, feels more balanced and can even bring a grin to your face when you dash through a series of esses.
The brakes also lack communication, although they hauled the Altima from 70 mph to a stop in an impressive 164 feet. That’s 20 feet shorter than the Accord and 12 feet better than the Camry, but the absence of feel and the short, grabby pedal travel can make smooth braking tricky.
While the Altima lacks the driving enjoyment of its rivals, the sedan is a comfortable partner for tootling about town. It isn’t quite luxury-car plush, but the ride is excellent for the segment. The suspension absorbs the harshest impacts, even over particularly brutal potholes, so while bumps are still present, they aren’t jarring. The Altima also makes for a solid road-trip companion, returning 35 mpg on our 75-mph highway test. But that’s slightly worse than the highway mileage we recorded with the Sonata and the all-wheel-drive Camry and falls well short of the Accord’s 40-mpg highway test result.
Moving inside, the cabin looks essentially the same as the pre-refresh Altima. You won’t mistake it for an Infiniti, but this SL model was well appointed with comfortable leather seats, high-quality wood trim, and cushy armrests that feel well suited for a long drive. Underside lighting along the door sills, a $565 option, elevates the Altima and ensures good footing at night.
The big upgrade is the new 12.3-inch screen, standard on the SL and SR VC-Turbo and optional on the SV and regular SR trims. The screen certainly modernizes the cabin, but it’s undercut by the backup camera, which displays a fuzzy image and is overexposed at night. The bird’s-eye view is a useful parking tool, although the video feed that looks like a VHS tape being played on an old CRT box TV really cheapens the effect.
Otherwise, the bigger screen is a handy upgrade, but we’re also glad there are still physical buttons to poke and prod for essential functions, intuitively arranged and within easy reach. For $37K, it’s surprising that the rear-seat passengers don’t get climate controls, but there are USB-A and USB-C ports. The back seat is spacious and comfortable, however, even if the bench sits a tad high, slightly cutting into headroom for taller occupants.
As the sedan market dwindles, the Altima’s flaws appear more stark next to the remaining well-rounded choices. The Altima’s base price of $26,845 slips in under that of the Accord and Camry, but this SL AWD example can’t really be considered a value play, and both competitors offer hybrid powertrains at similar prices. The Altima’s latest update feels like too little for a sedan that was already playing second fiddle to its fellow Japanese competition.
2024 Nissan Altima 2.5 AWD
Vehicle Type: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
Base/As Tested: $29,145/$37,030
Options: SL trim (19-inch wheels, moonroof, leather seats, 12.3-inch touchscreen, 9-speaker Bose audio), $5900; external lighting with logo, $565; rear spoiler, $420; illuminated kick plates, $400; floor/trunk mats, $355; splash guards, $245
DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 152 in3, 2488 cm3
Power: 182 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 178 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm
continuously variable automatic
Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 11.7-in vented disc/11.5-in disc
Tires: Hankook Kinergy GT
235/40R-19 92V M+S
Wheelbase: 111.2 in
Length: 192.9 in
Width: 72.9 in
Height: 57.3 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 56/43 ft3
Trunk Volume: 15 ft3
Curb Weight: 3500 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 7.6 sec
1/4-Mile: 15.9 sec @ 89 mph
100 mph: 20.7 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 8.1 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 4.6 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 5.5 sec
Top Speed (gov ltd): 119 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 164 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.89 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 24 mpg
75-mph Highway Driving: 35 mpg
75-mph Highway Range: 560 mi
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 30/26/36 mpg
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED
Caleb Miller began blogging about cars at 13 years old, and he realized his dream of writing for a car magazine after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University and joining the Car and Driver team. He loves quirky and obscure autos, aiming to one day own something bizarre like a Nissan S-Cargo, and is an avid motorsports fan.
Source: Reviews - aranddriver.com