After 25 years, the Nissan Altima is still one of the best budget-friendly sedans in its class.
Well, hello, Nissan Altima. How can you be 25 years old already? It seems like only yesterday you were just a small, compact sedan with a modest set of comfort features. Now look at you; you’ve definitely grown up! In fact, you’re barely recognizable!
Back in 1992, the Altima debuted as a compact car. Basic features, basic comfort levels, basic transportation. Nissan had a lot of time to work on improvements, and with the latest feature-stuffed models, it’s pretty clear they’ve hit their stride. Today, the Altima is a very comfortable – darn-near luxurious, our customers think! — midsized sedan with a good measure of performance to boot.
All of its enhancements, combined with a reasonable price, make the Altima one of the best-selling midsized sedans in its class.
Here's 10 reasons why CarMax customers love their Nissan Altimas.
1. Great fuel economy. If fuel savings is a top concern, you'll be glad to know that the Nissan Altima is one of the most fuel-efficient midsized sedans on the market today. It’s pretty miserly, and sips fuel with enough moderation to return an average of 27 mpg in city driving and 39 mpg on the highway. This is thanks to a number of modifications made to the latest-generation Altimas, including grille shutters and reduced vehicle weight (despite a larger overall size). Even drivers who opt for the more powerful V6 engine will be pleasantly surprised with the 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway averages.
A word about the grille shutters — when they’re closed, the Altima’s nose is smoother, which means less wind resistance so the car can slip through the wind more easily. They open and close automatically, depending on engine temperature and vehicle speed. One of our CarMax Altima purchasers in Tampa, FL says these shutters are a reason why the Altima gets such great gas mileage. “The Altima’s drag coefficient is really low,” he says. “It’s low like a Toyota Prius’s, which is about as slippery as you can get right now for a passenger vehicle.”
2. Surprisingly powerful acceleration. If you’re down with the quickness, you’ll find the Altima is plenty quick. With its base-model four-cylinder engine, you can go from zero to 60 mph in less than eight seconds, which is faster than average for its class. If you want to go even faster, you can upgrade to the bigger V6 engine, which packs quite a punch and can make your Altima feel absolutely sporty when it’s hauling up to five passengers.
3. Comfortable “zero gravity” seating. If you spend a lot of time behind the wheel, you’ll probably enjoy the 2016 Nissan Altima’s exclusive "zero gravity" seats up front. These seats are specifically designed for added comfort and spinal alignment, to make for a cozier commute. These NASA-inspired seats offer a significantly improved driving experience. And while the Altima’s rear seats don't come equipped with a zero-gravity design, passengers in back do enjoy an elevated seat cushion, along with plenty of leg and head room. One of our Altima specialists is 6 feet, four inches tall, and he reports plenty of head space and leg room when he’s behind the wheel of the recent models.
4. Ample storage space. Drivers will also enjoy the ample storage space set aside for them in the newer Altimas; the latest body style offers more than 15 cubic feet of trunk space, which translates to plenty of room for groceries, sporting gear, and personal items. The lower-profile, wider door design also makes it easier to stow larger items in the back seat when needed.
5. Plenty of trim options and add-ons. Altima owners do love their options, and they’ve certainly got plenty of features to choose from; for starters, the Altima comes in five different trim levels: base-level, S, SR, SV, and SL. The base trim is equipped with 16-inch wheels, keyless remote entry, push-to-start ignition, air conditioning, and power accessories. Move up to the S trim and you'll enjoy added features like automatic headlights, voice recognition (for iPhone users), Bluetooth® connectivity, and a rearview camera.
Step all the way up to the SL trim and you'll enjoy luxurious features like heated front seats and steering wheel, leather upholstery, ambient interior lighting, 18-inch wheels, and an upgraded Bose® sound system. Furthermore, each trim option is available with a variety of add-ons, so you can really make your Altima your own.
It’s also worth mentioning the SR Altima trim, which was new for 2016. This sporty Altima is great for drivers who want a fuel-efficient and practical car that’s got a bit of a kick to it. The SR comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, sport seats, and a sportier suspension design.
6. It’s affordable. The Nissan Altima is one of the most budget-friendly vehicles in its class. If you've been looking for a spacious, fuel-efficient sedan that won't break the bank, this could be the vehicle for you. Even if you go with the top trim option and all the available add-ons, you might be very pleasantly surprised by the affordable cost. Our Altima purchaser says that customers love the price of used Altimas — and all the features they’ve got for this price. Customers come in seeking an import sedan, and if Accords and Camrys are beyond their budgets, the Altima is a very comparable alternative.
7. Great features. The Nissan Altima includes features like anti-lock brakes, front-seat and side-curtain airbags, and stability traction control. Furthermore, a rearview back-up camera comes standard on all trim levels except for the base model. A variety of added features are also included on different trim levels, such as forward-collision warning systems with automatic braking, emergency assistance, and blind-spot monitoring systems. The higher-level, SR and SL trims come with LED headlights as standard equipment; our Altima specialist says these are a luxury feature that import sedan customers won’t commonly find for the price of an Altima (the Accord offers LED lamps, but only on their V6 models).
8. Easy maintenance. Like many Nissan vehicles, the Altima is known for its overall low maintenance costs when compared to other class-leading imports. Because it’s an established model, replacement parts should be plentiful, in the event they’re needed. For example, some trim levels of the Altima even come with a convenient Easy Fill Tire Alert system, which is designed to extend tire life and save you money.
9. Continuously variable transmission (CVT) on all trim levels. Continuously variable transmissions are still a fairly new technology, so the fact that there’s a CVT standard on all Altima trim levels is pretty impressive. These transmissions are designed to maximize vehicle performance while helping you to burn less fuel. Nissan was one of the first car makers to deploy the CVT in its vehicles, and has been refining it for 10 years — more than most other manufacturers. Nissan has been tweaking these transmissions lately to give them an enhanced shifting-through-gears sensation. Customers report an improved driving feel.
10. Longstanding reputation. After 25 uninterrupted years of production, the Altima is a well-established name. Over the years, this vehicle has been completely re-worked and updated. And there are lots of them on the road. Unlike other, more short-lived vehicles, you shouldn't have much trouble finding parts or finding mechanics who are familiar with the Altima.
Overall, the Nissan Altima is a great choice — not just for families, but for individuals too. Whether you're looking for something a little sportier (like the SR) or simply want an affordable vehicle that’s fun to drive, the Altima remains a top seller in its class. Browse used models here on CarMax to find 2014, 2015, and 2016 Altimas starting at under $20,000.