2021 Nissan Altima

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2021 Nissan Altima Test Drive Review: Treading In A Deep Pool

While many manufacturers are winding down sedan production, Nissan has committed to the body style and the result was an all-new Nissan Altima in 2019. The Altima is a solid offering in the midsize sedan segment, but an onslaught of updated competitors like the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia K5, and Toyota Camry make it tough to stand out. To help keep the Altima's head above water in a deep sedan pool, Nissan equipped it with an attractive design, available all-wheel drive, and an advanced variable compression turbocharged engine. The latter is a 248-horsepower and 273 lb-ft turbocharged four-cylinder unit, offering lively performance. All-round, the Altima remains a worthy sedan, but now in its third model year after a redesign, it could use a few tweaks.

Last year, Nissan sold more than twice as many Rogues as Altimas, and a decent chunk of those crossover sales came from the old, outdated model. Having just been redesigned for the 2021 model year, the Rogue features some newer technology not found in the Altima at a similar price point. A week driving the 2021 Altima SR VC-Turbo proved that this is still a competent sedan, but Nissan might be fighting an uphill battle to keep buyers away from crossovers.

Read in this review:

8.1
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2021 Nissan Altima Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Nissan Altima?

For 2021, Nissan is rearranging the lineup slightly. The previous entry-level SR now slots in above the SV. This means the range currently consists of S, SV, SR, SL, and Platinum trims. A new Premium Pack is also now available for the SV trim and the SR is the only trim to get access to Nissan's more powerful VC-Turbo engine.

Pros and Cons

  • Spacious cabin and comfortable seats
  • Lots of modern technology
  • The driving experience is balanced
  • Both engines are frugal
  • Available AWD
  • Performance doesn't match the power output
  • Some subpar trim on the inside
  • Sportier trims hurt the ride quality
  • Fewer standard safety features than rivals
  • CVT blunts driving enjoyment

Best Deals on 2021 Nissan Altima

2021 Nissan Altima Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.5 S
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$24,550
2.5 SV
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$25,550
2.5 SR
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$26,550
2.5 SL
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$29,990
2.0 SR
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$30,900
See All 2021 Nissan Altima Trims and Specs

2021 Altima Exterior

2021 Nissan Altima Front View CarBuzz
2021 Nissan Altima Rear View CarBuzz
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Dimensions

  • Length 192.9 in
  • Wheelbase 111.2 in
  • Height 56.7 in
  • Max Width 72.9 in
  • Front Width 63.6 in
  • Rear Width 63.6 in
  • Curb Weight 3,208.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

  • Super Black
  • Glacier White
  • Brilliant Silver Metallic
  • Gun Metallic
  • Deep Blue Pearl
  • Storm Blue Metallic
  • Scarlet Ember Tintcoat
  • Pearl White Tricoat
  • Sunset Drift Chromaflair

2021 Altima Performance

2021 Nissan Altima Front Angle View CarBuzz
2021 Nissan Altima Engine Nissan
2021 Nissan Altima Rim CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

  • Engines
    2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 2.5L Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Though the engine and transmission pairing are not our favorite in this segment, driving the Altima reminds us that Nissan has recaptured its mojo on designing a pleasurable sedan. Options like the Honda Accord and Mazda 6 are more engaging, but the Altima strikes a Nissan balance between dynamic and comfortable. Compared to the outgoing Altima, which was best left for the rental car counter, this latest model is a massive leap in the right direction. The steering is light but fairly accurate, and the chassis is playful around corners. The Altima isn't a car that you would typically push beyond a median traffic pace, but it's nice to know that the chassis won't fall apart if egged on a bit harder.

Oddly, Nissan still includes the SR in the lineup, but doesn't go as far as its rivals to sell it as a sports sedan. This trim looks more aggressive, and you can even order it in a model-specific flamboyant color. A few tweaks to the sporty suspension setup help the SR feel more planted around corners, but at the cost of ride comfort. Ride quality is superb in the standard Altima, but the sportier suspension setup in the SR and the large 19-inch alloys have a negative impact that isn't too extreme. It all depends on how much you value style relative to comfort. An available sport button lives unlabeled on the shifter, and tells the CVT to enter its more aggressive programming. We noticed little difference in the modes aside from cruising at a slightly higher RPM than usual.

2021 Altima Interior

2021 Nissan Altima Steering Wheel Design CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 43.8 in
  • Front Head Room 39.2 in
  • Rear Leg Room 35.2 in
  • Rear Head Room 36.9 in

2021 Altima Trunk and Cargo Space

2021 Nissan Altima Front Seats CarBuzz
2021 Nissan Altima Back Seats CarBuzz
2021 Nissan Altima Trunk Space CarBuzz
  • Trunk Volume
    15.4 ft³

2021 Altima Safety and Reliability

Warranty

  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Nissan Altima a good car?

The Nissan Altima is a handsome vehicle, though it's not going to turn any heads. In terms of its powertrain, it's a mixed bag. The base naturally-aspirated engine delivers adequate power and impressive fuel consumption figures. The optional 2.0-liter turbocharged engine packs more power, and the drop in fuel consumption isn't that bad. Unfortunately, the Altima doesn't make the most of this engine. Even though the SR comes with a sportier suspension setup and manual shift paddles behind the wheel, we feel Nissan could have done more to make it a true sports sedan.

Space and interior design are good. The low-grade materials are well hidden, and infotainment is impressive on all but the entry-level S model. Safety is a unique selling point for the Altima. Regardless of what trim you go for, it has earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS. Even the entry-level S, which does not include Nissan's Safety Shield 360 as standard, is above average thanks to the all-important front collision warning with automatic braking systems, although we wish adaptive cruise control and Nissan's excellent ProPilot system were available on more trims.

There are more appealing midsize sedans out there, but Nissan has been around long enough to build a large following. We'd like to see Nissan offer more standard safety features and integrate some of the Rogue's interior technology into the Altima in the coming years to help it remain competitive in this crowded but dwindling market. Without these updates, the Altima feels like it is treading water while the competition is doing the butterfly stroke.

2021 Nissan Altima Comparisons

Nissan Maxima Nissan
Honda Accord Honda
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Nissan Altima188 hp28/39 mpg$24,900
Nissan Maxima 300 hp20/30 mpg$37,840
Honda Accord 252 hp22/32 mpg$26,520

2021 Nissan Altima vs Nissan Maxima

The Nissan Maxima is a perfect example of what happens when a manufacturer doesn't keep up with the times. Size-wise, the Maxima is supposed to be bigger, but since the Altima is newer, it is nearly the same size and actually has a longer wheelbase. At the back, it's the Altima that offers more legroom. In terms of standard specification, the Maxima is a bit better as every model has heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, blind-spot warning, and intelligent cruise control. Then again, this is expected considering the Maxima's higher starting price of over $37,000. The older Nissan uses an old-school V6 engine that sees it outsprint the turbocharged Altima, but not by much. We'd happily sacrifice those few split seconds for the more refined, more frugal engine found in the Altima. Unless you must have a V6 and a few added luxury trimmings, the Altima is our choice between these two.

See Nissan Maxima Review

2021 Nissan Altima vs Honda Accord

When viewed as a standalone product, the Altima is a good vehicle. But car-shopping doesn't take place in a bubble, which means the Altima inevitably has to go up against the Honda Accord. The Accord has a long history of being the best in this particular segment for various reasons. The same is true of the latest model, which offers a broad range of talents. Like the Altima, it's also offered with two engine options. Unlike the Altima, more gearbox options are available. You can have a CVT, in which case the Accord is slightly more frugal than the Altima, or you can have a manual, which immediately elevates it to another level in terms of driver involvement. The high-output engine is mated to a ten-speed automatic. Interior quality is better and the Accord has a bigger trunk. Honda is equally generous when it comes to safety specification, with Honda Sensing being standard across the range. The Accord is not available with all-wheel drive, but unless you live in a cold-weather state, it doesn't really matter. The Honda Accord is the better car.

See Honda Accord Review

2021 Nissan Altima Popular Comparisons

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