Driven: The 2023 Nissan Altima Does Its Best To Shed Rental Car Image

Test Drive / 6 Comments

The 2023 updates make the Altima a solid mid-size sedan.

Nissan introduced the sixth generation Altima for the 2019 model year, and it was a major improvement over the outgoing model. Sadly, it was quickly overshadowed by newer mid-size sedan entrants released soon after. The 2023 Nissan Altima arrives as a facelifted model with bold styling, hoping to draw buyers back to the Japanese brand in the middle of a lineup rejuvenation.

CarBuzz spent a week in the sportiest Altima SR VC-Turbo to find out if this mid-cycle refresh can put the Nissan back into the conversation with stellar options like the Kia K5, Hyundai Sonata, and Toyota Camry.

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The SR Looks Hot

There was nothing wrong with the Altima before if you liked nondescript sedans, but we must admit Nissan did a good job with the 2023 facelift. The Altima gets a fresh version of Nissan's V-Motion grille with the updated brand logo that's spreading across the lineup. Nissan added some new colors to the palette, including our tester's unique Gray Sky Pearl ($395). This unique shade has a blueish tint in certain lights and makes the Altima stand out from more basics whites and grays.

Stepping all the way up to the SR VC-Turbo brings in some sweet-looking gray 19-inch wheels that look a bit like a shuriken blade. These wheels are optional on some lower trims for $1,100. Combined with black chrome accents, orange trim badges, and a subtle trunk spoiler, the SR looks more aggressive than any previous Altima (besides the discontinued SE-R).

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The Ariya Screen

Nissan didn't change much inside the Altima, but the big addition is a new 12.3-inch HD touchscreen replacing the old eight-inch unit on all but the base S trim (optional on SV). This screen packs the same software found in the Ariya electric crossover, meaning it has more modern graphics and features such as Amazon Alexa, wireless CarPlay, and Android Auto. Only the 360-degree camera with low-res graphics carries over.

This single change may warrant upgrading from a 2022 Altima if you want the latest technology in your car. The interface is far superior to even recent Nissan products like the Armada, which uses an older system locked into a useless split-screen layout.

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An Infiniti Engine Or AWD

Nissan only offers the Altima with two engines, a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder or a turbocharged variant with variable compression technology. The former is available with all-wheel drive, while the latter is FWD-only. Both send power to a continuously variable transmission. We've tested the VC-Turbo setup in the pre-facelift Altima and various Infiniti models and came away thinking it's an okay powertrain that feels more compelling at the Nissan price point.

It produces 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft in this application, putting the Altima behind on horsepower but relatively competitive on torque in the segment. Because of the variable compression technology, the engine can run a 14:1 compression ratio to achieve 25/34/29 mpg city/highway/combined, besting its V6 and turbocharged rivals in efficiency. Though we thought the VC-Turbo felt lacking in the Infiniti application, here it provides such smooth acceleration you could leave a stop light with a full cup of water in hand and not spill a drop. Buyers looking for effortless passing power with no hesitation may enjoy this setup, but enthusiasts who desire quick shifts from a geared transmission should look elsewhere.

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A Cushy Ride

Much like the powertrain, the Altima's suspension is tuned for comfort and smoothness. Nissan says the SR gets special suspension tuning, but the abundant body roll and lack of grip from the tires made it tough to take the Altima seriously as a "sporty" driving experience. The Altima wasn't designed as a driver's sedan, but as a comfortable cruiser, it's highly compelling. It delivers a cushy ride with limited road or wind noise as highway speeds. On the highway, Nissan's ProPILOT Assist (standard on SL and SR VC-Turbo or optional on SV) is one of the best driver-assist packages in a mainstream sedan. It keeps you in the lane and provides excellent adaptive cruise control.

The seats themselves are extremely soft, making use of NASA-inspired zero-gravity technology. Our few complaints are a lack of ventilated seats (an option found on several rivals) and a back seat that's a bit small for the segment.

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Verdict: A Strong Value Option

Pricing for the 2023 Nissan Altima S starts at $25,290, meaning it is one of the most affordable mid-size sedans on the market, but the Kia K5, Hyundai Sonata, and Subaru Legacy undercut it. AWD can be added to the SV ($26,090), SR ($27,490), and SL ($31,990) trims for an additional $1,500. If you want the more powerful engine, there's only one way to get it, a range-topping SR VC-Turbo trim for $34,990. While not a strictly sporty option, we appreciate the turbo's tremendous torque, which makes for pretty effortless acceleration.

Overall, there are still stronger options in the mid-size sedan segment, but all of Nissan's changes for the 2023 Altima result in a net positive improvement that would make us more willing to recommend it. It may not be the best-in-class, but the Altima has come a long way from its former status as a rental car special, and there is a lot here to enjoy.

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