The arrival of the 2019 Nissan Altima was like the starting bell that led to a rush by auto manufacturers to introduce all-wheel drive in their sedans. The idea, of course, was that the addition of AWD would give consumers one fewer reason to make the switch to SUVs, not to mention give the model a leg up on the remaining competition in the segment.
And we’re not talking simply of an optional feature available at extra cost on higher trims – every version of the model now comes standard with the company’s intelligent all-wheel-drive system. This year, however, several other sedans have also now adopted the configuration as manufacturers struggle to breathe new life into their sedan lineups.
And so the advantage Nissan hoped to gain by integrating the AWD technology is no longer one. Today we can almost consider the feature a must-have in any self-respecting sedan. But at least the Altima has it, which is the most important thing for buyers…
The new look of the Altima starts with the hood, now wider and lower to the ground, and the headlights, now squintier than before; the V-shaped grille is more pronounced than before. Overall the 2019 edition of the sedan sports a much more dynamic design which just about manages to be menacing with its sharply drawn lines. As SUVs in general get sportier, Nissan – and others – are figuring sedans need to keep pace in order to remain interesting.
There are three versions of the new Altima on offer: S, SV and Platinum; the latter can be transformed into the Edition One via the addition of a $1,000 options package.
The S comes with a pretty generous roster of equipment, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, power-adjustable driver's seat, push-button start, 8-inch colour touchscreen, hands-free phone and Bluetooth wireless and Siri Eyes Free voice recognition system or Google Assistant.
With the SV you get heated steering wheel, moonroof, LED headlights and fog lamps and 17-inch alloy wheels (instead of the base 16-inch steel wheels). Moving up to the Platinum gets you leather seating, premium Bose sound system and interior accent lighting, as well as rear moving object detection, the NissanConnect navigation system and 19-inch wheels.
The interior space is quite inviting and attractive, not at all bargain-basement; clearly it has gotten an upgrade from the previous edition of the Altima. The seats are comfortable thanks to that Zero Gravity system that seeks to create an almost floating feeling in the body. (That’s the kind of sales pitch that’s bound to result in disappointment, but there’s no denying the seats are comfy!). Even in the base version the driver’s seat is 8-way power adjustable, which is fairly rare in an entry-level trim. Then there are the heated front seats, also standard from the get-go.
We told you the base model is generously equipped. Want more? It comes with push-button start, an 8-inch touchscreen, USB ports and Apple Carplay and Android Auto integration.
About that infotainment screen, however: the tablet-like feature is placed, floating-style on the dashboard, which doesn’t look chic and still creates the impression that the designers put it there as an afterthought. This styling element is widespread across the industry, though we are starting to see more designs, especially of all-new models, that do a better job integrating the screen into the central console.
That said, access to the commands is easy enough, and with the Platinum edition of the Altima you get a 360-degree camera view displayed on the screen.
The big deal here is the presence in the 2019 Nissan Altima of the company’s ProPilot suite of safety systems, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane centering, automatic emergency braking and rear automatic braking. To be clear, this is not a system to make the car self-driving, rather it’s designed to assist the driver when danger is detected.
It is not offered standard on the base model, however. We can guess this is in part so that Nissan can continue to offer the Altima at a more-attractive starting price.
In terms of space, both rows offer more than adequate space for occupants. The rear seats don’t fold completely flat, but they are 60/40 split fold down. As for the trunk, you can fit up to 436 litres of stuff in these – about par for the course in the segment.
All versions of the 2019 Altima run on just the one engine, so no V6 for this sedan. Rather it gets an almost entirely new 2.5L 4-cylinder delivering 182 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque, working with a continuously variable transmission and of course the new AWD system. This last continuously monitors the state of the road to be able to react quickly and redistribute power depending on need – more on that in a bit.
Nissan’s sedan officially uses 9.1L/100 km in the city and 6.5L/100 km on the highway. My mixed-driving total for the week I had my tester resulted in an average of 9.5L/100 km – mildly disappointing. That official highway figure is slightly utopian, in my opinion.
On the road
Even more than previously, the Altima is a sedan that’s overall very pleasant to operate. It feels light, perfect for those SUV-phobes still hanging around the sedan segment, and the steering is very quick to respond. Acceleration is equally lively, and manages to be fairly smooth despite the CVT. That unit, which can make things a little noise under the hood at times, didn’t disappoint, mostly because my expectations were low to begin with.
As for that AWD, it works marvellously well, sending all power to the front wheels in most situations including on dry road surfaces, but routing up to 50% of it to each axle if a risk of skidding is detected, or else sending 70% to the front wheels for optimal power when cornering. It works so silently you forget it’s there.
Behind the wheel, there’s the ProPilot system of course, which provides a nice safety net though does act a little overbearing at times. And sometimes it’s not quite perfect, such as when in cruise control mode and the system brakes the car a little too abruptly when another vehicle is detected ahead. Overall though, the system is impressive, advanced and really does assist the driver at key moments via its speed control and lane centering functions.
The 2019 Altima S starts at $27,998; the SV goes for $31,498 and up, and the top-end Platinum gets a starting price of $34,998.
The latter trim, by the way, can be converted into an Edition One if you add another $1,000 option, which adds 19-inch wheels, a small spoiler, lighting for the licence plate and even outside lighting on the ground.
Nissan has pulled out most if not all the stops to give its sedan a fighting chance versus the crossovers and SUVs that have been gobbling up market share. A big step has been starting the trend to giving four-doors AWD. Well-equipped out of the box, the Altima has many qualities and its versatility as a daily driver makes it very competitive. The styling is there, the price point is right and Canadians will feel at ease driving this winter in a car with power going to all wheels.
All-wheel drive standard in all versions
Excellent value, even from the base model
Attractive exterior styling
We like less
Good as it is, sometimes the ProPliot becomes an annoying mother hen
Fuel consumption only so-so