Auto123 reviews the 2020 Nissan Altima in the heat... and in the snow
Albuquerque, NM – It’s rare we journalists get the chance to travel as many miles in such a short time in a car. Nissan gave us the opportunity to do just that when we undertook to do the entirety of the famed Route 66 this fall, covering over 3,665 km in seven days. Among the models we drove was the new 2020 Nissan Altima AWD-equipped sedan.
In fact, there’s little drastically different in the 2020 edition compared to the model that debuted a new generation last year, but among the new stuff, there’s the 360-degree Safety Shield suite that is now standard on the SR version, while a black interior finish is now available for the SV, SL and Platinum versions.
Although the sedan segment is not as important as it used to be, a little over 1.5 million four-door cars still sell annually in North America. Despite the ongoing SUV invasion, there are still people interested in sedans.
A more distinctive style
The Altima, since it full redesign last year, is based on a new, longer, stiffer platform, which for the first time is available in AWD configuration. The style is also more modern, so you have a more-expressive V motion grille, LED headlamps with distinctive daytime running lights, LED fog lights, thinner floating roof and single-panel sunroof. The range of body colours, including a deep scarlet red changing from shade to light and a blazing orange sunset further highlights the sculptural peculiarities of the exterior lines.
Nissan offers the Altima in S, SV and Platinum versions. The S version comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels and hubcaps, automatic headlights, heated exterior mirrors, an 8.0-inch infotainment display, air conditioning, passive keyless locking and remote engine start.
Also notable is the NASA-inspired zero gravity seats and dual-density foam padding and additional 8-way power padding with fabric lumbar pad, as well as heated front seats, cruise control, 6-speaker audio system with satellite radio and front collision warning with automatic braking in case of emergency.
Our Platinum test model – driven both in warm New Mexico and cold Quebec – is equipped with 19-inch wheels, driver seat and mirror memory settings, navigation, NissanConnect suite, 360 ° exterior vision monitor, interior accent lighting, trim wooden interior, a nine-speaker stereo system and recognition of road signs and the Pro-Pilot Assist.
While the interior is well laid-out, the vibe there is more sober than the more-demonstrative exterior. The generous dimensions of the vehicle translate into a spacious second row of seats, and the general comfort is of good quality. That said, we prefer the Mazda 6 or Honda Accord for the overall quality of the interior.
Every 2020 Altima is also equipped with NissanConnect as standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto accessed via an 8-inch multi-point color touchscreen, Bluetooth wireless handsfree phone and audio transmission, hands-free text messaging wizard and Siri Eyes Free voice recognition system or Google Assistant.
Serene driving experience
On Route 66 itself and on the sections of highway that runs through New Mexico and Arizona, it’s clear that driving is very quiet and comfortable. The sound insulation on board is more than adequate, and our average consumption was around 7.5L/100 km.
Our only complaint is the lack of communication between the steering wheel and the road underneath us. The lack of reaction and this feeling of general anesthesia handicaps the driving pleasure. On top of that the CVT transmission is certainly economical, but not all that enjoyable to use. Once the cruising speed is reached, the car behaves well, but accelerations and passing maneuvres still lack refinement.
We did appreciate the Pro-Pilot suite of systems, which not only helps the Altima stay on course, but also works with cruise control and all detection systems to keep the vehicle at the right speed and in the right place. This function really makes driving more relaxing on long highway journeys.
Our Platinum model also had a Nissan Intelligent Mobility system that included an intelligent emergency braking system with pedestrian detection, an intelligent emergency braking system, a lane departure warning system, blind spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert and high-beam headlights. Combined, they add an effective extra safety net.
An engine more economical than dynamic
The 4-cylinder is powerful enough with 183 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque, and the CVT works surprisingly well, even though the acceleration noise still makes your ears bleed. The cabin is noise-free once you reach cruising speed. The over-assisted steering is a bit of a spoiler in this otherwise fairly stable drive. The Altima's main advantage over the Camry, Accord and Sonata is the presence of all-wheel drive that we could not test on Route 66 – though did in the snow up north, and found to be very competent.
Nissan's estimated fuel consumption of the Altima is 9.3L/6.7L/100 km (city/highway). Our nearly 600 km of driving on Route 66 stayed fairly true to those figures; up in the snow, we still averaged a very impressive combined 7.3L/100 km.
Truth be told, there’s not much more that needs doing to improve the current Altima, other than better interaction between steering wheel and road and who knows, maybe finding an alternative to the CVT. Maybe they could replace the not-so-good-looking fake wood in our Platinum. With these few fixes, the Altima would be the equal of the Accord, Camry and Mazda 6 in all respects.
Availability of four-wheel drive
Good fuel economy
Security Feature Suite
We like less
No hybrid version
Average fit and finish