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Nissan Altima : Used

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Justin Pritchard
Check last-generation Altima for a leaky master cylinder
History/Description Of The Used Nissan Altima: Sporty, practical and ready for Canadian life, the Nissan Altima was often considered a sportier alternative to models like the Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion.

The last generation of this Japanese machine was available in sedan and coupe variations, packed 4- or 6-cylinder power and offered CVT or manual transmissions. Specifically, look for a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine as standard, with 175 horsepower or a 3.5L V6 with 270. All Nissan Altima variants were front-wheel drive.

Altima could be specified as a basic family sedan, a luxurious performance coupe, or just about anything in between thanks to feature content like a sunroof, Bluetooth, navigation, heated leather, push-button start, automatic climate control, and plenty more.

2012 Nissan Altima Coupe 2.5S interior
Altima could be specified as a basic family sedan, a luxurious performance coupe, or just about anything in between thanks to feature content. (Photo: Michel Deslauriers)

What Owners Like: Many Altima owners report plenty of space, a comfortable ride, plenty of at-hand interior storage, a quiet ride and even good fuel economy. Performance from the V6 engine is also highly rated, and a solid, confident handling dynamic is also reported.

What Owners Dislike: Blind spots, a large turning radius, sub-par performance from the up-level BOSE stereo system and some cheap interior trim are among the most common complaints.

Common Issues With A Used Nissan Altima: Start your test drive of a used Altima by “feeling” for any unwelcomed sensations from the CVT transmission. It should deliver power smoothly, and on an uninterrupted surge when given the boot. Revs will often wind up and stay fairly steady. This is normal. Lurching, surging or sporadic power delivery is not.

If you’re unfamiliar with the “feel” of a CVT transmission, ask a Nissan mechanic to give it a check-up ahead of your purchase. Or, opt for a model with the manual transmission to be safe.

A “brake” warning light on the dashboard could be caused by a common master-cylinder leak, which is a big deal because it can prevent your used Altima from being able to stop. Be sure this warning light isn’t present, and that the brakes on the model you’re considering perform strongly.

Your local Nissan mechanic will be familiar with the leaking master cylinder problem and able to diagnose it quickly.

Have tires and brake pads/rotors inspected for signs of wear, and have the underside of the Altima inspected for fluid leaks, which aren’t common but could be evidence of a problem. Budget for a full fluid change if you’re uncertain of the service history of the used Altima you’re considering.

Opting for a high-end Altima model? Ensure its features, including automatic climate control, power seats and navigation work as expected. On any model, inspect the dashboard carefully for signs of cracking.

2012 Nissan Altima Coupe 2.5S side view
Have tires and brake pads/rotors inspected for signs of wear. (Photo: Michel Deslauriers)

The VerdictOf Th Used Nissan Altima: Despite a few fairly concentrated issues, the last-generation Altima seems to be a fairly solid used-car bet, especially if it checks out with a mechanic ahead of your purchase. A manual-equipped 4-cylinder sedan will be the least expensive to run while delivering an appreciable blend of comfort, space and performance.
2012 Nissan Altima
nissan altima 2012
2012 Nissan Altima
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Justin Pritchard
Justin Pritchard
Automotive expert