- Engines and transmissions deliver strong acceleration and quick responses
- Excellent fuel economy for a sedan of its size
- Front seats are some of the most comfortable in the class
- Interior design and materials lack the high-quality look and feel of some competitors
- Technology interface is beginning to show it age
- More road and engine noise than is typical for the class
Quality standards and features evolve quickly in the family-sedan segment. A feature that was limited or exclusive just a few years ago — adaptive cruise control, for example — might now be essential for most shoppers looking for a midsize family sedan, and each new entry or fresh overhaul raises the bar.
It's been four years since the Altima got a full redesign, and it shows when it comes to the look and feel of its interior and technology interface. Just a few years ago, the Altima's cabin and entertainment features seemed fresh and hip. But in the wake of updates from Mazda, Honda and Kia, the Nissan is already a step behind.
For 2017, the Altima carries over unchanged from last year's minor update, which included enhancements to the grille and headlight and taillight designs and new safety features such as forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. The Altima's engine lineup remains the same, and that's a good thing as the Altima offers some of the highest mileage figures in the class. And although the Altima's overall interior feels stale, its uniquely designed front seats remain as sublimely comfortable today as when they debuted on the Altima back in 2013.
Overall, today's Altima isn't quite the contender it once was. It's still adequate on its own, but there's not enough to lift it above some of the top vehicles in the class such as the Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2017
The 2017 Nissan Altima carries over unchanged from the previous model year. Halfway through 2017, though, Nissan made some changes to the trim level lineup, eliminating the base and 3.5 SR trim levels.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2017 Nissan Altima is a midsize sedan that seats five passengers. It's available in five main trim levels: base, S, SR, SV and SL. These trims are further distinguished by an engine size prefix: 2.5 for the four-cylinder and 3.5 for the V6. The 3.5 is available only in SR and SL trims. In the second half of the model year (also referred to as 2017.5 by Nissan), the base and 3.5 SR trims were discontinued and some extra safety features were added to the remaining trims (detailed below).
The Altima 2.5 in base trim includes 16-inch steel wheels with plastic covers, keyless remote entry, push-button ignition, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a six-way manually adjustable driver seat (four-way-adjustable front passenger seat), 60/40-split folding rear seats, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, and Nissan's Easy-Fill Tire Alert system that flashes the lights and beeps the horn to indicate when the tires reach the correct pressure.
The 2.5 S trim adds automatic headlights, cruise control, keyless ignition and entry, Siri Eyes Free voice recognition for iPhone users, a rearview camera, and a six-speaker sound system with a 5-inch display, a USB port and basic NissanConnect smartphone app integration.
The sporty SR trim upgrades the 2.5 S with 18-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lights, foglights, a rear spoiler, a sport-tuned suspension, paddle shifters, sport seats and an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat (with two-way power lumbar adjustment).
Compared to the 2.5 S, the SV trim has 17-inch alloy wheels, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat, remote engine start, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, dual-zone automatic climate control and satellite radio.
The 2.5 SL adds a heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, heated front seats, air vents for the rear seats, a four-way power front passenger seat, two-way adjustable front headrests, ambient interior lighting and a premium Bose nine-speaker sound system. The 3.5 SL gets 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, paddle shifters, front and rear parking sensors, a larger 7-inch color touchscreen, voice commands, and a navigation system with Google connectivity.
Some features are available on lower trims as options, either in packages or as stand-alone items, and include a sunroof, heated mirrors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. SL trims can add bundled Technology packages that include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic braking, and enhanced NissanConnect services with emergency telematics.
As mentioned, the trim levels for the Altima are broken up into two halves of the year: 2017 and 2017.5. They're mostly the same, but for 2017.5 models (Altimas built after June 2017), trims SV and above get forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking as standard.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The Altima's interior design and quality of materials are average, but its infotainment system falls short of the class leaders. The standard 5-inch display is small and difficult to read at a glance; the 7-inch upgrade is easier to read but less intuitive than competitive systems. The low positioning of the screen also makes it hard to see.
One bright spot in the cabin is the design of the front seats that makes them some of the best in the class when it comes to long-distance comfort. Rear seats provide enough head- and legroom for the average adult and feature an elevated seat cushion for better forward visibility. Despite an increase in sound insulation with last year's model, road and engine noise can still be intrusive.
Trunk space is about average for the class at 15.4 cubic feet, but the Altima scores additional points for the wide and low opening. There's also plenty of storage for your personal items in the cabin.
The 2017 Nissan Altima's standard safety features include antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is standard on 2.5 S trims and above. SV and SL trims also receive blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert systems. Forward collision warning and crash mitigation systems with automatic emergency braking are available only on SL trims. The available NissanConnect Services system includes automatic collision notification, emergency assistance and stolen-vehicle location services.
In government crash testing, the Altima earned a top five-star rating for overall crash protection, with five stars for both front- and side-impact crash protection and four stars for rollover protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Altima its top rating of Good in tests for small- and moderate-overlap front-impact, side-impact, roof strength and whiplash mitigation (seats and head restraints). It also received a Superior grade for its forward collision prevention system but only a score of Marginal (second-worst) for ease of use of its child seat anchors.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Altima 2.5 SV stopped from 60 mph in 122 feet, a slightly below average distance for the class.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2017 Nissan Altima is available with either a 2.5-liter four-cylinder or a 3.5-liter six-cylinder engine. The four-cylinder produces 179 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, sent to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with simulated gears to feel more like a conventional automatic transmission.
EPA-estimated fuel economy is 31 mpg combined (27 city/39 highway). The 2.5 SR drops slightly to 30 mpg combined (26 city/37 highway).
In Edmunds testing of an Altima 2.5 SV, we recorded a zero-to-60-mph acceleration time of 8.1 seconds, an average time for the class.
The 3.5-liter V6 engine is rated at 270 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel the Altima to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds. Fuel economy is estimated at 26 mpg combined (22 city/32 highway). These estimates, as well as those for the 2.5, are very good for a midsize sedan.
Nissan has done well historically with continuously variable transmissions (CVT), and the Altima continues that tradition. The CVT is more responsive when you press on the gas pedal compared to its competitors, and the simulated stepped gears reduce some of the engine drone that others suffer from. Still, drivers of an Altima 2.5 will feel the need to floor the pedal to get up to highway speeds confidently, and it will seem overly noisy and loud in the process.
The Altima used to hold a handling edge over other family sedans, but recent redesigns to its class rivals have eroded that advantage. It remains composed and predictable on a winding road, but the overall ride quality is slightly less refined over rough pavement. Like many things about the 2017 Nissan Altima, it neither excels nor fails.
The 2017 Nissan Altima has powerful engines, great fuel economy and distinctive styling, but it's still a step behind the top sedans in the class.