Highlights of the 2020 Nissan Altima

The 2020 Nissan Altima in SV trim.

The Nissan Altima is a strong contender in the midsize sedan segment and for good reason: it offers handsome looks, a beautiful interior, two engine choices, and value. Although the segment continues to shrink, some manufacturers including Nissan are doubling down with new models. Thus, the 2020 Altima is a continuation of the current-generation sedan introduced in 2019.

This year, Nissan made its full suite of driver-assist features standard on the SR trim and it’s also available on the base S. The remaining updates involve slight changes to design details. Read on and we’ll look at all the highlights of the 2020 Nissan Altima.

1. One of three new car models.

You may have noticed new Nissan crossover models such as the subcompact Kicks, but this automaker isn’t ignoring its cars. Indeed, following the release of its all-new midsize Altima in 2019, Nissan rolled out next-generation versions of its subcompact Versa and compact Sentra sedans.

Nissan’s other car models include its flagship Maxima, sporty 370Z, and its GT-R sports car.



2. Style and grace is evident.

Gone are the days of nondescript sedans. Every manufacturer has caught on to the salient fact that customers want sophistication and class, thus style is now at the forefront. This wasn’t some altruistic decision, rather it’s good business sense based on customer demand.

The current Altima isn’t a huge departure from the previous model and that’s a good thing. Beginning with the sixth generation, Nissan lowered the grille to supply a more gaping appearance. Beautiful character lines, a rising beltline, an available floating roof, stylish wheel choices, and a nubby rear deck are among its highlights.

Inside, the cabin offers a standard design, not especially remarkable, but uncomplicated with easy to decipher controls within reach. Nissan dresses the interior in cloth seats with leather available. The usual upgrades are also attainable, including dual-zone climate control, heated and power-controlled front seats, and a heated steering wheel.

3. A capable and efficient standard engine.

For years, Nissan has relied on some version of its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine to govern the Altima. Incremental improvements through the years means this engine squeezes out more power than before, specifically 188 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. That’s within the range of engines from competing models. In its various applications, this engine gets the job done, by delivering adequate step-off acceleration and passing power.

There is no performance edge whatsoever, but that’s not the point: efficiency is the overarching emphasis as we’ll soon see. This engine is included with the S, SV, and SL trims and is available in the SR and Platinum models.



4. Available all-wheel drive.

Few manufacturers offer all-wheel drive in this segment. Count this Nissan among them when choosing the standard engine (a $1,350 upgrade on the SL and Platinum trims only).

All-wheel drive supplies a handling advantage, especially on wet or snow-covered roads. Competing models with this option include the Toyota Camry, while the Subaru Legacy offers it as standard equipment. The now-retired Chrysler 200 and Ford Fusion Sport also offered it.

5. An advanced and powerful optional engine.

Until recently, Nissan offered a V6 option with the Altima. The 3.5-liter V6 was long the motivator for top-end models, supplying superior off-the-mark acceleration and robust passing power.

Beginning in 2019, Nissan exchanged the V6 for a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which is available on the SR and Platinum trims only. It isn’t your usual engine either as it employs variable compression technology that enables it to switch from an 8:1 ratio for performance to 14:1 for efficiency. The system regulates the pistons’ reach, raising and lowering the same to adjust power accordingly. This engine has an output of 248 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Unlike the standard engine, this one takes premium fuel.



6. The latest CVT technology.

Most models in this segment come with an automatic transmission, typically with six or eight forward gears. On the other hand, Nissan has successfully found a way forward (pun intended) with its line of continuously variable transmissions. Utilizing a pulley system, these kinds of transmissions are the most efficient, bettering manuals and automatics in that department.

One downside to the technology is an annoying pulling effect, which causes the engine to whine under full throttle. However, Nissan updated its technology a few years ago, by which the engine’s RPMs are automatically reduced. That’s less pressure on the engine and reduced worry for the driver unaccustomed with the way they work.

7. Fuel efficiency is a given.

The Altima’s powertrain combinations result in exceptional fuel economy for the segment. Indeed, the standard engine in the base model earns a respectable 28 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway for a combined 32 mpg.

Other trims and drivetrain arrangements deliver 29-31 mpg combined fuel economy. If you prefer the turbo option, this powertrain achieves 25 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway for a combined 29 mpg.



8. Driver-assist technologies at the ready.

The Nissan Safety Shield 360 package includes high-beam assist, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. This package is standard on all trims, but optional on the base model.

All models come with automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, and driver alert. Choose the SR and Platinum trims, and you’ll find traffic sign recognition. The Platinum trim adds an around-view monitor.

9. Generous standard and available technologies.

Nissan offers a long list of standard and available infotainment technologies. These include a 7-inch touch-screen display, Bluetooth, four USB ports, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility. A six-speaker audio package with satellite radio is standard.

The list of upgrades includes navigation and a 9-speaker Bose audio system outfitting the SL and Premium grades.

10. Roomy interior and ample trunk.

Inside, the current Altima is the largest one yet, supplying space for five adults. The best seats, of course, are in the front row. But they’re not simply best because of roominess: they’re wonderfully comfortably as they’re Zero Gravity seats derived from NASA technology. This means they’re specially shaped and supportive to supply comfort for long trips – just as astronauts require when navigating space.

As for the trunk, it measures 15.4 cubic feet, which is about average for the segment. The 60/40 split fold-down seat extends storage capacity accordingly.



Competitive Set

The Altima’s list of competitors has shrunk in recent years, as models such as the Dodge Avenger, Chrysler 200, Mitsubishi Galant, and Ford Fusion drive off into the sunset. We expect the Chevrolet Malibu will eventually follow.

In the meantime, the midsize sedan pack includes the Volkswagen Passat, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda6, Kia Optima, Honda Accord, and the Subaru Legacy. The Buick Regal, a hatch-like sedan, is another consideration.


Our Recommendation


Inasmuch as we think the turbo engine is awesome, it’s available with the SR and Platinum trims only. We think most shoppers will find the standard engine sufficient and that’s why the SR ($25,700) with its sport-tuned suspension and 19-inch wheels has our attention. It comes with many of the driver-assist features customers expect.

Opt for the Premium Package ($1,050, with power moonroof, heated side mirrors, heated front seats, and a power driver’s seat with lumbar support) and your cost is $27,675. And that’s before incentives and special discounts are taken.



2020 Nissan Altima Specifications


  • Base price: $23,900 (plus $895 freight)
  • Price as tested: $29,075
  • Seats 5 occupants
  • Engine No. 1: 2.5-liter 16-valve four-cylinder gasoline engine
  • 188 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
  • 180 foot-pounds of torque @ 3,600 rpm
  • 3.31 inches bore by 3.94 (3.5) inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 12.0-to-1
  • Engine No. 2: Turbocharged 2.0-liter 16-valve four-cylinder gasoline engine
  • 248 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
  • 280 foot-pounds of torque @ 1,600 rpm
  • 3.31 inches bore by 3.55 (3.5) inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 8.0 ~ 14.0 (variable)-to-1
  • Continuously variable automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 111.2 inches
  • Length: 192.9 inches
  • Width: 72.9 inches
  • Height: 57.4 inches
  • Passenger volume: 100.0 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 15.4 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: NR
  • EPA: 28/39 mpg city/hwy (2.5L); 25/34 (turbo)
  • Regular grade gasoline (turbo: premium)
  • Fuel tank: 16.2 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 3,212 to 3,462 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Top Safety Pick
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 36 months/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 5 years/unlimited miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Smyrna, Tenn. or Canton, Miss.

See AlsoAll-Wheel Drive Surprise: 2019 Nissan Altima

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Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.