- Spacious interior.
- It can be packed with new tech and safety features.
- Capable available all-wheel-drive that many rivals don’t offer.
- Handsome styling.
- Occasional rough ride.
- No AWD for optional turbo engine.
- Not as refined as the competition.
Vehicle Type: Five-passenger mid-size sedan.
Price Range: $25,225 to $33,325, including destination but before options.
Powertrain: The base powerplant is a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 188 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque with front-wheel drive and 182 hp and 178 lb-ft with optional all-wheel-drive.
The optional engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque.
Both engines come paired with Nissan’s Xtronic CVT automatic.
See more 2020 Nissan Altima photos here.
Nissan gave the Altima a complete redesign for the 2019 model year that brought a more aggressive new look, optional all-wheel drive, and a host of new technologies. Updates for the 2020 model year are subtler, but they still bring the goods in the way of more available safety technologies and new features for higher trim levels.
When Nissan announced an all-wheel-drive option for the Altima, it was a gamechanger. Until then, AWD was reserved mostly for European sedans and a few quirky models (and the Ford Fusion). The move to include AWD on a mainstream sedan was ahead of the trend since Toyota has also added the feature to its latest Camry.
It’s targeted at buyers that want a sporty, modern sedan with plenty of advanced tech and safety features.
The Altima is offered in several trims: S, SR, SR VC-Turbo, SV, SL, Platinum, and Platinum VC-Turbo.
Two powertrains are on tap for the 2020 Altima. The base mill is a 2.5-liter inline-four that produces 188 hp with FWD and 182 with AWD.
The upgraded engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 248 horsepower. This particular engine is new for Nissan (and the industry as a whole) and it features a sophisticated system that allows it to combine efficiency and power in a way that other engines can't.
Both engines come with a CVT (a type of automatic transmission with essentially one forward gear), and the base engine can be paired with optional all-wheel drive.
Overall Score: 7/10
Safety Features: 8/10
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Nissan Altima with a Top Safety Pick designation for 2020, the agency’s second-highest rating. That award includes ‘Good’ ratings in all crashworthiness categories, ‘Superior’ ratings for the car’s front crash prevention systems, a ‘Good’ rating for LATCH system ease of use. The Altima’s headlights were rated either ‘Acceptable’ or ‘Marginal,’ depending on the trim.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rated the Altima five out of five stars overall. That rating includes a four-star overall score in front crash tests, five stars in overall side crash tests, and five stars for rollover prevention.
Available safety equipment includes Nissan Safety Shield 360, which brings automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warnings, lane-departure warnings, high-beam assist, rear cross-traffic alerts, and rear automatic emergency braking.
The Altima starts at $25,225 after a $925 destination fee. That’s around the same amount that buyers pay for an entry-level Camry, but the Toyota includes its package of advanced safety features as standard equipment.
Buying the base S trim Altima with all-wheel drive adds back the advanced safety features that it’s missing otherwise. All-wheel-drive is a $1,350 option for most trims, so the added benefit of safety features is a welcome bonus.
The Altima S comes with a long list of standard entertainment features that includes an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Bluetooth, six-speaker audio, and SiriusXM radio.
The top Platinum VC-Turbo comes close to $40,000. That’s a steep price for a car that isn’t available with all-wheel-drive. The VC-Turbo engine is trick technology, but there’s not enough of an efficiency or power benefit to justify its extra cost.
Tech Features: 8/10
Standard features such as a large 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a six-speaker sound system make the Altima a tech-lover’s car. Nissan’s infotainment system is fairly easy to use, but some menus and controls are buried and require too much thought to use while the vehicle is in motion.
Some features like navigation and a premium audio system are only available when the buyer steps up to higher trims, which add a significant premium to the Altima’s bottom line.
Standard features include an 8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, six-speaker audio, hands-free text messaging, auxiliary audio inputs, two USB ports, two USB-C ports, and SiriusXM Radio with a three-month trial.
Available features include an advanced driver-assist display, active noise cancellation, a Bose nine-speaker premium audio system, door-to-door navigation, NissanConnect services from SiriusXM, voice recognition, and HD radio.
The Altima’s trunk space lags behind some of its competition, but it at least has an opening that is square and wide, making it easy to load.
The car comes standard with folding rear seats that greatly improve trunk storage, but unfortunately, the seats can only be folded with a pull tab located deep inside the trunk.
Inside, the Altima’s cabin has plenty of small-item storage in the front. Rear passengers don’t have the same benefit. The front cupholders are far too shallow to hold larger drinks.
The Altima’s interior is plain but usable, though outward visibility can be a problem. The car’s large windows are obstructed to the rear by large pillars that create unnecessary blind spots.
Styling & Design: 8/10
The 2019 redesign brought far sharper styling to the Altima that aligned it more closely with the rest of Nissan’s lineup. The “V” grille and strong lines make the Altima look much more aggressive and sportier.
The Altima’s cabin is simple, but all controls, buttons, and screens are easy to see and use. They’re also placed close to the driver and front passenger to allow better access.
Nissan has been a leader in seat comfort for a while, and the Altima continues that legacy. The front seats are soft and supportive, though tall drivers may wish for more leg and thigh support.
Entering and exiting the Altima is easy, thanks to large door openings and a low ride height. The seats give just enough of a boost when getting in and out to help the process. People with children will enjoy the convenience of being able to load and unload car seats without banging heads on the roof.
The Altima’s cabin is quiet and calm, though the sporty ride quality can interrupt that tranquility with constant jitters and small bumps. In these situations, the ride seems to be unsettled and noisy, and the noise can become truly distracting over time.
Driving Experience: 6/10
Nobody will be winning any drag races in the 2020 Altima, but it’s nimble and peppy enough to make a competent urban and highway cruiser. All-wheel-drive slows the car down a bit, pushing it well past the eight-second mark for 0-60 mph, but cars in this segment aren’t meant to be fast.
Nissan does CVTs as well as anybody, which just shows how a decades-long, multi-million dollar R&D effort can benefit a vehicle. It’s smooth and well-matched for both engines and takes almost all thought out of the car’s drive.
It might not be fast or super sporty, but the Altima’s ride quality would have you thinking you’re in a more aggressively-tuned car. Small bumps give it trouble and can cause it to feel busy and unsettled, while larger bumps crash and bang their way through the car’s otherwise excellent sound deadening. That said, the Altima handles the corners well and makes a competent companion for curvy roads.
Fuel Efficiency: 6/10
When equipped with the 2.5-liter engine and front-wheel drive, the Altima is rated at 28/39/32 mpg city/hwy/combined. The SR and Platinum trims are rated at 27/37/31 mpg.
With all-wheel drive, the Altima is rated at 26/36/30 mpg, and the SR/Platinum trims are rated at 25/35/29 mpg.
The 2.0-liter turbo engine returns fuel economy of 25/34/29 mpg city/hwy/combined.
With no hybrid or plug-in hybrid model available, the Altima is left to its gas powertrains to deliver great fuel economy. They perform decently, but the Altima lags its most important competition, the Accord and Camry, in overall fuel economy.
What’s it Going to Cost Me?
The base 2020 Nissan Altima S starts at $25,225 after a $925 destination fee and comes with a 2.5-liter engine, front-wheel-drive, 16-inch wheels with hubcaps, cruise control, forward-collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, a rearview camera, active ride control, traction control, driver alerts, active grille shutters, automatic headlights, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, rear door alerts, a remote start system, cloth upholstery, folding rear seats, carbon fiber-look interior trim, an 8-inch touchscreen.
All-wheel drive is a $1,350 option on the S, SR, SV, SL, and Platinum trims.
The Nissan Altima SR starts at $26,825 and comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, dual chrome exhaust finishers, an intelligent key with push-button start, remote engine start, an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel, two USB and two USB-C ports, SiriusXM radio, and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.
The VC-Turbo engine is a $2,500 upcharge.
The Altima SV starts at $29,065 and comes with 17-inch wheels, a power sliding glass moonroof, and dual-zone automatic climate controls.
The Altima SL has a starting price of $31,165 and comes with door-to-door navigation, a Bose premium audio system with nine speakers, leather upholstery, and a four-way power-adjustable passenger’s seat.
The Altima Platinum has a starting price of $33,325 and comes with 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, an intelligent surround-view monitor, outside mirror memory, driver’s seat memory, and interior accent lighting.
The VC-Turbo engine is a $1,430 upcharge over the Platinum AWD.
If we were buying an Altima today, we’d choose the SV trim with all-wheel-drive. It’s right in the sweet spot of what makes the Altima special and picks up several upscale options without cranking up the price tag too far. The VC-Turbo engine is a wonder of engineering, but it doesn’t offer enough of a performance or efficiency benefit to justify its higher price tag.
See more 2020 Nissan Altima photos here.