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2020 Nissan Altima Review by Larry Nutson

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Now with all-wheel drive

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

2020 is the second year for the Nissan Altima after its complete redesign for 2019. Changes for 2020 are minimal so I went back and reviewed my notes on the 2019. I drove the completely new Altima at its national media introduction in late 2018. The Covid-19 pandemic is raising hell with new vehicle sales. Cox Automotive reports the overall industry is down around 24% for the first half of 2020.

Prior to Covid-19 around six million cars—sedans, coupes and convertibles were sold each year. The mid-size segment accounts for about two million sales, and that’s where the Nissan Altima fits in.

Car sales still today make up around 28% of new vehicle sales. So the good news is, people are still buying what we would call a traditional car. Not everyone wants an SUV, pickup or van.

Nissan has been impacted by the pandemic too. They were down only 8% in the first quarter and then the pandemic took hold and they closed the first half of the year down 40%.

The midsize car segment which is off around 31% makes up around 8% of the total market. Altima itself is down 36% and has about 14% of total midsize car sales, putting in 4 th place in the segment. Relative to the midsize segment Altima sales are tracking close to the overall trend.

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For the 2020 Altima there’s been some minor function and trim changes. Safety Shield 360 is now standard for the Altima SR. Also new is the Driver Assist Package for the Altima S grade. This makes Safety Shield 360 technology standard or available across the entire 2020 Altima lineup.

The front-wheel drive Altima is available in S, SR, SV, SL and Platinum trims powered by a 188-horsepower 2.5-L 4-cylinder and priced from $24,100 to $32,180. In response to the desires of buyers in northern U.S. markets, for $1,350 additional the same trim lineup is offered with all-wheel drive with a slightly lower engine output of 182-horsepower.

The SR and Platinum trims are also available with a 248-horsepower 2.0-L turbo 4- cylinder in front-wheel drive only priced at $29,750 and $35,180, respectively. Destination charge on all is an additional $925.

Both engines use a CVT automatic transmission. EPA test-cycle fuel economy ratings for the 2.5-L AWD are 30 mpg combined with 26 city mpg and 36 highway mpg. Front- drive models are rated two or three mpg better.

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For my recent drive in the 2020 Altima I drove the 2.5 SL AWD model with a base price of $31,590.

The Altima is very well appointed both in and out with a very expressive overall design. The exterior is both stylish and refined with interesting body surfacing. Inside, the instrument panel sits lower providing a more open cockpit. Premium materials and contemporary style, colors and details provide a highly comfortable and modern feeling.

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The SL I drove is nicely loaded with power moonroof, Bose 9-speaker audio, leather seat trim, 8-way power driver seat, heated front seats and steering wheel, dual zone HVAC, and NissanConnect with navigation.

Nissan’s Safety Shied 360 suite of advanced driver assist safety (ADAS) features provides a full range of what we have come to expect, and should have, on a new car today. ADAS technology not only reduces the likelihood of a crash but helps to reduce low speed parking lot dings and bumps.

Nissan’s ProPIlot Assist is not a self-driving feature but one that keeps the Altima centered in the driving lane using cameras and sensors working together with the cruise control. I drove the ProPilot Assist on a long road trip in a Rogue model and it performs quite well to help relieve some driving stress.

Overall I found the Altima pleasant and comfortable to drive. The powertrain performs quite well with good all-round performance. Nissan’s CVT performs better than most with calibrations that enable smooth accelerations from stop or from lower speeds and “upshifts” as engine speed climbs.

Steering is quick, ride and handling is comfortable while also confident, the 17-inch wheels mounted with 55-series tires are the right choice for rough street surfaces, overall noise levels are decent, and driver position provides a good overall view of your surroundings.

One item I noticed is the rear deck just behind the rear seat and below the backlight sits a bit high. Initially it was a bit disconcerting…and I do choose a low seat position. However, I adapted to this quickly and never felt my view to the rear was compromised. With all the ADAS sensors and features, rear view and 360-view cameras, plus inside and outside rear view mirrors that we have today, line-of-sight blind spots are much less of an issue.

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More information, details and specifications on the 2020 Nissan Altima can be found at

Overall the Altima is a good value plus it offers lots of the newest safety tech. Real world fuel economy is notably good, especially for the AWD models.

It will be interesting to watch the trends in the sedan market. Nissan did some research and it turns out that many young people are interested in sedans. By the numbers. 44- percent of Gen Z buyers and 30-percent of Gen Y buyers are interested in sedans. Why? Price, fuel efficiency and “I don’t want daddy’s car” are three main reasons. New vehicles today are all very good. There are no bad cars. Buyers have many very fine choices available that will suit their overall transportation needs.

© 2020 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy