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Nissan Altima

Over the course of the Nissan Altima’s life, it has grown from a basic compact car to a mid-size sedan with a mix of creature comforts and performance. 

The Next Stanza

In 1992, the Altima replaced the Stanza as Nissan’s compact car for the United States market. In fact, for its first model year, it bore the full name “Stanza Altima” on the trunk name plate. Stanza was dropped from the name the following year. The Altima was built in Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee factory on the same platform, internally designated U13, used for the Nissan Bluebird in Japan. 

The first generation of the Altima came in four trim levels: the bare-bones XE, the more comfortable GXE, the sportier SE, and the luxurious GLE.  The XE was stripped-down with manual windows, for example; the GXE had power windows and a digital clock; the SE had a stiffer suspension, a rear spoiler, and fog lights; and the GLE had a digital display built into the windshield keyless entry and a sunroof.  All four packages used the same 150 horsepower inline four-cylinder engine that could propel the car from zero to 60 miles per hour in just over 8 seconds. 

The second generation of the Altima was released in 1997. It was mostly and incremental improvement over the first generation. The engine gained 5 hp. Interior volume was the same, but reviewers felt the space was better distributed. 

The Altima Grows Up

The third generation of the Altima, released in 2002, represented a massive change for the model.  The Altima was no longer built on the compact Bluebird chassis, but instead shares the FF-L platform with the Maxima and the Murano crossover.  The new Altima’s wheelbase was about half a foot longer than the previous generation’s, with a similar increase in overall length.  Naturally, interior volume grew as well. 

The new model was still available with an inline-four (which now produced 175 hp), but could also be had with a V6 that produced 240 hp, and could take the car to 60 mph in just under six seconds – pretty good for a family sedan.  Nissan had always wanted to emphasize that the Altima could be fun to drive, as well as practical. 

The new car represented such a huge improvement over the previous generation that Edmunds called it “revolutionary.”  It won the 2002 North American Car of the Year award at the North American International Auto Show. 

Unfortunately, the then revolutionary model proved to have its problems in old age.  Third generation Altima’s sometimes develop problems with their catalytic converters and floorboards. 

The fourth generation Altima solved this problem while adding other improvements.  Introduced in 2006, the new Altima was the first generation to be available as a coupe as well as a sedan.  Both body types remained available with the choice of an inline-four or a V6, now making 175 and 270 hp, respectively.  A continuously variable transmission (CVT) – using pulleys and belts to vary the gear ratio – replaced the traditional automatic transmission used in earlier models.  A manual transmission was still available.  Fourth generation Altimas were available with a number of features including keyless entry, Bose audio, and a built-in navigation system. 

 2007 saw the introduction of a gas-electric hybrid version of the Altima.  The hybrid Altima used a system licensed from Toyota to achieve 198 hp and 33 mile per gallon fuel economy rating from the Environmental Protection Agency.  The Altima Hybrid has been used in New York city as both a taxi and a police car. 


The Current Altima

Nissan introduced the fifth and current generation of the Altima in 2012.  The new car shared many of its mechanical components with the previous generation, but the exterior was restyled to resemble the more upscale Maxima. 

 The current Altima has more interior space than its competitors, but remains lighter than them due to judicious use of lightweight materials like aluminum.  The inline-four and V6 engines are carried over, but the hybrid drivetrain option was dropped.  Fuel mileage figures for the new car were close to what was achieved with the hybrid, getting 27 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway.  The manual transmission was also dropped due to lack of sales, leaving only the CVT.  In 2013, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance declared the Altima the best new car in its price range.  Edmunds listed the Altima as one of its top sedan recommendations in 2013, citing the car’s “responsive handling, composed ride and user-friendly electronic features.”  The Altima remains a comfortable, capable sedan at an affordable price. 

Need altima parts?

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Nissan is a registered trademark of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. 1A Auto is not affiliated with or sponsored by Nissan or Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. See all trademarks.

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