This week’s tester made me feel a little nostalgic and reminiscing of times in the not-so-distant past. Remember when midsize sedans were all the craze? Everyone seemed to have a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. These cars are still somewhat popular, but many others have been discontinued or don’t exist now.
Why this odd stroll down nostalgia lane? This week I’m driving on such midsize sedan – the 2021 Nissan Altima. The Altima always played second or third fiddle to the aforementioned Accord and Camry but is still around today while other competitors have been discontinued. Having spent some time in the Altima, I kind of felt nostalgic, as it felt quite dated.
In fact, the only thing that is “updated” for the 2021 Altima is a step back, which is the removal of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto from the standard trim. Thankfully, my tester was the platinum which did have smart phone interaction, which it needs in order to be relevant at all.
On looks, the Altima is still attractive. The grille is bold and dominating and amongst a more conservative group of competition (namely the Accord and Camry), the Altima does have distinction and personality. The back side is also attractive with a unique tail light shape. While there are very few exciting midsize sedans, the Altima does rise to the top when it comes to overall exterior looks.
From a performance standpoint, the Altima blends right back in with nothing that stands out and also feels rather dated. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is nothing special. It makes 188 horsepower which is adequate. However, the continuously variable transmission (CVT) hinders that performance. Anyone who has read my column through the years have seen a consistent disdain for CVTs. They are quirky and seem to react weird at certain RPMs. As such, the CVT makes the Altima unenjoyable from a performance standpoint.
The steering is firm and responsive which is a good thing and there is all-wheel drive, which is not overly common for the segment. Both of those help redeem the Altima somewhat.
Inside, the Altima once again feels like it hasn’t changed in years. Although the seats are comfortable and there’s ample rear legroom and headroom, the materials and design feel quite dated. This is pretty typical of the segment since car manufacturers have stopped investing much in cars while focusing on SUVs and trucks. The same is true for Nissan who has an outstanding crossover line.
As such, the Altima’s interior is wholly average with mediocre touchpoint, but high marks for comfort. Road noise is invasive and noticeable and that’s an area you can tell that Nissan has skimped on to cut costs.
The infotainment system is adequate. With Apple CarPlay it is above average. Nissan’s infotainment, though nothing special technologically, is simple and intuitive and I give them credit for that, considering others in the segment offer confounding systems (ahem, Mazda).
There’s a 15.4-cubic foot trunk which once again is average for the segment. The rear seats can fold down to expand the cargo area but they do not fold flat, which is a downside for sure.
There are five trims of the Altima, with or without AWD. That’s on-par for the segment, offering varying amenities for various trims. My tester was the top-of-the-line Platinum trim, with AWD, and had an MSRP of $34,100. With a few features like an attractive rear spoiler, illuminated kick plates and splash guards, my tester had a final price of $36,350.
The base trim S starts under $24,000 so the Altima is value-focused, which it needs to be for car of its ilk and in a segment that’s losing buyers.
The AWD Altima has a good EPA rating of 25 mpg/city and 35 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of driving I got closer to the 35 mark than the low-end 25. Surpassing the 30 mpg average is always a good thing, especially in a car with all-wheel drive.
I don’t want this entire review to sound like I’m dumping on the Altima. It has a lot of merit. It just feels dated and in need of an update. Nissan is not exclusive for essentially ignoring their midsize sedans. Their investment has gone in more profitable vehicles, and I can’t blame them. That being said, in a once glorious segment, the 2021 Nissan Altima lacks the glory, but holds up well even if its wholly average.
Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @driversside
2021 Nissan Altima Platinum AWD
- Price/As tested price................................................ $34,100/$36,350
- Mileage.......................................... 25 mpg/city; 35 mpg/hwy
- Engine............................................. 2.5-liter 4-cylinder
- Horsepower................................. 182 hp/178 lbs./ft.
- Transmission................................. CVT
- Drive wheels................ All-wheel drive
- Final assembly point................ Canton, MS