The big news for Canadians is this completely redesigned sedan now comes with standard AWD.
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – It’s no secret carmakers are slowly abandoning traditional cars in favour of crossovers and SUVs; Ford will soon be nixing them completely, aside from the Mustang.
However, Nissan still believes there is a customer who wants a family friendly vehicle that sits low and is not styled like a light truck.
“Nissan is not walking away from sedans,” says Scott Pak, Nissan Canada’s senior product planning manager. The company has reinforced this belief with a completely redesigned Altima for 2019.
This sixth-generation Altima is 2.5 centimetres longer, 2.8 cm lower, tracks 2.0 cm wider and has a 4.8cm longer wheelbase. The result of its larger size is more head, leg and shoulder room for front occupants, and more leg and shoulder room in the rear, though trunk volume remains the same at 436 litres.
The chassis is more rigid, yet the increased use of high-strength steel has lightened it by almost 19 kilograms. Visually, the biggest change is at the front, where you’ll find a wider hood, less bulbous fenders, and the absence of a bumper cover — the front grille extends almost to the bottom of the fascia.
Among the big mechanical changes is an all-new 2.5-L four-cylinder engine. It now features direct injection, which prompted a boost in compression ratio from 9.6 to 12.0:1. Despite the higher compression, the Altima runs on regular fuel.
Output is only marginally higher than before, up three horsepower to 182, and up a single pound-foot of torque, to 178. Despite all the engine upgrades and the standard CVT, fuel consumption has gone up slightly to 7.9 L/100 kilometres combined, from 7.5. But there’s a good reason for that: the Altima gets standard allwheel drive.
It’s the first time Nissan has ever offered AWD on a sedan in North America, and in Canada it will be standard across the trim levels. Nissan’s Intelligent AWD system features on-demand torque distribution, which can vary from full torque at the front wheels for improved fuel efficiency, to 50/50 front/rear for balanced handling. The system works automatically and does not rely on drive modes, as there are none.
The main extras on the SV include dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, a moonroof, LED headlights and fog lamps, and 17-inch aluminum wheels, among a few other items. The Premium adds leather seats, a Bose sound system, interior accent lighting, rear moving-object detection, NissanConnect with navigation, and 19-inch wheels.
Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 is standard on the SV and Premium. It adds pedestrian detection with automatic forward emergency braking, automatic high-beams, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The top two trims also include ProPilot, Nissan’s semi-autonomous driver-assist suite, with lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, rear automatic braking and driver alertness warning. On the Platinum, it also includes camera-operated traffic-sign recognition, which displays the speed limit even if it is temporary, such as in a construction zone.
The interior is well appointed, roomy and comfortable. There’s ample legroom in the rear for full-sized adults, even with the front seats adjusted for a six-foot-tall driver. Two of the four USB charging ports are available for rear passengers. Sitting prominently atop the dashboard is a new eightinch touch screen, which is standard across all trims.
A test drive in an Altima Premium reveals the new engine is quieter than on the outgoing model, and it feels more athletic off the start, despite boasting a similar output. Passing power is more than adequate, however it’s hard to avoid the usual CVT-induced, high-revving cacophony when stepping hard on the gas.
The new Altima gets dual-pinion electric power steering, feeling more precise and giving better feedback than on the outgoing model. The suspension is pleasantly firm yet compliant, and the car corners with minimal body roll. The lanekeep assist, which is part of ProPilot, is effective yet not intrusive.
Pricing for the 2019 Altima starts at $27,998, which is an increase of $1,700 over the outgoing model, though that includes the addition of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and, of course, all-wheel drive. Pricing goes up to $34,998 for the Platinum, and the volume-leading SV slots in the middle at $31,498.
An Edition One model, limited to 250 units and equipped with a rear spoiler, ground lighting, unique 19-inch wheels and a few other cosmetic touches, will also be available for $1,000 more than the Premium.
Since sedans are falling out of favour with many drivers, Nissan had to up the ante in the Altima to compete with the increasingly popular SUVs and crossovers.
Making it a bit bigger and more comfortable certainly helps, but the biggest weapon it has in its arsenal is the addition of all-wheel drive. That alone should be enough to sway at least a few buyers who are on the fence.
2019 Nissan Altima.