By on November 6, 2019

The modern sedan is, sadly, a slowly dying breed. With most of Detroit exiting the segment faster than that black cat ran off the field at MetLife Stadium, the selection of large four-doors is smaller than ever (if you haven’t heard Kevin Harlan’s call while said cat was on the field, you *must* take the time to listen).

However, the manufacturers that remain committed to sedans are plowing plenty of development dollars into their creation. When the build & price for the wild new Hyundai Sonata becomes available, you know it’ll be featured in this series, for example.

Nissan has decided to re-up its spacious Altima for 2020, offering American customers a variety of powertrain and trim options. In fact, no fewer than a dozen choices stare shoppers in the face when they visit the Altima corner of Nissan’s website. Let’s see what the base S has to offer.

For the not unreasonable sum of $24,100, one will find themselves in possession of a sedan large enough to make one wonder why Nissan bothers to market the mighty Maxima anymore. Driver assistance tech abounds on the base model, including the likes of automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning. Airbags pop out of many nooks and crannies, including one for the knees of front-row occupants.

A 2.5-liter inline-four resides under the hood of this base model, making 188 horsepower and a roughly like amount of torque. Altima is a front-wheel drive proposition at this price, unlike north of the border where all of these cars are fitted with all-wheel drive. Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission is the sole choice of ‘box, for better or worse.

Inside, push-button ignition presents itself thanks to economies of scale, as do a tilt/telescope steering wheel and air conditioning. It would be nice if more than the driver’s power window was auto-up/down. A remote starter is standard. Nissan’s chairs are notoriously comfortable, and recent seat time proved this again to your author. They are cloth-lined in this base car.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on board the 8-inch touchscreen display, along with the expected Bluetooth capability and text-messaging voice stuff. USB-C ports now join the standard units, future-proofing the thing for when Apple decides to switch up its charging system for the umpteenth time. Satellite radio is included, something which doesn’t always happen on base cars (*ahem Honda ahem*)

Add in gratis colors such as this Deep Blue Pearl and one has a well-equipped sedan priced under twenty-five large. That is, if you can suffer the indignity of piloting something that’s not a crossover. I sure can.

[Images: Nissan]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments and feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and priced in American Dollars. Your dealer may sell for less.

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56 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2020 Nissan Altima S...”


  • avatar

    If either Ford or GM built this vehicle it would be the triumph of the century.

  • avatar
    d4rksabre

    Remote start on a base model? That’s pretty nice.

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    Not a bad choice.

    I’m wondering about the CVT hate. We have the CVT in the Note we bought last year and I find it a bit jerky to drive – especially since I usually back off the brakes the last few feet and let the car coast to a stop. It make’s the car’s deceleration seem non-linear, if that means anything to anyone. It’s like the car slows on a predictable curve but at the last second the clutch seems to disengage and the car unexpectedly lurches as it no longer seems to be engine breaking. Is this what others experience?

    • 0 avatar
      Carrera

      I’ve rented a 2018 SL for one week. It was ok cruising at 75 mph. Actually it was quiet and pleasant. But as soon as I got a little bit into hilly terrain, all hell broke lose because of the CVT. Lots of noise and no go. Don’t even bother placing the lever into S mode. Even more obnoxious noise. The car was very good at coasting. It would never engine brake. This car will not dethrone the Camry or the Accord from the sales pedestal but just by adding an 8 speed ZF transmission, sales will increase for sure.

      • 0 avatar
        StudeDude

        Either buying the ZF or Aisin 8 speed trans would go a long way transforming this car. Or, Nissan could adapt their 7 speed they have used for certain Infiniti vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      Because our Nissan Rogue with a CVT can’t handle the hills in Kansas and goes into limp mode. IOW, they suck.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    I rented one last month. Overall it was not a bad place to be. Those windows are smaller than they look in the photos though. Blind spots galore.

  • avatar
    gtem

    In the pluses column:
    rear end reminds me of a GS350
    These get fantastic real world MPG
    Can probably already be found with cash on the hood

    Minuses:
    horrible “floating roof” element. This doesn’t work, anywhere.
    needlessly stiff ride on these new ones from what I’ve read

    I’d buy a Optima/Sonata over one of these in the “high value midsize sedan” bracket.

    • 0 avatar
      teddyc73

      “I’d buy a Optima/Sonata over one of these…” Eye roll.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I’m not a knee-jerk Nissan hater, I even think the newer CVTs are probably fine now. But I simply prefer how the Koreans and built and how they drive, and think in the long term they’ll hold up at least as well (maybe better).

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Nissan + CVT = Run.

      • 0 avatar
        mmreeses

        yes. if you’re the type who holds onto cars >100k miles, look away.

        From anecdotes, not data. YMMV.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          The Jatco CVTs were grenading anywhere between 20-80K, sometimes twice in that span after having been fixed under warranty. If you’re at year 5 and 70K (12/year) and your tranny blows right before you trade, you’re looking at near scrap value in terms of valuation and it also means you have no leverage on trade. A few models aside, Nissan is a fool’s errant.

          • 0 avatar
            PandaBear

            Exactly, I wouldn’t trust a Jatco CVT until I see most of them lasting well into the 200k range. At this time I’d rather take an Aisin automatic or EV than this.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The wife’s Rogue with a CVT has returned such outstanding gas consumption figures that, I could care less about its ‘feel’ etc. Kept primarily in the ‘eco’ mode it is returning about 7.6 litres per hundred km or over 30 mpg in real numbers.

    However due to worries about its long term durability, we did lease rather than purchase. However Nissan now has considerable experience with CVTs’ and since CVTs are becoming mainstream, I wonder if their durability and repair costs will decrease to AT levels?

    As for Nissan seats, I can confirm that they are the most comfortable (for me) that I have experienced since the glory days of velour, 60/40 split front seats.

    I do detest ‘one touch, auto up/down’ power windows. I have to spend an exorbitant amount of time getting the window just where I want. Also have zero use for a ‘start/stop’ button. They were disposed of decades ago for a better system and don’t understand why they returned. So crank windows and a lit ignition switch are my preferences (sorry Millenials).

    Finally, just how much larger inside is this vehicle than the outgoing Sentra? The large greenhouse on the Sentra (and its conservative styling) makes it my preferred ‘compact’ car choice and I am wondering if the price differential between it and the Altima make the Sentra a better value proposition?

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      The Sentra has huge rear legroom, but it is still notably narrower than the Altima, and has a substantially weaker motor. You get what you pay for going from compact->midsize IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Auto up/down is for tollbooths and parking lots. Makes sense on the driver’s side, but I agree with you I never saw the point anywhere else (easily carsick children in the back, requiring the occasional airing-out-the-smell-NOW!!! may perhaps be a reason….)

    • 0 avatar

      TOTALLY AGREE about the auto up/down windows. I absolutely HATE them. It takes me forever to get the window open just where I want it. I would love to be able to disengage the auto feature.

      • 0 avatar
        Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

        “I would love to be able to disengage the auto feature.”

        Every auto window switch I’ve used has had a clear detent for that function. Pressing the switch more lightly allows you to partially open or close the window without triggering auto up/down.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          I read about these ‘detent’ functions but have yet to experience one working. Every time I use an auto down window it is like a 3 Stooges short. Up, down, up, down, up down, trying to get the darned thing at the right height. Often just give up and open one of the other windows, if they don’t have an auto down function.

          And this from multiple manufacturers.

          Might just be my sausage fingers all of which have been broken multiple times?

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Are you mashing the switch every time? I think every single car I’ve ever owned with power windows, except one, has had detents that I found easy to use. Push gently for partial lowering/raising, push hard for the auto function.

            The one exception, my Pontiac G8, had an “intelligent” auto function, based on the tap length, that I found absolutely infuriating. The tap had to be not too short and not too long to activate the auto function, and practically every time I got it wrong.

        • 0 avatar
          eng_alvarado90

          I can confirm my Ram 1500 has nice working 1 touch auto up/down windows with good spacing and feedback, however that doesn’t hold true in my 2010 Accord; the power window switch is too sensitive and I frequently end up rolling my window all the way down when I just wanted to open it halfway.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      One touch windows: How do you not like these? The only way that I ever want my windows is open or closed and this makes that easier. Doubly so with the stupid child safety switches that I don’t have enough fingers to pull all four of at once.

      Sentra: You have to be awfully price conscious to set foot on a Nissan lot at all and value schmalue the Sentra is cheaper.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @Dan: Cannot disagree with you more, sorry.

        Most posters here agree that they would like the option of having a window partially open. And just how hard is it to hold the power window button for a few seconds if you want the window fully open?

        As for your comments regarding Nissan and the Sentra, they are purely subjective.

        As for those dismissing CVT vehicles, I presume that they are disregarding the fact that a great many manufacturers are now using or converting to them. They are particularly common in CUVs.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “Most posters here agree that they would like the option of having a window partially open. ”

          I’ve never been in a car with “one touch” windows where you can’t partially open them (and without rolling them all the way down first).

      • 0 avatar
        PandaBear

        @Dan: I never have my window all the way down when I’m driving, and I like to have my window open just a little when park in the summer under the sun to keep the car cool. Why can’t I do it with this car?

    • 0 avatar
      hpycamper

      Auto up/down windows is something MINI did right. Tap the toggle up or down for Auto, or press the toggle up or down and hold until the window is where you want it.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    The grill is ugly

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    Why would anyone willfully buy this. Strange looking, has a CVT, and will probably show up at the bottom for long term dependability?

  • avatar
    deanst

    “the selection of large four-doors is smaller than ever“

    Yeah, I don’t think so. Down from recent history, but far from smallest ever.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    cheap – and I mean cheap – Altimas pushed better cars out of the market like the Fusion and soon to be gone Mazda6

    I believe that was Nissan’s strategy but it also debased the Nissan brand and it will take until the 12th of never for Nissan to be anything other than that – because brands once debased stay debased

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Had one as a rental when I arrived late recently. Miserable $#!+box.

  • avatar
    PSX 5k Ultra Platinum Triple Black

    Push-button ignition is a nice feature to have due to the economies of scale.

    Yet it’s not a new standard feature in this generation of Altima, or even the previous generation Altima.

    Altima has had push-button ignition standard since the 2007 model year. I remember being kind of wowed when I had a base model Altima rental in early 2008 and the push-button start was standard.

    It did have a place in the dash for you to charge the key, but you did not have to put the key in the dash for the car to start, it just had a start button, like it does in this 2020 Altima.

  • avatar

    Rode in one last week. Well appointed and roomy but felt on the road like I was in an old GM W-body. Couldn’t believe it. Nissan used to have it goin’ on.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      If it rides as quietly and as nicely as a final generation Buick Allure, then I am all in favour of it.

      Just too bad that it doesn’t have the 3800 engine.

  • avatar

    It is the perfect rental vehicle. Very good MPG, seats are okay, they also made it quieter. But to see this thing every morning in my garage – no thank you, my Fusion looks (and drives) much better. But I do not want rental Fusion. I actually prefer smaller cars as rentals but most time get Altima.

  • avatar
    here4aSammich

    When pointing out all the features of the base model, the writer forgot an important one. When walking the Emerald Aisle, it’s easy to identify this as a car to avoid. The wheelcovers on it are a dead giveaway. You’d think that the economics of scale that brought the push button start could have also brought a simple set of alloy wheels as well.

  • avatar
    07NodnarB

    So, this article, like many others written, calls into question why the Maxima is still made…like how is it not? The Maxima wears the current styling gracefully and flows, this new Altima, from quite a few angles, in picture and live in person, its just an eyesore, like Nissan didnt notice how unattractive that thing is before greenlighting production? Guess not…

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    It’s not economy of scale that gives them all push-button start – it’s that a push button is almost certainly cheaper than a keyed ignitions switch with a bunch of moving parts when every vehicle has RFID keys anyway.

    I will never buy another car without touch entry and pushbutton start. My “key” can just stay in my pocket where it belongs. And I have to say rented Altimas are why I sprang for the option on my ’11 BMW. About the only good thing I can say about rented Altimas – yuck.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      Yep. The PCM controls the starter now no matter whether the car has a push button or key. The only people who insist on a key are ossified Boomers who hate anything that isn’t the way they think it was in 1966.

      • 0 avatar
        hpycamper

        JimZ Some of us Boomers have an old habit of keeping more than one car, and carrying keys is more practical than a pocket full of bulky fobs. And this ossified Boomer would be happy if my iPhone had an app to replace keys and fobs. Don’t know why the car companies and phone companies haven’t done this yet. But yeah, the 60s were great!

  • avatar
    ryanwm80

    Did Nissan hire stylists from Saturn?

  • avatar
    JimZ

    “ However, the manufacturers that remain committed to sedans are plowing plenty of development dollars into their creation. When the build & price for the wild new Hyundai Sonata becomes available, you know it’ll be featured in this series, for example.”

    Sonata is going to struggle to move 100k units this year, it’s been in free fall since 2012 despite a redesign in the meantime, and the new one is ugly as sin. Methinks they’re going to lose their shirts on it unless they have significant sales in other regions.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree about redesigns – the first one in 2010 was a revelation in that staid segment – even I went to Hyudai dealership (first and last time) to test drive Sonata and found out that no matter how it looks it still was made cheap and low quality. It just felt cheap, sorry. Further iteration were simply facelifts that made it look boring and then ugly.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    David Freiburger described it correctly as the Nissan Excrement.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    One day those who are calling Boomers ossified will be called that as well by the next generation. I could care less if my vehicle has a key or a fob but I have kept vehicles long enough to wear out several sets of keys (I use to make copies of original keys and used the copies to save the originals) and I am sure I will wear out some of my fobs. Keys are a fraction of the cost to replace over fobs. I do expect eventually that everything will be controlled by smart and i-phones as this site has covered in the past with an article about BMW which stated that BMW plans on doing that very thing.

    As for sedans they never will die completely eventually there will be fewer offerings and maybe they will change and become slightly taller and possibly more trunk room but they will never die. I have been around long enough to see certain types of vehicles become popular and then replaced by other types–wagons, vans, suvs, and crossovers. I don’t see crossovers or trucks popularity waning anytime soon but eventually they too will become less popular but I doubt they will disappear. Things go in cycles and that has always been true and probably will be just as true in the future. It is what it is and no amount of worry or protest will change that. Things change.

    • 0 avatar

      “Keys are a fraction of the cost to replace over fobs”

      I wonder how you are able make copies because keys also contain chip and needs to be programmed by dealer and it is expensive. Unless you talk about 30 years old cars. There is no difference between key which also comes with fob and keyless fob which also contain mechanical key to unlock doors in case of emergency.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    There were still vehicles built in the early 00s that had keys without chips. The last generation S-10 which ended in 2004 with a crew cab and some of the early Colorado/Canyon replacements for the S-10s. It wasn’t until the last 10 years that all vehicles went to chips in keys or fobs so yes there are still vehicles less than 30 years old still running that use old style keys which can be made at Walmart or any hardware store for $2 versus $100 or more for a fob. I know this because up until 2 weeks ago I owned a 99 S-10 for over 20 years and I have driven the base models of 2005 thru 2008 Colorados with regular keys and no chips.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I am probably less concerned whether a vehicle has a regular key, a key without a chip, or a fob. It has become a non-issue in the last 10 years with fobs and will become more of a non-issue in the future when there will be smart phone apps and no fobs. My main concern is how well the vehicle runs, is it safe, is it comfortable, reliability, and the cost of replacement parts and the cost of maintenance. My 99 S-10 was reliable and inexpensive to maintain and now it has a new home with my nephew who will take good care of it and plans to keep it. My nephew is into tech but he likes the manual transmission, the crank windows, and the overall simplicity. My nephew has a 2014 Ram Cummins 1 ton dually Longhorn loaded to the gills with all the newest technology and his wife a 2009 Accord but he wanted to have just a basic plain truck as a keep sake (it does have air, power steering, and power assist brakes with a CD stereo and wi-fi).


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