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2016 Nissan Altima

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2016 Nissan Altima

Overview (Final Score: C+)

This is the story of the longtime third-place selling Japanese family sedan in the United States. Long overshadowed by the iconic Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, the Nissan Altima has always seemed a bit like the little family sedan that could. It made you like it - not because it was a superior product compared to the competition, but because no matter the odds, year after year it went into battle chasing the segment's sales leaders. And despite usually having to use more incentives than Honda or Toyota, Nissan managed to sell numbers very close to the Accord and Camry sales, while offering shoppers a less expensive alternative.

Fast forward to model year 2016 and the Altima has undergone a redesign to keep the car fresh. Most importantly, the front of the Altima was strengthened and redesigned to help it perform better in crashes. Now the four-door Nissan boasts all of the latest active safety tech on option, with everything from forward collision warning, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning and a predictive forward collision system that can actively start braking the car if the Altima detects you're about to have a collision. (Yeah, so it kind of drives itself.)

We appreciated our tester's new SR trim level, which alludes to an overall sporty temperament and feel. While the tighter sport suspension meant we could tell the 2016 Altima was more agile, as well as feels and sounds more refined inside the cockpit. SR models also gain a sportier leather wrapped steering wheel with shift knobs that almost let you hold onto gears until redline, as well as a subtle rear spoiler, and smoked lenses front and rear.

The Altima always led with value, but some of its past interiors have had the potential quality shelf life of a 99 cent ball of red yarn the size of a grapefruit. (You'll never need that much yarn.) As for the Altima, in this 2016 form it might be just about all you need. So read on!


What We Love About the 2016 Nissan Altima SR:

  • SR trim level's sport suspension set-up is a nice improvement in body control and ride quality compared to a regular Altima model.

  • Low pricing for the SR, which is nicely equipped.

  • The dashboard controls are simple and easy for anyone to use.


What We Don't Love About the 2016 Nissan Altima SR:

  • Maybe we watched too many episodes of Nip/Tuck but is it us or do the front headlamps look like an eye life surgery gone horribly awry? We think it makes the Altima look like it can't blink.

  • The base level 4-cylinder/CVT automatic powertrain is mostly carryover and uninspiring.

  • Optional premium Bose audio system with eight speakers sounds cheap, tinny and suffers from horrible reverberation even at mid volume.

  • No Carplay or Android Auto?


Exterior View (7/10)

Without question there is little wrong with the looks of the 2016 Nissan Altima, barring the new headlamp design that made us realize we never wanted to have eyelid rejuvenation plastic surgery. Suffice it to say, the Altima always looks surprised. Always.


But beyond that rather odd stylistic quirk, Nissan has played a little too safe for this 2016 redesign. Considering the Altima goes toe to toe with Accord and Camry, and just last year Toyota restyled over 1,000 parts for the Camry finally expelling any frumpy design cues. Noticeably, Camry sales are stronger than ever. Remember when the Altima's trump card was that it looked the sportiest?

Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (8/10)

The Altima's interior is roomy and spacious, with a generous amount of storage space for smart phones, wallets, makeup, gum and the like all around the interior. In other words, it is a capable modern family sedan and one that should be noted for having a dashboard and control layout so straightforward we see no way anyone could be confused the first time they get into the car. The Altima's approach is simple, with honest buttons and knobs doing all of the work. Given how overwhelming some car interiors are nowadays, we won't complain.


Some aspects of the Altima's cabin are starting to really date themselves, especially given the recent and more thorough redesigns of both the Accord and Camry. For instance, the center dash mounted navigation screen is rather small and difficult to read with its truly old-school graphics. Maybe that's why Nissan only asks just under $600 for it as a stand alone option. Even though you're always required to order other option packages to get it, but this isn't a commentary on how Nissan specs its vehicles. (Although that is annoying.)

The 2016 Nissan Altima boasts a 15.4 cubic foot trunk that's plenty big enough for any normal person's needs or suitcase hauling. Either way, the shape is nice and square with minimal hinge intrusion into the cargo hold. The Altima's passenger compartment with battleship grey cloth seats in our SR tester never quite managed to elevate itself beyond feeling like a rental special. And that's not the way you want to feel about the car your just spent your hard-earned money on. The interiors of Camry, Accord, Volkswagen Passat, Mazda MAZDA6, Chrysler 200 and even the Ford Fusion outclass the Altima for a feel-good factor.


Technology (8/10)

A knock against the Altima is the current unavailability of Apple Carplay or Android Auto, which is becoming the must-have feature in this class as it can be had with Accord, Passat and even the all-new Chevy Malibu. We were also quite disappointed to learn that Nissan doesn't offer its full active safety suite of technologies unless you buy the top SL trim level. The SV trim right below it does afford buyers blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert, but if you want front impact collision warning, front impact active braking and intelligent cruise control you have to tick the box for the SL technology package.

Oh yeah, that also means you have to pay for a moonroof catapulting the price of this 4-cylinder family sedan well over $30,000. Sure, the 2016 Nissan Altima SL also comes with a leather interior and a premium nine-speaker Bose audio system. All we will comment on is the performance of the Bose audio system in the Altima SL, which we had the unfortunate displeasure of testing. The sound is both tinny with little bass tone control as reverberations will cause your ears to buzz and crackle should you turn up your favorite Maroon 5 song past even 80 percent volume. The Bose is loud, but sounds lousy.

Fuel Economy (8/10)

Our test Altima's 2.5 liter 182 horsepower/180 lb-feet of torque 4-cylinder when mated to Nissan's CVT automatic transmission is EPA rated at 27 city/39 highway. While the Altima did manage over the course of a week to return nearly 30 miles per gallon in mixed driving, we occasionally felt like the 4-banger was in need of a little power boost so it wouldn't struggle in the high rev ranges when a burst of acceleration was needed. Still, being efficient enough and with an 18-gallon fuel tank cruising range is epic.

Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Rankings (7/10)          

While the 2016 Nissan Altima does not yet have a rating with J.D. Power for quality, most of the powertrain and mechanical design is carryover from before, so the ranking for a 2015 version shouldn't be too far from what buyers of the 2016 will see. According to JD Power the overall quality for the Altima is three out of five stars and predicted long term reliability should be four out of five stars.

Nissan has been building the engines and transmissions that it uses in the Altima for a long time, rather unchanged. So it goes to show this model should prove relatively trouble free. Hopefully Nissan's history of mechanical issues with CVT automatic gearboxes doesn't return for the 2016 model year.

Safety (9/10)

The 2016 Nissan Altima was named a "Top Safety Pick Plus" by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety this year, thanks to front-end structural improvements to the safety cell that allowed this car to easily pass the small front overlap impact test that recreates the devastating impact with something like a pole or tree. The IIHS was also impressed by the myriad active safety features available on the 2016 Altima, including blind spot warning, rear cross traffic safety alert, front end collision warning and a system that starts braking the car for you if it detects an oncoming collision.


Performance (7/10)

While we appreciate the SR's added visual sportiness, and the improvements to handling and steering feel, we couldn't help but wish we had the model with the 3.5 liter V6 engine that's been such a legendary stalwart of the Nissan lineup. Yes, we know that hardly anyone chooses to buy V6-engined family sedans and the SR V6 starts just over $3,000 more than the 4-cylinder model.

But where we appreciate the inclusion of paddle shifters with our SR model to help hold onto revs, the more buttoned down sport suspension and the grippier rubber tires on larger and sexier wheels, none of it could mask the overwhelming lack of drama generated by the 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine. With all of the aurally pleasing nature of a motorboat engine, this Nissan powerplant has never really been inspiring from a power or refinement perspective. We are fine with engines that aren't that potent or exciting, but please try to be quiet while you underachieve. Please.

At least the 4-cylinder is relatively fuel efficient, although not more so than competitors' motors. Nissan engineers can and have done much better jobs before with other redesigns. The next Altima needs an epic reboot in regard to performance. Steering is light but offers sufficient feedback. One area that impressed us was our 2016 Nissan Altima SR's suspension tuning as it absorbed potholes with ease and maintained a sporty line around corners.

Pricing and Value (8/10)

Our 2016 Nissan Altima SR started out with a $24,470 base price to which our tester added the optional $600 LED headlamps. Along with floormats and destination it brought our out the door cost to just over $26,000. Not bad for a family sedan with special 18-inch alloys, power driver's seat, leather wrapped steering wheel, rear spoiler, a back-up monitor, Bluetooth, A/C, power windows, locks and keyless Intelligent entry, a semi-decent AM/FM/CD/USB six-speaker audio system and the Nissan Connect system that allows you to access Smartphone apps via the center-mounted screen. It's no Carplay, but if you are on a budget this works.


Total Score and Competitive Comparison (62/80, 78%)

Soon after driving the 2016 Nissan Altima SR, we drove a brand new 2016 Nissan Maxima SR that irreparably ruined every expectation we have for models from this Japanese automaker. We simply love the new Maxima with its velvety smooth and agile maneuverability, stylish and sexy exterior, gorgeous interior and effortless pace. If we were at a Nissan dealer and test drove the Maxima right after the Altima, there is no way we could go home with the smaller sibling and not feel total buyer's remorse.

We realize this is an apples to oranges perspective somewhat, but the Maxima showed us what Nissan can really do with a four-door sedan. And we want them to do that with the Altima.

The 2016 Nissan Altima SR four door is definitely a competent family sedan, but with none of the Maxima's four-door sports car genetic matrix to be found. We are just afraid that with so many more entertaining to drive options, people may no longer continue to look at the Altima as a sporty choice. And if you're tempted to pay extra for the 3.5-liter V6 engine, check some of the lower Maxima trim levels, which have that engine along with better looks, interiors and more driving enjoyment.

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
Sedan - FWD
2.5 4dr Sedan I4 2.5 4 Cylinder FWD 22500
2.5 S 4dr Sedan I4 2.5 S 4 Cylinder FWD 22900
2.5 SR 4dr Sedan I4 2.5 SR 4 Cylinder FWD 24470
2.5 SV 4dr Sedan I4 2.5 SV 4 Cylinder FWD 25460
3.5 SR 4dr Sedan V6 3.5 SR *Ltd Avail* V6 FWD 27390
3.5 SR 4dr Sedan V6 3.5 SR V6 FWD 27990
2.5 SL 4dr Sedan I4 2.5 SL 4 Cylinder FWD 28570
3.5 SL 4dr Sedan V6 3.5 SL *Ltd Avail* V6 FWD 32090
3.5 SL 4dr Sedan V6 3.5 SL V6 FWD 32690

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