The 2021 Nissan Altima Is Good—But Good Enough?

The 2021 Nissan Altima Is Good—But Good Enough?

The 2021 Nissan Altima Is Good—But Good Enough?
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Last year, the Nissan Altima was one of the best-selling cross-segment vehicles. But what about 2021? Some of its chief competitors have only gotten better, putting the 2021 Nissan Altima in a tight spot. Does it still stand its ground?

What’s New in the 2021 Nissan Altima?

The Altima received a major face-lift in 2018. So we didn’t expect any big updates for 2021, and we didn’t get any. What we are getting are many small but welcome improvements. 

  • The base S model gets a new Driver Assist Package that adds important safety features, including blind-spot alerts and rear cross-traffic alerts.
  • The option of a VC-Turbo engine is now available only in the sporty SR version, which moves the SV trim down the hierarchy to fall between the S trim and SR trim. (The shift comes with a price cut for the SV.)
  • The SV trim gets a new optional Premium Package that offers more technology and comfort, including a moonroof, LED turn signals, heated front seats, leather-covered steering wheel, and adaptive cruise control.
  • The SL trim has been tweaked to include a leather interior while keeping the price tag below $30,000.
  • Advanced safety features like automatic emergency braking for pedestrian protection are now standard in the base S model.

What Is Under the Hood of the 2021 Nissan Altima?

The 2021 Nissan Altima has two main engine options. The first is a four-cylinder, 2.5-litre engine producing 188 horsepower that is combined with a continuously variable automatic transmission. This engine can be found in the S, SV, SL, and Platinum trim levels. Although it doesn’t make the Altima’s performance anything to write home about, it’s more than enough to push to midsize sedan along city streets and highway quite nicely. The 2.5 litre engine delivers ~9.3 L/100km in the city and ~6.5 L/100km on the highway—respectable for a large car.

If you want a sportier and more engaging experience, you could go for the SR trim. This is the only trim with the more powerful two-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine; it produces 248 horsepower (when you have premium fuel in the tank). Along with a sportier suspension, paddle shifters, and 19-inch wheels, the additional 60 horsepower produced by the variable-compression turbocharged engine makes the Altima SR far more exciting on the corners and on the straights. The downsides, though, are lower gas mileage and a stiffer ride. We don’t think that the sportiness is worth the reduced comfort. 

If an exciting driving experience is all you want, there are better options in this segment and price range, like the new Honda Accord. But you do have one big reason to prefer the 2021 Nissan Altima to the Honda Accord: all-wheel drive.

Nissan Altima’s less powerful 2.5 litre 4-cylinder engine models can be mated with an all-wheel-drive transmission, which isn’t available in some major competing models. All-wheel-drive is especially useful in tricky Canadian weather. Unfortunately, you can’t get AWD with the more powerful two-liter turbo engine.

All-wheel-drive can be added to the SV, SR, and SL models for just $1,400. In the top-of-the-line Platinum model, AWD is standard, making the Altima quite an attractive option if you are in the market for a midsize AWD sedan.

What Is the Interior of the 2021 Nissan Altima Like?

Unlike its fairly modern exterior styling, the interior of the 2021 Altima is quite sober, with almost no extraneous elements. Depending on the trim level, most of the car, including the door panels, is covered in soft-touch plastics. In any case, trims and packages have been revised for 2021 in such a way that you can now get a Nissan Altima with a leather interior for under $30,000.

Although the exterior dimensions of the Altima resemble those of competitors like the Honda Accord, the interior space is not on a par. The Accord provides much more room for rear passengers and a bit more storage in the trunk. Still, the cockpit of the Altima cockpit is hardly small. It provides plenty of headroom despite the slanted, coupe-style roofline, and the seats are comfortable enough for long highway trips.

“Conservative” is the word to describe the interior of the 2021 Altima; which makes it either fine or a bit boring, depending on your taste.

What Technology Does the 2021 Nissan Altima Offer?

One of the most prominent pieces of tech in the 2021 Nissan Altima is the eight-inch touchscreen—standard in every model but the base S model, which gets a seven-inch touchscreen. You can connect your Android and iOS devices with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which come standard as well. We also really like the analog-digital instrument cluster.

In addition to the new driver assists and safety features added to this year’s Altima, you can equip the car with a range of optional features and gadgets:

  • 360-degree monitor
  • interior accent lighting
  • eight-way power driver seat with memory settings
  • 19-inch alloy wheels
  • heated front seats
  • heated steering wheel
  • nine-speaker Bose studio system
  • dual-zone climate control
  • Wi-Fi hotspot

Note: Many of these features are available only in specific models.

The 2021 Nissan Altima is well-equipped and is certainly competitive with similarly priced cars in its class. One of the best things about it is the all-wheel-drive option that you can get for just an additional $1,400.

Our Take on the 2021 Nissan Altima

The 2021 Nissan Altima does not excel in any major respect. It’s not the most exciting car to drive in its class. It’s not the most luxurious. It’s a very moderate car that is right in the middle of the pack. The 2021 Nissan Altima is not a bad car or even a mediocre one. It’s a well-built vehicle that is good at many things—but not excellent.


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