Buyers may be flocking to crossovers and utility vehicles, but enough remain interested in conventional cars to make a worthwhile business case. Nissan sees plenty of opportunity in that field.
The Altima is the company’s player in the mid-size, family-car segment. In an effort to stand apart from the pack, Nissan has endowed the new 2019 model with a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system. While AWD is an option on Altimas south of the border, it is standard on all trim levels in Canada.
Nissan has also bet heavily on safety being a major attraction for buyers in the market for a family car. The sixth-generation Altima has an extensive list of active and passive safety systems designed to give it an edge over the rest.
The 2019 Altima has also been given an extensive facelift and a new engine. The prominent new proboscis appears vulnerable to parking incidents. Dealers had better stock up on replacement parts. The interior has been redesigned as well. Nissan’s excellent “zero-gravity” seats are carried over and enhance a truly spacious interior with plenty of head and legroom in both front and rear seats.
The new engine shares its displacement with a predecessor, but little else. Power is up slightly to 182 horsepower and 178 lb.-ft. of torque, but improved fuel efficiency was the goal. That has been achieved. I averaged 8.8 for a mixture of city and highway driving. Our neighbours to the south have the option of a turbocharged version producing 248 horsepower.
The all-new platform allowed the development team to give the new Altima some serious handling chops. An important contributor to this newfound prowess when the road develops the bends, is the AWD system.
Most of the time, the Altima is a traditional front-wheel drive vehicle, with all of the engine’s output going forward. But when you take off from rest, whether in summer or winter, on dry or slippery surfaces, 50 per cent of the power is diverted to the rear wheels for improved traction and reduced torque steer.
The all-season benefits also show up in the corners when 30 per cent of the power goes to the rear for a more balanced feel. Under normal conditions this is a very comfortable driver. Push it into the turns or find yourself on an exit ramp going more quickly than you thought, and you will appreciate the advantages baked into the drivetrain.
Aside from the excellent driving dynamics, spacious interior and standard all-wheel drive, the 2019 Altima stands out in my mind for the amount and type of safety features it offers. The new Altima is available in S, SV and Platinum trim levels. The tester was the latter, so had all the bells and whistles. While some of the safety systems appear or are only available on the upper trim levels, at each rung on the trim ladder, the Altima outdoes the competition.
The most significant of these systems, Nissan calls ProPilot assist. The latest version of this system is unique at this price point. It offers partial autonomy by monitoring a number of factors. It helps keep the Altima within the lane, at a given distance from other vehicles at all speeds. On single lane roads the driver will use less throttle, steering and brake input.
The system utilizes a forward-facing camera, forward-facing radar, numerous sensors and an electronic control module to maintain position and speed in relation to lane markings and the vehicle ahead. It will bring the Altima to a complete stop when necessary, with no driver input.
ProPilot Assist is standard on mid and upper trim levels. To activate, simply push the blue button on the steering wheel and activate cruise control.
Nissan didn’t forget about what is going on behind you. A system with the rather lengthy name of Rear Intelligent Emergency Braking (RIEB)2, keeps an eye on what is going on when the transmission is in reverse. If it detects a stationary object, it will sound a warning and flash a warning symbol. If the driver does nothing, it will apply the brakes. The system is also standard on mid and upper trim levels.
The new Altima, equipped with the navigation system, will also remind you of traffic signs and speed limits. This information comes from a camera located behind the rear-view mirror, combined with data from the navigation system.
Nissan has raised the bar in the mid-size family car category. The 2019 Altima is a refreshing blend of safety features and excellent driving dynamics. It is smooth and quiet underway and offers a spacious interior.
- Model: 2019 Nissan Altima 2.5 Platinum AWD
- Engine: 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, 182 horsepower, 178 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
- Transmission: continuously variable automatic, all-wheel drive
- NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 9.3 / 6.7
- Length: 4,899 mm
- Width: 1,851 mm
- Wheelbase: 2,857 mm
- Weight: 1,570 kg
- Price: $34,998 base, $37,093 as tested, including freight
- Competition: (Jan-April sales — Altima 1,077): Chevy Malibu (1,913), Dodge Journey (1,085), Honda Accord (3,790), Hyundai Sonata (1,273), Kia Optima (520), Mazda6 (478), Subaru Legacy (577), Toyota Camry (4,973), VW Passat (347).
- Standard equipment: 19-in alloy wheels, LED headlights, power heated mirrors, power sunroof, dual zone automatic climate control, heated front seats and steering wheel, wireless phone connectivity with voice recognition, remote keyless entry, keyless ignition, adaptive cruise control, rear view camera, power windows and locks, power front seats, leather seating surfaces, auto dimming rear view mirror, nine speaker Bose audio system Siri voice recognition, navigation system, Android Auto and Apple Car Play connectivity
- Standard safety equipment: pedestrian detection and emergency braking, forward collision warning, trace control, around view monitor, rear seat alert, pro pilot assist, lane departure warning and prevention, automatic high beams, rear automatic braking, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, rear sonar
- Options on test vehicle: three-coat paint, $300