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Nissan Altima L33 (2013-present): review, specs, problems

Nissan introduced the fifth-generation Altima (codename L33) in the summer of 2012. Similar to its Camry and Accord competitors, the Altima brings a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline unit (QR25DE) accompanied by a range-topping 3.5-liter V6 (VQ35DE).

The former churns out 182 hp and 180 lb-ft, while the vee-six puts out 270 hp and 258 lb-ft. Both engines are managed through a CVT gearbox, while the six-speed manual was dropped due to slow sales.


Pros & Cons
Strong Points

Pros


Strong Points
  • neat cabin design
  • upmarket quality inside
  • sporty-ish handling
  • good steering feedback
  • top-shelf safety

Recommended Versions
Strong Points

Cons


Weak Points
  • lack of headroom at the back
  • noisy and troublesome CVT

Stay Away From
  • you're stuck with the CVT either way, but V6 models are costly to buy and run
Strong Points

Attention


Known Problems & Recalls
  • Nissan recalled 846,000 Altimas for faulty hood latches in 2016
  • another recall involving 3.5 million cars took place in 2016, and it included Altima models built between 2013 and 2016
  • plenty of problems reported by users are CVT shuttering, vibrations and rough running in general, coupled with complete failure and gear shifters stuck in Park
  • there were also NHTSA complaints concerning interior accessories issues, including backup camera failure, broken door latches, and even loose center consoles
  • steering noise and the need to continually input steering corrections even on highway trips contributed to a high number of complaints

Car Details
Powertrain

Unlike competitors like the Accord and Camry, the Nissan Altima is a tad more fun to drive. The four-cylinder unit pulls bravely during overpasses or traffic merges, but the star of the lineup is, without any doubt, the V6, as it really packs a punch.

The only downfall is the CVT, both a source of problems but also a lazy and choppy piece of hardware that reaps a lot of noise from the engine.


Handling

Although not as smooth as other performers in the segment, the Altima shows decent grip levels.

Other than that, the suspension setup is reluctant to let body roll do its thing, while the steering precision is above the segment's average. Think of the Altima as a balanced package of comfort, sportiness, and upmarket traits.


Safety

Standard features like ABS, ESC and front side plus curtain airbags propelled the Altima to a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS for the 2013 and 2016MY, while both the 2014 and 2015 model years had to settle for just a Top Safety Pick.

Nevertheless, the fifth-gen Altima is as safe as they come in the family sedan territory. Features like blind-spot sensors and lane-departure warning come as optional equipment.

Comfort

Altima's home turf is comfort mostly because it faces stiff competition in this department. The zero-gravity, NASA-inspired front seats are a blessing both around and outside the city.

At the back, things are a tad less roomy, but two average-height adults will still find their comfort zone pretty quick.

Taller physiques or three adults should expect average comfort levels (mostly due to the reduced headroom, yet the excellent legroom makes up for that), but two adults and one child (or two/three children for that matter) will travel comfortably enough.


Quality

Altima also holds one of the nicest cabins in its segment - not only by design but also by superior material quality. The interior layout is simple and ergonomic, while the displays show crisp graphics and good readability.

Overall, build quality is solid even on used models, there's no room for squeaky plastics, and the car should hold its value over time.


Practicality

Cargo space stands at 15.4 cu-ft so the wide-opening trunk can take all the baggage pieces a family needs for a holiday. Also, the back seat offers the 40/60 split-folding option.

Access in and out of the car is done without a fuss, and there are plenty of cubby holes, pockets and storage spaces to cater for various objects like water bottles, phones, tablets, wallets and other personal belongings.


Infotainment

Every Altima comes fitted with Bluetooth, audio connectivity and a four-speaker, CD-player-based sound system.

With the optional Display Audio pack, the Altima gets a 5.0-inch touchscreen display, a six-speaker sound system, and a rearview camera.

Then there's the Technology Pack, which upgrades the touchscreen to the 7.0-inch size while adding voice controls plus a navigation system.

Last but not least, as of 2014, Nissan introduced the NissanConnect Apps suite, featuring a smartphone integration platform with Pandora and Facebook connectivity options.

Efficiency

EPA ratings for the 2.5-liter four-cylinder powerplant stand at 31 mpg combined (27 mpg city/38 mpg highway), so that's your choice if frugality tops your desires.

The V6, however, taxes its enthusiastic grunt with 25 mpg combined (22 mpg city/31 mpg highway).


Equipment

Over time, Nissan sold the Altima under seven trim levels: 2.5, 2.5 S, 2.5 SV, 2.5 SL, 3.5 SL, 3.5 S and 3.5 SV. The last two were dropped for the 2015MY, but for the 2016 model year, the SR performance variant came back.

The most important standard features include 16-inch rims, keyless entry and ignition, plus an adjustable (height-only) driver seat.

As you go up the trim hierarchy, the Altima greets you with cruise control, automatic headlights, 16-inch alloys, USB ports, paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel, sunroof, fog lamps, air-conditioning and remote ignition.

The range-topping models wear xenon or LED headlights, leather upholstery and eight-way adjustable driver seat and heated front seats.


Acquisition

In a nutshell, the Nissan Altima is worth your interest if you're in for an able family sedan. Although not the segment's best choice - the Camry offers more space and better reliability credentials, while the Honda Accord dominates fuel economy charts, Nissan's Altima makes up with a carefully-crafted interior and a decent technological package.


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