2013 Nissan Altima Review

2013 Nissan Altima - Nissan's newest Altima is a fine midsize car and well worthy of consideration.


Vehicle Tested
2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV
Base Price: $24,100
At-Tested Price: $27,490
Built in Smyrna, Tennessee.

SV Convenience Package (sunroof, fog lights, turn-signal mirrors, Homelink, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, cargo net, compass)
SV navigation Package (7.0-inch color display, turn-by-turn navigation, steering-wheel controls)
Splash Guards
Rear Spoiler
Floor Mats

Engine: 2.5-liter I4
Transmission: CVT Automatic
Drive Wheels: Front-Wheel Drive

Nissan redesigns its popular four-door midsize sedan for 2013. Though it rides the same 109.3-inch wheelbase, the new Altima is slightly longer and wider than the model it replaces. The two-door Altima coupe continues to be offered using the previous generation's basic design. Altima sedan competes with vehicles like the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Subaru Legacy and Toyota Camry.

Four models are offered: Base, S, SL and SV. All have front-wheel drive and are offered with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 182 horsepower. Available on the S, SL and SV is a 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine. Regardless of engine, all models come with a continuously variable automatic transmission.

Standard safety features include antilock four-wheel disc brakes, stability control, tire-pressure monitor and dual-front, front-side and curtain-side airbags. Rear-view camera, blind-spot alert, lane-departure warning and moving-object detection are available.

The Base 2.5 lists for $21,500 and includes air conditioning, interior air filter, tilt-telescope steering wheel with radio controls, front bucket seats, center console, split-folding rear seatback, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, AM/FM/CD/MP3/player with digital-media player connection, Bluetooth cell-phone connection, variable-intermittent wipers, outside-temperature indicator, rear defogger, automatic-off headlights, theft-deterrent system, 215/60R16 tires and wheel covers.

The 2.5 S lists for $22,500 and 3.5 S lists for $25,360. S models add to the Base cruise control, six-way power driver seat, keyless access and starting, automatic headlights and, on the 3.5 S 235/45VR18 tires and alloy wheels.

2.5 SV lists for $24,100 and adds to the 2.5 S dual-zone automatic climate controls, leather-wrapped steering wheel, satellite radio, rear-view camera, 215/55VR17 tires and alloy wheels. 3.5 SV list for $27,780 and adds to the 2.5 SV power sunroof, mirror-mounted turn signals, automatic day/night rearview mirror, compass, universal garage door opener, illuminated visor mirror and fog lights.

2.5 SL lists for $28,050 and 3.5 SL lists for $30,080. SL models add to the SV heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, heated front seats, eight-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment and Bose sound system.

Options are mainly confined to package groups but include the Technology Package, navigation system with real-time traffic information, illuminated door sills and remote engine start. The Altima is built in Smyrna, Tennessee, and Canton, Mississippi, and carries a destination charge of $780.

Get Up and Go  The 2.5-liter four is enhanced for 2013 with the addition of variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust. That nets an additional seven horsepower and improved torque and fuel economy. In addition the continuously variable transmission was reworked to provide quicker response and a wider available gear ratio. Together the improved engine and transmission translate into a much more responsive feeling Altima. The 0 to 60 mph run takes about a second less, dropping from 8.5 to 7.4 seconds. Around-town throttle response is quite good and the transmission changes ratios quickly to help boost highway passing power.

We have not had the opportunity to evaluate the 3.5-liter V6.

The CVT automatic provides seamless acceleration that sets the bar for smoothness and power delivery. Those wanting the feel of a traditional automatic can use steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles that active preset ratios that provide traditional shift points.

EPA ratings for the four-cylinder are greatly improved over the previous model. They jump from 23/32 city/highway mpg to 27/38 mpg. Those numbers are exceptional for a conventionally powered midsize sedan. In addition, Nissan says that Altima models run fine on regular-grade gasoline.

Real-world driving nets 32 mpg in an equal mix of city and highway driving. Spend most of your commute on the highway? Then you're likely to average 35-mpg plus. Kudos to Nissan for giving the new midsize Altima the fuel efficiency of a compact car.

On the Road  Regardless of model, Altima provides a quiet and controlled ride. The suspension does an excellent job of smothering impacts and controlling secondary motions. Though the S rides on 16-inch wheels and the SV on 17s, there's little difference in overall ride harshness.

The previous Altima trailed its competitors when the road got twisty. Nissan engineers worked hard to change that for 2013. They started by shaving about 100 pounds of weight, than added a bit of passive rear steer and threw in a dash of active under steer control. All told, Altima feels much more athletic than before. The steering has a firm feel and tracks true on the highway. Brakes provide surprisingly strong stopping power and an easy-to-modulate pedal. Make no mistake, Altima's not a sports car, but it does exude more confidence than its predecessor and is more than a match for class competitors.

Altima cruises quietly. However, the four-cylinder engine growls loudly in hard acceleration -- a problem exacerbated by the CVTs tendency to allow sustained high RPM operation. In addition, the tires rough-surface howl isn't as well muffled as some competitors.

Behind the Wheel  Altima's contemporary and well laid out. Materials are on par with other vehicles in the class, but the cloth material on the seats seems a bit on the cheap side. Most surfaces are nicely padded and there's plenty of expensive-looking piano-black plastic and chrome accents.

The instrument panel is dominated by two large and crisply lit dials for engine and vehicle speed. In between, there's a multi-function display. Center console is dominated by large and handy radio controls and simple climate controls. Window, lock, and mirror controls are conveniently placed on the driver's arm rest. About the only control nit are heated seat buttons located toward the rear of the center console that are easily accidentally activated.

Nissan's touting the "zero-gravity" seats, and for good reason. They are very comfortable and supportive and provide good comfort on long trips. Head and leg room are quite good and the standard tilt-telescope steering wheel and height-adjustable seat make it easy to find a comfortable driving position. Outward visibility is excellent -- aided by the blind-spot alert. Getting in and out is a snap.

Rear seat isn't as comfortable as the front, but there's more room than before. Two adults will find good leg room and adequate head room. If you are taller than six-feet, you might be slouching a bit under Altima's sloping rear roofline. As in the front, entry-exit is quite easy.

The trunk is quite roomy and has a large opening. Unfortunately, trunk hinges eat into cargo space, complicating packing larger items. Rear seat backs fold, but not completely flat. That creates an uneven load floor. There's lots of interior storage, highlighted by a large glove box and large console bin.

Bottom Line  Altima was a good car before, and now it's a great car and a great choice for the midsize-car shopper. Fuel economy is excellent and the car's well-rounded demeanor make it an excellent choice for buyers looking something beyond the typical four-door sedan. The 2.5-liter four/CVT combo provides plenty of pep, making the V6 seem superfluous. If you are in the market for a midsize sedan, you make sure to give the new Altima a long look.

Specifications 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV
4-door sedanEngine
Wheelbase, in.
109.3Size, liters/cu. in.
2.5 / 152
Length, in.
Horsepower182 @ 6000
Width, in.72.0
Torque (lb.-ft.) 180 @ 4000
Height, in.57.9TransmissionCVT Automatic
Weight, lbs.
27 city / 38 highway
Cargo Capacity, cu. ft.
Fuel Capacity, gal.
Seating Capacity
3 years / 36,000 miles
Front Head Room, in.
5 years / 60,000 miles
Front Leg Room, in.
5 years / Unlimited miles
Second-Row Head Room, in.
Free Roadside Assistance
3 years / 36,000 miles
Second-Row Leg Room, in.
Free Scheduled Maintenance

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.