2010 Nissan Altima Review and Prices

Last Updated: Aug 5, 2011

Pros

  • Sleek shape, intriguing details keep things interesting
  • Fine get-up-and-go with both the four- and six-cylinder engines
  • Strong crash-safety and owner-satisfaction scores

Cons

  • A bit of a ruffian and proud of it
  • Rocky ride in some models
  • CVT behavior isn't for everyone

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2010 Nissan Altima Buying Advice

The 2010 Nissan Altima is the right car for you if you prefer intrepid styling to the mechanical polish of a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry.

Altima fancies itself the BMW of front-wheel-drive midsize cars. It does indeed go about its business with a sense of brio absent in the Accord and Camry, though at some sacrifice in refinement. Altima is available as a commodious sedan or as a rougher-riding, slightly cramped coupe. The best value in the line is the Altima 2.5 S sedan equipped with the Convenience Plus Package. That gets you a lively four-cylinder engine, alloy wheels, power moonroof, power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and other desirable features for about $25,000 with a continuously variable automatic transmission.

Should you by a buy a 2010 Nissan Altima or wait for the 2011 Nissan Altima? Buy a 2010 Nissan Altima. It gets some styling and equipment revisions that’ll keep it fresh until the end of this generation’s life-cycle, likely for model-year 2013. Wait for the 2011 Altima, and you’ll likely to get essentially an unchanged car, but one that’s a year closer to looking like last-generation’s model.

2010 Nissan Altima Changes back to top

Styling: The current-generation Altima sedan debuted for model-year 2007. The coupe followed for 2008. Altima’s next full redesign is likely for model-year 2013.That makes model-year 2010 a nice place for Nissan to slot in a mid-cycle freshening. The styling component of the freshening brings the 2010 Altima sedan and coupe a gently revised hood and grille. It’s a handsome update that strengthens their family resemblance to Nissan’s new corporate face as seen on the latest Nissan Maxima. The coupe gains a “projector beam” headlight design in the process, and the sedan gets new alloy wheels. Both the coupe and sedan seat five and their cabins are spruced up for 2010 with revisions to fabrics and some trim pieces, including new red leather upholstery for the two-door. The interior’s most graphic 2010 change is a switch in instrument illumination, from orange to white; it’s a theme also seen in the Maxima. The Altima-Maxima relationship is in fact a close one. Maxima is priced higher and positioned as the more-upscale sedan, but it shares Altima’s basic front-wheel-drive structure and V-6 powertrain. Maxima and the Altima sedan have the same 109.3-inch wheelbase, which is the distance between front and rear axles and helps defining available cabin space. The Altima coupe rides a 4-inch shorter version of this wheelbase, in keeping with its sportier, personal-car mission.

Mechanical: The 2010 Nissan Altima has a narrower choice of transmissions but a wider span of active safety features. Altima returns with two conventional gas engines and a gas-electric hybrid model. The lineup begins with the 2.5 sedan and continues with the 2.5 S sedan and 2.5 S coupe. These models are named for their 2.5-liter 175-horsepower four-cylinder engine. Similarly, V-6 Altimas are named for their 3.5-liter 270-horsepower V-6. The V-6 versions undergo a bit of rebadging for 2010. The sporty Altima 3.5 SE sedan and coupe become the 2010 Nissan Altima 3.5 SR sedan and 3.5 SR coupe. Gone for 2010 is the luxury-oriented 3.5 SL sedan; its $30,000 pricing was encroaching on Maxima territory. The 2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid teams a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor for 198 total horsepower. The Hybrid can be driven at low speed on electricity alone and doesn’t require plug-in charging. However, its availability is limited to California, Oregon, and the New England states that share stringent exhaust-emissions standards. For 2010, Altima’s six-speed manual transmission is available only on the coupes. Available at extra cost on the coupes and standard on all 2010 Altima sedans is a continuously variable transmission. A CVT performs the duties of an automatic transmission but transmits power like a rheostat instead of with preset gear ratios. The idea is to precisely match engine output with power requirements for greater efficiency. The CVT continues as the only Altima Hybrid transmission. Altimas have front-wheel drive and come with antilock four-wheel disc brakes. Credit Nissan with expanding Altima’s safety envelope for 2010. Every model now comes with traction control to enhance grip on take offs; it had been standard only on V-6 versions and the Hybrid. And all 2010 Altimas include Nissan’s Vehicle Dynamic Control. This is an antiskid system that modulates engine power and activates individual brakes to combat sideways slides. It had been standard only on the Hybrid model and available only as an extra-cost feature for Altimas equipped with the V-6.

Features: The 2010 Nissan Altima gets more advanced audio and navigation options, gaining USB linking for iPods in the bargain. The new premium audio system includes a 4.3-inch color display, USB iPod connectivity, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, XM satellite radio (subscription sold separately) and a rearview monitor. The available navigation system advances to Nissans next-generation hard drive setup with a 6.5-inch color display. Map data includes speed limit advisories, Zagat restaurant guide, and XM NavTraffic and NavWeather (subscription sold separately). Navigation-equipped Altimas get 9.3GB of music storage and playback, USB connectivity, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and an RCA input for auxiliary audio/video connectivity. The dual-zone automatic climate control previously exclusive to the 3.5 SL model is now available as an option on other Altima sedans as part of the 2.5 S Convenience Plus Package and 3.5 SR Sport Package. The alloy wheels available on the 2010 Altima sedans are of a new design, and the 2.5 S coupe now comes with 17-inch alloys instead of 16-inch steel wheels with wheel covers. All Altimas except the Hybrid have a split-folding rear seatback. Leather upholstery and a power sliding glass moonroof are not available on the base 2.5 sedan but are available on other 2010 Altimas as standard or optional equipment, depending on model.

2010 Nissan Altima Test Drive back to top

From behind the wheel:  Altimas put some muscle-tone into midsize-car handling. Even Altima 2.5 and 2.5 S sedans with the modestly-sized 16-inch tires answer steering inputs quickly and accurately. Fast turns can be taken with minimal nose plow and body lean. Altima 3.5 SR models feel especially sharp thanks to their stiffer suspension settings and larger wheels and tires. The Altima coupe is indeed more agile than the longer, heavier sedan. The trade-off is in comfort, as you’ll read below.

Like virtually every other midsize car in this price range, Altima has front-wheel drive. That means the weight of the engine is above the drive wheels, which benefits traction in snow. Among competitors, the superior grip of all-wheel drive is standard on the Subaru Legacy and optional on the Ford Fusion. Besides providing great all-season footing, AWD nullifies the worst effects of torque steer. That’s when powerful front-wheel-drive cars tug to the side during rapid acceleration. Credit Nissan engineers with reducing torque steer on Altima V-6 models from a recurrent annoyance to an infrequent irritation.

Most every competitor offers four- and six-cylinder engines, too, though Altima distinguishes itself on two powertrain fronts. The first is torque, which is the thrust that gets a car off the line and, once underway, enables it to respond alertly to throttle inputs. More is better, and the 180 pound-feet from Altima’s four-cylinder engine is more torque than from any rival’s four, except the turbo units in the significantly costlier Legacy and Volkswagen Passat. Similarly, Altima’s V-6 delivers more torque, 258 pound-feet, than any rival save the Mazda 6’s, which has 269 pound-feet.

All this torque means a little extra spirit when you hit the gas, and it’s a big reason the majority of Altima buyers are quite happy with the four-cylinder’s balance of power and fuel economy. It does 0-60 mph in about 7.5 seconds. The V-6 Altimas do it in a quick 6.0 seconds and do feel more robust than the four off the line and in highway passing or merging. The Nissan Altima Hybrid behaves much like a conventional Altima four-cylinder model.

Altima’s second powertrain distinction is its use of a CVT in place of a conventional automatic transmission even on gas-engine models. Competitors reserve CVTs for their hybrids as part of a fuel-efficiency strategy. Nissan believes the lighter weight of a CVT and its particular method of transferring power is appropriate for its gas engines as well. When used with the V-6, Nissan even programs it to allow the driver simulated manual control over gear ratios. CVTs are smooth and reliable. But they allow the engine to rev ahead of road speed during rapid acceleration. The effect is slightly disconcerting, and in the case of the Altima, reveals some coarseness in the gas four-cylinder engine.

Dropping the manual-transmission from its sedans costs the 2010 Altima a third powertrain distinction. This had been the only four-door in the competitive set to pair a V-6 engine and manual transmission, an important litmus test for enthusiast drivers. Of course, the 2010 Altima coupe with both the four- and six-cylinder engines remains available with stick shift. Alas, Altima’s manual wastes some of its sporting potential with long gear-shift throws and uneven clutch engagement.

Dashboard and controls:  Altima sedans and coupes have the same dashboard. Knobs and buttons are nicely size, plainly marked, easy to reach, the gauges large and unobstructed. Hats off to Nissan for pulling the plug on orange instrument lighting. Some drivers interpreted orange as the color of performance; others found it pretentious and hard to read. It’s still used for the gauge needles and to backlight some display panels, but the crisp new white-lit numerals and hash marks convey a grown-up look.

Altima’s 2010 navigation upgrade is an advance in capability and convenience, though the system’s screen remains mounted a little low for easy consultation by a busy driver. It does double as the display for the useful rearview camera: put the car in reverse and it shows what’s behind.

We like Nissan’s decision to dispense with the traditional ignition key and equip every Altima except the entry-level 2.5 with remote entry and start. You get a signal-emitting keychain fob that automatically unlocks the doors and allows you to start the car by pushing a dashboard button. You never have to remove the fob from pocket or purse, though be careful not to leave with it while the car is running.

Room, comfort, and utility:  Bumpy roads got you down, Bunkie? A Nissan Altima 3.5 SR sedan isn’t likely to smooth things out. Its sport suspension is unforgiving on rutted pavement and over tar strips, and its slam-bang reactions serve to further loosen Altima’s grasp on refined motoring. Same for the Altima coupe in both its 2.5 S and 3.5 SR form. The shorter wheelbase really hampers the coupe’s ability to iron out imperfections. Test drive these models on a crummy road to see if you can live with their ride quality. Otherwise, stick with the 2.5 S sedan.

The coupe’s abbreviated wheelbase also takes a big bite out of back-seat space. Because the passenger compartment must fit between the front and rear axles, the Altima coupe is cramped in back, with head and knee clearance only preteens will find accommodating. And the coupe demands a youngin’s limberness to squeeze past the front seatbacks and into or out of the aft compartment. Altima sedans have more rear-seat room, but the seat cushion itself is quite firm and the roofline doesn’t put much air between the headliner and the scalp of a 6-footer. Toe space is adequate, but some passengers with long legs will find their knees pressed into the front seatbacks if the driver and front passenger slide their seats more than halfway back.

In the refinement derby, Altimas are not as isolating as some class leaders -- Camry and Chevrolet Malibu in particular. Nissan seems content to allow fairly generous levels of engine noise, powertrain vibration, and tire rumble to reach the cabin as a trade-off for Altima’s athletic road manners. Some wind whistle also is evident at highway speeds. Cabin materials have improved over the years, though plastic pieces that feel thin and flimsy can still be found among Altima’s nicely padded surfaces and richly grained panels.

The sedan has good trunk volume but huge trunk-lid hinges intrude on the useful space. The coupe’s trunk is adequate for a couple’s weekend, and its strut-type lid hinges keep luggage safe. 

2010 Nissan Altima Prices back to top

The 2010 Nissan Altima prices start at $20,620 and range to $30,320, without options. All prices listed in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Nissan’s fee is $720 for 2010 models.

The 2010 Nissan Altima 2.5 sedan is priced from $20,620. Its $19,900 list price before the destination fee is added helps Nissan capture on-line price searches for sub-$20,000 cars. The Altima 2.5 sedan comes without an audio system and isn’t ineligible for any options. It does include the CVT, air conditioning, power windows, locks, and mirrors, cruise control, manual driver’s seat height adjuster, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and an outside-temperature indicator

More viable are the 2010 Nissan Altima 2.5 S models. The 2010 Nissan Altima 2.5 S sedan starts at $22,560 and includes the CVT. The 2010 Altima 2.5 S coupe is priced from $23,160 with the six-speed manual transmission and from $23,660 with the CVT.

The 2010 Nissan Altima 2.5 S models Include in their base price remote keyless entry with pushbutton ignition and a CD audio system with an auxiliary jack for digital players. Like the entry-level 2.5 model, 2.5 S sedan comes with 16-inch tires with wheel covers but can be equipped with alloy wheels as part of various options packages. Among those packages is the $1,100 Convenience Package that includes an eight-way power driver’s seat and the $1,150 Convenience Plus Package that adds the moonroof.

Advancing to the sporty 2010 Nissan Altima 3.5 SR models gets you the V-6, a power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, heated mirrors with turn-signal indicators, and a performance-tuned suspension. The 2010 Nissan Altima 3.5 SR sedan is priced from $25,240 and includes the CVT and 17-inch tires on alloy wheels. The 3.5 SR sedan Sport Package option costs $2,370 and adds the moonroof, High Intensity Discharge xenon headlamps, a rear spoiler, and other items.

The 2010 Nissan Altima 3.5 SR coupe is the hot rod of the lineup. It’s priced from $27,270 with the six-speed manual transmission and from $30,320 with the CVT. It comes with the moonroof, 18-inch alloys with low-profile tires, rear spoiler, xenon headlights, and fog lamps.

Option packages for Altima 2.5 S and 3.5 SR coupes generally mirror the content of their 2.5 S and 3.5 SR sedan counterparts though they may be priced differently depending on model.

Leather upholstery is available on the 2.5 S sedan as part of the $1,540 2.5 SL package and on the 2.5 S coupe and 3.5 SR manual-transmission coupe as part of their $2,060 Leather Package. Leather is standard on the 3.5 SR manual-transmission coupe and optional on the 3.5 SR sedan as part of its $2,380 Premium Package.

The Nissan Altima Hybrid starts at $27,500 and includes a CVT. Its standard equipment builds on the 2.5 S sedan by adding such amenities as dual-zone climate controls and alloy wheels. Its $4,230 Premium Package option contains leather upholstery, heated front seats, moonroof, premium audio, and other features.

2010 Nissan Altima Fuel Economy back to top

Convention holds that an automatic-transmission version of a car will consume more fuel than its manual-gearbox counterpart. Altimas with the CVT violate that convention with gas-mileage ratings that meet or exceed those of their manual-transmission counterparts.

The 2010 Nissan Altima 2.5 and 2.5 S sedans with the four-cylinder engine and CVT are rated at 23/32 mpg (city/highway). That’s the same rating as their 2009 counterparts with the six-speed manual transmission.

The 2010 Altima 2.5 S coupe is rated at 23/31 with the six-speed manual and 23/32 with the CVT.

The 2010 Nissan Altima 3.5 SR sedan and 3.5 SR coupe with the CVT are rated at 20/27 mpg. The 2010 Altima 3.5 SR coupe with the six-speed manual is rated at 18/27.

For 2010, both the Altima four and six-cylinder engines are tuned to run on regular-octane gas. This is a change from model-year 2009, when the Altima 3.5 models were the only V-6 cars in their competitive set for which the manufacturer recommended more expensive premium-grade gas.

The Nissan Altima Hybrid is most efficient in around-town driving, as reflected in ratings of 35/33 mpg (city/highway). The higher city figures come from the hybrid’s ability to maximize fuel economy by driving on electric power alone at low speeds and by automatically turning the engine off and on at stoplights.

2010 Nissan Altima Safety and Reliability back to top

The 2010 Nissan Altima sedan scores the highest possible marks in government crash tests. The tests award a maximum five stars for occupant protection in frontal and side collisions (www.safecar.gov). The Altima sedan earns five stars for driver and passenger protection in both frontal and side impacts.

The Nissan Altima coupe earns four of five stars for driver and passenger protection in frontal impacts. It gets five stars for driver and passenger protection side collisions.

For overall quality during the first 90 days of ownership, the Nissan brand rates about average in polls conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, the leading automotive consumer-survey firm (jdpower.com). However, the Altima is the highest-ranked midsize car in J.D. Power’s initial quality study, earning top marks for overall quality, design, and powertrain. The only areas in which owners rate Altima as low as “average” are for the operating characteristics of some features and accessories.

For overall reliability during the first three years of ownership, the Nissan brand ranked slightly below average in J.D. Power customer surveys. The survey polled owners of 2006-model cars; the current-generation Altima is not covered in the latest dependability ratings because it debuted as a 2007 model.

2010 Nissan Altima Release Date back to top

The 2010 Nissan Altima went on sale in late September 2009.

What's next for the 2010 Nissan Altima back to top

Due for model-year 2013, the next-generation redesign won’t alter Altima’s basic size or its mission as the moderately priced midsize car with some spring in its step. Nissan’s 2009 makeover of its Maxima was largely successful in recapturing the image of that car as a dashing, luxury-performance sedan. That success reinforces Altima’s role as the Nissan that must appeal to both family-car buyers and driving enthusiasts. It’s the sort of double duty Altima has handled quite well of late, and the next generation will need to further refine that balance between aggressive styling, fun performance, and friendly functionality.        

The 2010 Altima Hybrid is a fine example of the breed, but with its gas-electric-propulsion system adapted from a Toyota design, it isn’t a Nissan original. Nissan is developing a homegrown hybrid that it reportedly will introduce it as a version of a rear-wheel-drive car from its upscale Infiniti division, probably during 2010. That leaves Altima’s alternative-power future unsettled, though little change is expected until the next generation debuts.

2010 Nissan Altima Competition back to top

2010 Honda Accord: No car balances road manners, refinement, and value better than the spacious Honda Accord sedan. Styling? It’s not for everyone, though the Accord coupe is a looker -- albeit, with the usual two-door-car compromises. Accord has front-wheel drive and four- and six-cylinder engines. Four-cylinder sedans have a choice of 177 or 190 horsepower (both rated 21/30 mpg with automatic transmission), and are priced from about $21,800. Accord V-6 sedans have 271 horsepower, rate 22/32, and start around $27,600. Coupes are priced slightly higher. Accord’s next full redesign is slated for model-year 2013.

2010 Toyota Camry: Tops among mainstream midsize cars for insulating occupants from wind, road, and mechanical ruckus. The trade-off is drowsy handling and sleepy steering. Camry comes only as a front-wheel-drive sedan. It starts around $19,900 with a four-cylinder engine of 169 or 172 horsepower (22/32 mpg with automatic transmission), and around $25,000 with a 268-horsepower V-6 (19/28). The Camry Hybrid is priced from around $26,900, has 187 horsepower, and rates 33/34 mpg. Camry and Altima both trail Accord for resale value. Camry’s next full redesign is expected for the 2012 model year.

2010 Ford Fusion: A deft update for model-year 2010 nudges Fusion ahead of the Chevrolet Malibu as the best domestic-brand alternative to the top imports in this class. Available all-wheel-drive as an alternative to front-wheel drive and the presence of a cutting-edge hybrid elevate Fusion’s standing. Think of Fusion as a blend of Accord’s engineered feel and Camry’s polish without quite equaling either. Base prices start around $20,000 for the front-drive 175-horsepower four-cylinder and nudge $28,000 for the 191-horsepower hybrid, and reach $28,500 for the 263-horsepower V-6 AWD model.  Rated mileage tops out at 23/34 with the gas four-cylinder, 18/27 with a V-6, and an impressive 41/36 for the Fusion Hybrid. Today’s Fusion won’t be fully redesigned for several more model years.