2013 Nissan Altima Review and Prices

Last Updated: Apr 5, 2012

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2013 Nissan Altima Buying Advice

The 2013 Nissan Altima is the best car for you if you want the redesigned version of a popular midsize sedan and like its expressive new styling and impressive fuel economy.

The 2013 Nissan Altima is the first new Altima since model-year 2007. It has rounded new bodywork, fresh safety and infotainment features, and a fancier cabin. Carried over from the outgoing Altima are the wheelbase and basic dimensions, plus a front-wheel-drive layout and a choice of four- and six-cylinder engines paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission. Nissan, however, aims for a stronger blend of luxury and performance while maintaining a $22,280-$30,860 base-price range that’s only slightly higher than the 2012 Altima’s. The outgoing Altima was among America’s best-selling cars and its 2013 replacement  wades into a cauldron of redesigned competition that includes the 2013 Honda Accord, 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, and 2013 Ford Fusion.

Should you buy a 2013 Nissan Altima or wait for the 2014 Nissan Altima? Wait for the 2014 Altima if you’re a hybrid fan and think Nissan’s on the verge of launching a gas-electric version of this fifth-generation model. Otherwise, buy a 2013 Altima. It has the advances in fuel economy, features, and cabin décor that come with an all-new design. The 2013’s styling will look current for several years, and you’ll avoid the sting of an annual price increase for a 2014 model that won’t be altered in any significant way.

2013 Nissan Altima Changes back to top

Styling: The 2013 Nissan Altima’s new styling is more curvaceous than the 2007-2012 Altima’s. It has more contemporary proportions, premium-car detailing with touches of chrome trim, and better aerodynamics thanks in part to a more laid-back windshield angle. Overall, the 2013 Altima is a visual threat to any rival. Compared with its predecessor, the new body is 2.2 inches longer overall but no taller. And the 2013 Altima’s wheelbase – the distance between its front and rear axles – remains fractionally shorter than the midsize-class average, at 109.3 inches.

Wheelbase is key to a car’s passenger room, and smart packaging helps keep the 2013 Altima among the more spacious sedans in the category. The interior design, however, is all-new and seeks a “class-above” ambience with numerous soft-touch surfaces and trendy piano-black panels offset by trim in a choice of blonde woodgrain or metal-look plastic.

The 2013 Altima remains a five-passenger car has what Nissan describes as NASA-inspired seats that reduce fatigue by supporting occupants in a neutral, “weightless” posture. The 2013 Altima’s reshaped dashboard is relatively conservative but integrates a display screen between the main analog instruments and another in the central control “stack.”

Nissan slices the 2013 Altima lineup into an unusually broad seven-model range, grouped by “2.5” four-cylinder models and “3.5” V-6 editions. Both categories include S, better-equipped SV, and top-line SL models. The 2.5 line also has an entry-level model without a suffix.  Styling distinctions run mostly to wheel size and type – 16-inchers with wheel covers on 2.5 and 2.5 S models, available 17-inch alloys on 2.5 S and 2.5 SV and SL, and 18-inch alloys on all 3.5 models. Upper-trim Altimas also get fog lamps and SL versions have LED taillights and LED outside mirror turn signals.     

Mechanical: The 2013 Nissan Altima is engineered to sustain the sporty driving dynamics that have been a key to its success. Concurrently, Nissan aims to improve the car’s refinement, comfort, and fuel economy. Meanwhile, the automaker ducks the midsize-class trend toward an all-four-cylinder engine lineup or turbochargers (see, for example, the newest Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, and Hyundai Sonata). Instead, it reprises a choice of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine or a 3.5-liter V-6.

Nissan says the 2013 Altima’s four-cylinder is lighter than the outgoing 2.5 and has more advanced components. It does not, however, match top rivals by including direct fuel injection, a precision technology that introduces fuel directly into the cylinders to minimize fuel consumption and exhaust emissions and maximize power. Horsepower increases to 182, from 175, but torque remains 180 pound-feet (think of torque as the muscle behind acceleration). The 3.5-liter V-6 is basically a rerun of the 2012 six and stays at 270 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Power output of both 2013 Altima engines are about par for motors of their type and size.    

Nissan makes wider use of continuously variable transmissions than any other automaker and all 2013 Altimas have the automaker’s latest CVT design as their sole transmission. A CVT plays the role of an automatic transmission but with a pulley system instead of a fixed number of gears. The intent is continuously changing gear ratios that more precisely match engine output with acceleration and fuel economy. The downside is a tendency for engine speed to race ahead of actual vehicle speed during rapid acceleration, resulting in an annoying exhaust drone.

The 2013 Altima’s CVT features new control logic and expanded ratio coverage, which Nissan says helps reduce noise and fuel consumption while improving drivability and responsiveness.  The CVT in four-cylinder 2013 Altimas has a belt/pulley drive and the one in V-6-equipped 2013 Altimas a chain/pulley drive plus paddle shifters that allow the driver to simulate seven gear levels.

Nissan likes to promote Altima as the sportiest-driving front-wheel-drive midsize sedan. Front-drive concentrates the mass of the engine and transmission in the nose of the car. That’s best for efficient packaging. And by concentrating weight over the tires that also propel the car, it aids traction in rain and snow. It creates a weight imbalance that’s not ideal for sporty handling, however, and combined with requiring the front tires to both steer and drive the car, front-drive can’t match the all-around road manners of rear-wheel-drive cars like BMWs.

Unlike the Fusion, Subaru Legacy, and Suzuki Kazashi, the 2013 Altima is unavailable with all-wheel drive, which would re-establish a bit of handling equilibrium and also quell some of the torque steer – veering to the side during rapid acceleration – that’s been a blemish on Altima’s reputation for some drivers. Nissan does say the 2013 Altima features numerous suspension and electric-steering-system upgrades designed to improve handling. It also hosts the automaker’s first use of its Active Understeer Control system that brakes the inside front wheel in fast turns to reduce noseplow.

In the refinement derby, Altima has not been as isolating as some class leaders, the Toyota Camry and Chevrolet Malibu in particular. Nissan has seemed 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-flavored road manners. The carmaker, however, says the 2013 Altima boasts a degree of refinement absent in its predecessors. It cites the use of premium-car-type shock absorbers, new engine and exhaust mounts, and sound insulation that absorbs 30 percent more noise. The intent is to strengthen the car’s appeal to family oriented buyers who like the image of sportiness but place a high value on comfort and practicality, too.

Features: The 2013 Nissan Altima rises to meet top rivals by offering for the first time features such as lane-departure and blind-sport warning systems and smartphone integration, including text-message reception. Standard on every 2013 Altima is Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity with streaming audio capability. Also include are air conditioning, height-adjustable driver’s seat, tilt/telescoping steering column, outside-temperature indicator, and power windows, locks, and mirrors. Split/folding 60/40 rear seatbacks return to enhance cargo versatility. Also available, depending on model, is leather upholstery, eight-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar, moonroof, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and remote keyless entry with pushbutton ignition.

Newly standard on every 2013 Altima is Nissan’s Advanced Drive-Assist Display. This puts a screen in the center of the instrument cluster that relays key information, including navigation, text-messaging, and audio data. The system can be linked to three new available safety features that detect and warn of unseen vehicles in adjacent lanes or approaching from the rear corners, and alert the driver of unintended highway-lane drift.

The three systems are part of the optional Technology Package for 2.5 SL and 3.5 SL models. This package also includes the NissanConnectSM with Navigation system. The navigation system features 3D mapping and responds to voice commands, a 7-inch dashboard touchscreen, and steering wheel controls. NissanConnectSM enables smartphone-linked Pandora Internet radio reception and makes it possible for the audio system to read aloud incoming texts. Using voice commands or steering wheel switches, the driver can respond with pre-set answers such as “driving, can’t text,” “on my way,” “running late,” “OK” or a custom message.

Available audio systems include a Bose-branded premium setup with nine speakers and SiriusXM satellite radio (subscription sold separately). SV and SL models include a 5-inch color audio display and a USB iPod interface. Among other notable features is Nissan’s Easy Fill Tire Alert function that beeps the horn to signal when proper pressure is reached during tire inflation. And 2013 Altima SV and LS models are available with Nissan’s first factory remote engine start system.

2013 Nissan Altima Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2013 Nissan Altima is $22,280-$30,860. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Nissan’s fee for the 2013 Altima is $780.) Nissan prices the 2013 Altima within just a few dollars of comparably equipped rivals in this hotly contested midsize-sedan class.  

Base price for the 2013 Altima 2.5 model is $22,280; it’s the price leader of the line and comes with entry-level items such as a six-speaker audio system and plastic wheel covers. It’s available with just one option, floor mats.   

More desirable in the four-cylinder Altima category is the 2.5 S model, which is priced from $23,280. Equipped similarly – aside from the V-6 engine -- is the 2013 Altima 3.5 S model, which starts at $26,140. Among standard features on the 2.5 S and 3.5 S are cruise control, a power driver’s seat, and steering wheel audio controls. The 3.5 S adds 18-inch wheels and tires, plus the CVT paddle shifters.

Priced from $24,880 for the 2.5 SV and from $28,650 for the 3.5 SV, the 2013 Altima SV models add to the S models dual-zone automatic climate control, pushbutton ignition, leather-wrapped steering wheel, alloy wheels (17-inch on 2.5 SV, 18-inch on 3.5 SV), rearview camera, the NissanConnectSM with Pandora system, SiriusXM satellite radio, the 5-inch color audio display, and the USB iPod interface. The 3.5 SV also adds a moonroof, fog lights and HomeLink garage and gate remote.  

Altima’s top-of-the-line 2.5 SL models starts at $28,830 and the 3.5 SL at $30,860. They come with all the SL equipment, plus leather upholstery, Bose premium audio, additional power driver’s-seat adjustments, heated front seats and steering wheel, heated outside mirrors, LED taillights, LED outside mirror turn signals, premium interior trim, and automatic- dimming rearview mirror, among other features.

Among key options, the navigation package for the SV models is a particularly well-priced at just $590. The Convenience Package for the 2.5 SV costs $1,350 and the Technology Package for 2.5 SL and 3.5 SL models is $1,090. Remote start is a $325 option for 2.5 S and 3.5 S models.

2013 Nissan Altima Fuel Economy back to top

Altima's fuel-economy ratings once were in the upper range of the midsize class, thanks in large measure to the efficiencies of the CVT. Over the past few years, however, competitors have fine tuned engines, revised transmission gear ratios, and improved body aerodynamics while Altima has essentially tread water. The result: Altima's fuel economy ratings fell to roughly mid-pack among midsize non-hybrid cars.

Nissan, however, says the 2013 Altima returns to the top tier for midsize-class fuel efficiency thanks to the improved CVT, advances in the four-cylinder engine, improved aerodynamics, and lower rolling-resistance tires.

Official EPA ratings for the 2013 Altima were not released in time for this review but they should reflect Nissan’s preliminary estimates of 27/38/31 mpg city/highway/combined with the four-cylinder engine and 22/30/25 mpg with the V-6. By contrast, 2012 Altimas with the CVT rated 23/32/27 mpg with the four-cylinder and 20/27/23 with the V-6.

2013 Nissan Altima Release Date back to top

The 2013 Nissan Altima hits showrooms in July 2012.  Like previous generations, the new Altima will be assembled in Smyrna, Tenn., and Canton, Miss., with engines produced in Decherd, Tenn.

What's next for the 2013 Nissan Altima back to top

Given Altima’s history of redesigns, expect the fifth-generation Altima to have a lifecycle covering five model years, from 2013 through 2018. It likely will receive a freshening for model-year 2016, getting minor styling changes and perhaps mechanical updates. That lifecycle is of course dependent upon a variety of circumstances beyond Nissan’s control. But Altima is the company’s top-selling car and the automaker isn’t likely to risk falling very far behind its fast-moving rivals by delaying improvements to this popular midsize sedan.

It remains to be seen if demand and image building warrant the return of an Altima coupe body style, which was part of the 2012 lineup. If so, it likely would follow introduction of the sedan by one model year, debuting as a 2014 model. And Nissan probably will keep a close eye on consumer acceptance of the station wagon styled crossovers offered by its archrivals in the form of the Camry-based Toyota Venza and the Honda Crosstour.

If Nissan returns a two-door coupe to the 2013 Altima lineup it might again have a shorter body and wheelbase than the sedan. The outgoing coupe was abbreviated by 4 inches in wheelbase and about 7 inches in overall length compared to the sedan, giving it more maneuverability but cutting rear-seat legroom significantly.  

Among future engine possibilities, an Altima Hybrid would again come only as a sedan and feature for the first time a gas-electric hybrid system developed by Nissan; the discontinued 2011 Altima Hybrid borrowed its technology from Toyota engineering. Should the hybrid powertrain of Nissan’s Ellure Concept car be adopted, the system would consist of a 240-horsepower supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, a 35-horsepower (25-kilowatt) electric drive motor, a lithium-ion battery pack, and CVT that powers the front wheels.

Another possible Altima engine option could be the turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder found in the Nissan Juke compact SUV. This engine has direct fuel injection and paired with the turbocharger, achieves power equivalent to that of a 2.5-liter four, along with fuel efficiency equivalent to a 1.8-liter four.

2013 Nissan Altima Competition back to top

Toyota Camry: A model-year 2012 redesign helps keep America’s top-selling passenger car relevant as it faces the all-new Altima and the accompanying herd of freshened 2013 competitors. Camry virtues of refinement, roominess, reliability, and resale value will remain intact for model 2013. This is still a conservative-looking car inside and out, but it’s locked into a mission that calls for a balance of fuel economy, driving ease, and value. Four- and six-cylinder engines will return for 2013, along with a fine-performing gas-electric hybrid rated at 43/39/41 mpg city/highway/combined.

Honda Accord: Like Altima, Accord gets a full redesign for model-year 2013. This first all-new Accord since model-year 2009 is actually slightly smaller than the sedan it replaces. But it aims for the same generous cabin space and the same athletic feel that made previous Accords the most satisfying midsize family cars to drive. The 2013 Accord’s styling will be all-new and have a more contemporary flavor. And like Altima, the Honda will buck the all-four-cylinder trend and return four- and six-cylinder engines, though it will also feature a plug-in hybrid version of the sedan. The 2013 Accord line will continue with a sporty coupe body style, as well.   

Ford Fusion: A convert to the all-four-cylinder faith, the fully redesigned 2013 Fusion offers five engines, including two four-cylinder turbos from Ford’s EcoBoost engine family, plus a “conventional” gas-electric hybrid and the Fusion Energi, a plug-in hybrid billed as the most fuel-efficient midsize car in the world. One of the EcoBoost engines also will offer an optional gas-saving start/stop system. This first all-new Fusion since model-year 2008 taps Ford’s global design strategy to share its basic structure and engineering with Ford Mondeo sold overseas. That gives it running gear designed to meet demanding European driving standards to go along with new styling that’s a sleek departure from the outgoing model’s blocky look.

UPDATED BY CHUCK GIAMETTA

2013 Nissan Altima Next Steps