First drive: 2019 Nissan Altima in the UAE
The past year has been major when it comes to midsize sedans — if you can call that niche major any more. All-new versions of the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord debuted in 2018, and their sales have already stagnated as consumers increasingly gravitate toward crossovers. Meanwhile, Ford and GM announced plans to kill off their sedan models in some markets entirely. That means the segment, shrinking or otherwise, will continue to be dominated by the Japanese, especially now that Nissan has debuted their all-new Altima.
Due to other work, I actually didn’t go to the media launch event myself, which started in the morning but only got to the driving bit late in the afternoon. So sub-editor Marouf, who did go to the event, drove the car over to our base in the middle of “old” Dubai when he finally got behind the wheel, because I was hugely interested in driving the car as well.
The 2019 Nissan Altima has completely changed, now sporting a Maxima-inspired exterior style that looks great in top-spec SL trim, with 19-inch alloys and standard dual exhaust tips. The platform has gained about 50mm of wheelbase, lost 20 kg and is stronger as well.
Inside, the new minimalist dashboard houses an 8-inch touchscreen on top, and surrounded by padded surfaces. The doors and centre-console sides are also well-padded, enhancing the premium ambience, although the window-line panels of the rear doors make do with hard plastics. The leather upholstery is done well, and extends to all the padded door inserts and armrests.
There is no shortage of cabin space, with good rear legroom and enough headroom for most people, although it’s a bit less than its Japanese rivals. The boot is immense, and the rear seats split-fold. All the typical cup-holders and storage spaces are also present.
Available features include a 9-speaker Bose stereo, navigation, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, LED headlights, sunroof, up to 6 airbags, ESP, blind-spot monitor with cross-traffic alert and motion detector, lane departure warning and prevention, forward collision warning and the excellent 360-degree parking cameras.
With the 248 hp 2.0-litre turbo option reserved for a summer debut, the sole engine on offer right now is the 2.5-litre 4-cylinder that’s undergone a number of upgrades, including gaining direct injection and other refinements, to bump up power to 188 hp at 6000 rpm and 244 Nm of torque at 3600 rpm.
The 2.5-litre motor is mated to the latest iteration of Nissan’s CVT automatic. It still has a bit of a rubber-band feel when moving from idle as well as full-throttle acceleration from low speeds, but once the revs get into the power band, the Altima just takes off with surprising zest. It’s probably the quickest car in its class.
The Altima’s ride-and-handling traits remain very similar to the old model, namely the overly-light steering feel and the noticeably firmer ride for its class. We prefer a bit more balance in these characteristics, but maybe Altima buyers prefer it the way Nissan has always done it since it’s been retained. Otherwise, the handling is generally stable with unflappable grip from the 235-width tyres in quick city-driving, with good brakes backed up by linear, well-weighted pedal feel. Aside from engine noise on throttle application, the highway drive is generally quiet.
After losing their way with the previous-gen Altima, Nissan once again has the most “youthful” offering in what is essentially a Japanese three-way competition for sedan dominance. It looks the most futuristic, is pretty quick for its class, and comes with all the gadgetry that kids want these days.
For prices and specs, visit the Nissan buyer guide.
Quick photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury.