Nissan Altima’s have been given a number of comfort, safety
and performance-related upgrades for 2000, including revised front and rear
styling, an increase in horsepower from 150 to 155, new optional side
airbags, and a new Acceleration Sensitive Damping system that automatically
adjusts suspension damping. The Altima’s base price remains the same as last
Cheaper and more powerful than its rivals, but still the underdog
The Nissan Altima has been playing underdog to the popular Honda Accord and
Toyota Camry since it was first introduced in 1993. While a decent car in
its own right with some distinct advantages such as more standard horsepower
and a lower base price, the Altima has yet to challenge the Accord and Camry
That’s not for lack of trying. The Altima has won numerous automotive
awards, including Best-in-Class in J.D. Power and Associates’ Initial
Quality Study three of the past four years, IntelliChoice’s “Best Overall
Value” winner for five straight years, and Consumer Digest’s “Best Buy” four
It may be unrelated, but unlike Accords, Camry’s, and 626’s, the Altima
doesn’t offer an optional V6 engine. Nissan’s marketing strategy is to
deliberately divide its four and six cylinder models – the four cylinder
Altima and the six cylinder Maxima. This seems to work well for the Maxima
which is the best-selling vehicle in its class, but I’m not sure it helps
the Altima. Altima buyers can’t move up to a V6, and as a result there are
simply less Altima’s on the road which tends to make it look as though
they’re not as popular..
Anyway, that’s my theory.
Revised Appearance, Inside and Out
To give the Altima some extra panache before its next major redesign, Nissan
made a few important appearance, comfort and safety-related changes for
The 2000 Altima has new one-piece wraparound headlamps with integrated turn
signals, a new front grille, bumper, and revised rear taillights. Sporty SE
models have a more aggressive lower bumper design, and SE and GLE models
include new clear lens foglights.
In addition, the front-end has been lowered by 7 mm to give the car a
slightly more ‘wedgy’ profile. The revised front and rear-ends have added 53
mm (2.1 in.) to its overall length, so the proportions have changed
slightly. The new Altima looks a little more streamlined, and a little more
sporty, but not substantially.
Inside, the Altima receives new front seats with improved cushions and
seatbacks, upgraded seat cloth for GXE and SE models, and a new instrument
cluster which includes a liquid crystal display odometer with dual trip
There’s also a new center console with bi-level storage, a new overhead
sunglass compartment, and dual rear cupholders (when equipped with automatic
transmission). Also new is a vehicle immobilizer security system, redesigned
sunvisors, and optional HomeLink garage door/home lighting transmitter.
To make the Altima quieter, Nissan added expandable foam inside the
windshield pillars, thicker front side glass, and new foam seals in the
engine compartment. To reduce wind noise, the outside mirrors were
redesigned as were the roof rails, and front doors. Revised suspension
mountings and driveshaft design have also reduced mechanical vibrations.
In addition, to increase body rigidity, Altima models with 16 inch wheels
(SE, GLE, optional GXE) have new rear tunnel braces and new front strut
Subtle Refinements to Engine
The Altima’s standard 2.4 litre DOHC four cylinder engine now develops 155
horsepower at 5600 rpm, up from 150 horsepower. This engine remains the most
powerful base four cylinder engine in the mid-size import car class. Nissan
claims the extra horsepower lops off 0.8 seconds from its 0 t 60 mph time.
To achieve the extra horsepower and torque, Nissan changed the engine’s cam
profile, and added aluminum valve lifters, reshaped intake valves and
reduced valve spring rates. The exhaust manifold was modified, and exhaust
system backpressure was reduced. New long-lasting dual-tipped platinum spark
plugs with 160,000-kilometre service intervals were added too.
The improved acceleration was also achieved by changing the gear ratios in
the standard five-speed manual transmission and optional 4-speed automatic.
First through third gear ratios were revised on the manual transmission, and
the automatic transmission has a revised electronic shift schedule.
A 5-speed manual transmission is standard on Altima XE, GXE and SE models,
and a 4-speed automatic is standard on Altima GLE and optional on the rest.
Changes to the 2000 Altima’s suspension include new front strut tower brace
on 16-inch wheel models, increased front and rear stabilizer bar diameters,
increased front and rear spring rates, and on SE models, new low profile
16-inch tires (205/55R16).
In addition, Altima’s with 16 inch wheels have a new feature called
Acceleration Sensitive Damping. Developed by Monroe Shocks specifically for
the Altima, ASD consists of special struts that automatically adjust damping
firmness using an oil flow bypass valve to reduce compression damping at a
preset vertical acceleration (0.5g). The goal of the system is to improve
handling without sacrificing ride quality.
As before, all Altima’s have a 4-wheel independent strut suspension with
coil springs and what Nissan calls ‘Super Toe Control’, a passive form of
four-wheel steering which steers the rear wheels in the direction of the
front wheels during cornering.
To give the Altima a slightly firmer, sportier steering feel, 2000 Altima’s
have a refined power steering pump and steering gear.
Altima XE, GXE and GLE models have standard front disc/rear drum brakes,
while SE models have 4-wheel disc brakes. Anti-lock brakes are optional on
GXE, SE and GLE models, but not available on XE models.
New Side Airbags
Standard safety equipment includes second generation dual front supplemental
air bags, as well as child safety rear door locks, child safety anchors and
pipe-style steel side-door guard beams. Every Altima features 3-point front
and rear seat belts (now including the center rear position) with standard
pretensioners on the height-adjustable front belts.
New for 2000, front seat supplemental side-impact air bags are now offered
as standard equipment on the GLE model and optional on GXE and SE models. An
immobilizer is optional on GLE and SE models.
My test car was an Altima SE equipped with a standard 5-speed manual
transmission and the new Acceleration Sensitive Damping system. On
acceleration, the SE doesn’t pitch backwards as much as other Altima models,
and seems generally flatter and more stable when cornering. Combined with
its stiffer, ‘sport-tuned’ independent suspension and low-profile 16-inch
tires, the Altima SE handles very well, and is fun to drive on a twisty
road. At the same time, it offers a very comfortable ride – a good
compromise between performance and ride.
The Altima’s standard 155 horsepower 2.4 litre DOHC 16 valve four cylinder
engine has a 6300 rpm redline which it approaches willingly and quickly with
a muted growling sound. I found the revised engine to be generally quieter
with fewer vibrations than last year’s engine. Highway cruising is
comfortable and quiet with the engine doing just 2300 rpm at a steady 100
km/h. The Altima’s standard 5-speed manual transmission offers smooth,
medium length throws, however moving from 1st to 2nd gear is stiffer than
with other gears.
Its standard four wheel disc brakes with ABS provide grippy, powerful
braking performance. The Altima’s outward visiblity is generally very good,
but like most mid-sized import sedans, the high trunk lid reduces visibility
when backing up.
Models and Prices
The entry-level 2000 Altima XE starts at $19,998, the same price as the 1999
model. Standard equipment includes a five-speed manual transmission,
195/65R-15 inch tires, AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers, cloth upholstery,
power windows with automatic-down for the driver’s window, cruise control,
tilt steering wheel, power mirrors, intermittent wipers, front centre
armrest, tachometer, dual cup holders, height-adjustable front seatbelts,
and immobilizer key system.
The popular Altima GXE model, priced at $22,698, adds the following features
to the XE’s standard features: air conditioning, 60/40 split folding rear
seatbacks, 8-way adjustable driver’s seat, simulated woodgrain trim, power
door locks and remote keyless entry with panic alarm, variable intermittent
wipers, upgraded seat cloth, rear centre armrest, and wider P205/60R-15 inch
Sporty Altima SE models, which start at $25,598, add a sport-tuned
suspension and the front strut tower braces, P205/55R-16 inch tires, rear
disc brakes and 4-wheel anti-lock braking system, alloy wheels, fog lights,
rear spoiler, titanium coloured gauges, leather-wrapped steering wheel and
shifter, sporty seat cloth, metallic dash trim, 8-way power driver’s seat
with adjustable lumbar support, AM/FM/CD and cassette player with six
speakers, and anti-theft system.
Top-of-the-line Altima GLE models, for $28,598, add such standard features
as a standard 4-speed automatic transmission, leather seats, side airbags,
power tilt/slide sunroof, and Homelink garage door opener.
A $915 freight charge is additional.
The Altima is at least a couple of thousand dollars cheaper than the Accord,
Camry and 626, and it still has the most powerful engine in its class. It’s
not quite as roomy as the Accord and 626, but it offers comparable comfort,
performance and fuel economy with its major competitors. If you’re looking
for a four cylinder import sedan, it should be on your comparison list.