1993 Nissan altima SE
1993 Nissan Altima SE

By Bob McHugh

The Altima could be dubbed the “American” Nissan as it was the first car to be designed and built in the USA by a Japanese-based company. A five seater family sedan with modest sporty appeal, a good reputation for reliability and a great used car purchase!

The 1993 Altima replaced the Stanza in the Nissan product line-up and although a shade smaller it competes with other family sized import sedans like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Initially it came in three trim levels XE, GXE and SE. And partway through the year a fully-loaded limited production GLE was also added.

Billed as the affordable luxury sedan even the basic XE version came with a pile of goodies that normally cost extra, such as cruise control, an AM/FM cassette deck, power mirrors and a tilt steering column. The GXE came with more power features, upgraded upholstery and trim, and the first CFC-Free air conditioning system available in Canada.

Stepping up to the SE you got a sport-tuned suspension, anti-lock brakes and a couple of neat features not offered on the current generation Altima, rear wheel disc brakes and a limited-slip differential. Nissan pioneered the use of a viscous coupling type limited slip differential on a front-wheel-drive vehicle and it greatly improves the Altima’s drive traction on slippery surfaces.

The GLE came with leather upholstery and another unique feature borrowed from fighter aircraft, a heads-up display (HUD) that projects speedometer readings, turn signals and other warning lights onto the windshield. In ’94 the GLE went from being a limited edition to being a fully-fledged trim level offering.

Changes over the years included a second air bag on the passenger side that became standard on all versions in ’94. A minor redesign in ’95 saw a new front grill and monochrome taillights. And the limited slip differential was added to the optional ABS package on the ’96 Altima GXE.

No changes were made under the hood where a 2.4 litre twin cam, 150 horsepower, 4-cylinder engine has been the one-and-only power unit. And it’s a pretty good one, that’s also used in the 240 SX sports car. Fuel consumption is rated at 9.9 L/100 km in the city and 7.2 L/100 km on the highway with the 5-speed manual transmission. A 4-speed electronically controlled automatic (shared with the Maxima) was also an option.

Both the 1993 and ’94 Altima have a throttle cable that can pull out of its’ housing (due to engine movement) and prevent it returning to the idle position, when the gas pedal is released. The only other recall on record is for a faulty seat belt, with a brittle buckle base, on the ’97.

The Altima’s distinctive sloping tail-end is a pleasant alternative to the high-back wedge designs so common these days. It’s also a tight and generally rattle-free body which was put together by 51 laser accuracy checked robot welding process called IBAS (Intelligent Body Assembly System).

A success right from the get-go, Altima sales doubled its predecessor, the Stanza, during its first year on the market and sales doubled again in the second. A winner of the JD Power best in class for quality awards in 1996 and ’97, Altima has a lot offer and is a highly desirable used car purchase.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

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