Used Vehicle Review: Nissan Altima, 2007 2012 used car reviews reviews nissan
2009 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL. Click image to enlarge

I tested a 2009 four-cylinder/CVT sedan that averaged 9.7 L/100 km, and James Bergeron got 9.9 L/100 km in a 2008 four-cylinder CVT coupe. Jil McIntosh got 8.8 L/100 km out of a 2012 Altima coupe with the V6 and CVT. Bergeron also tested a 2007 Altima Hybrid, which averaged a disappointing 7.5 L/100 km. Jil McIntosh also drove an Altima Hybrid, to an observed average of 6.8 L/100 km.

This fourth-generation Altima continues a trend of so-so build quality that began with the 2002 model. Noisy, quick-wearing brakes, interior squeaks and rattles and a driver’s seat that doesn’t stay tight in its tracks are common complaints, according to both Consumer Reports and TrueDelta.com.

There are a few more serious matters to be aware of, too.

Leaking brake master cylinders are a common problem.

Used Vehicle Review: Nissan Altima, 2007 2012 used car reviews reviews nissan
2009 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL. Click image to enlarge

The Altima Hybrid’s Toyota-sourced components are generally robust, but there’s a known problem of failed inverter cooling pumps. The inverter regulates power flow to and from the battery; if it overheats and is damaged, it’s a very expensive part to replace. This thread is from a Toyota Prius forum, but talks of the same problem (which, to my knowledge, is the Prius’ only serious reliability flaw).

A much smaller percentage of owners report failed CVTs; again, CR notes the same, but only in 2007 and 2008 models. On a related note, Nissan issued a service bulletin in 2011 to address complaints of surging in CVT-equipped vehicles, including the Altima. Here’s another discussion among Altima owners over weird CVT behaviour, including the aforementioned surging and rattling noises. This discussion at Edmunds.com contains many complaints about the surging phenomenon, and others about CVTs that make a “lawn tractor” sound.

Nissan manufactures its own CVTs through its own JATCO subsidiary, which also sells transmissions to other automakers.

Used Vehicle Review: Nissan Altima, 2007 2012 used car reviews reviews nissan
2007 Nissan Altima 2.5 S. Click image to enlarge

Crash safety is strong, with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) granting the 2007-2012 Altima the organization’s ‘good’ rating for both frontal offset impact and side crash protection. From the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Altima sedan got five stars for frontal and side impact protection, while the coupe got four stars for frontal crash protection.

As base models go, the Altima sedan is among the less expensive mid-sized import sedan to buy used, according to Canadian Black Book, with used values that undercut those of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, but come in higher than those for a Hyundai Sonata or a popular domestic like the Chevrolet Malibu.

The Altima is a comfortable, easy-driving car, but any enthusiast joy is reserved for the SE-badged six-cylinder models. Of these, the manual transmission is the best choice, as the CVT (which was standard with the V6 in later years) doesn’t generate much excitement.

In spite of its known problems, the Altima earns Consumer Reports “good bet” used vehicle rating. Knowing what I know, I wouldn’t go quite that far, but I would suggest that an Altima that comes with complete service/maintenance records, showing evidence that the known problems (especially the potential brake cylinder leak) have been addressed, could be a solid family sedan for the price.

Pricing

Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) March, 2012:

Year
Model
Price today
Price new
2011
Nissan Altima 2.5 S sedan w/automatic, alloy wheels, power driver’s seat
$21,225
$25,298
2010
Nissan Altima 2.5 S sedan w/automatic, alloy wheels, power driver’s seat
$17,750
$25,098
2009
Nissan Altima 2.5 S sedan w/automatic, alloy wheels, power driver’s seat
$16,175
$24,498
2008
Nissan Altima 2.5 S sedan w/automatic, alloy wheels, power driver’s seat
$13,700
$25,698
2007
Nissan Altima 2.5 S sedan w/automatic, alloy wheels, power driver’s seat
$11,375
$25,598

Online resources
  • AltimaForums.net, NissanClub.com and NissanForums.com all break the fourth-generation Altima into its own discussion section. Meanwhile, NicoClub.com and NissanForum.org lump all four generations into a single section. Topix.com and Edmunds.com both have healthy Altima discussions. GreenHybrid.com and Edmunds.com have dedicated Altima Hybrid discussions.

    Recalls
  • Transport Canada Recall Number: 2007203; Units affected: 9,284

    2007: On certain vehicles, if a sufficiently hot object (i.e. cigarette ash) enters the air filter housing through the engine fresh air intake system, the air filter may ignite. This could result in an underhood fire causing property damage and/or personal injury. Correction: Dealers will replace the air filter with a revised version possessing improved anti-flammability characteristics. In addition, an air deflector will be installed in front of the air intake opening to reduce the intake of debris.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2008363; Units affected: 12,880 (includes other models)

    2007-2008: On certain vehicles, a varistor in the Occupant Classification System (OCS) control unit located in the passenger seat cushion may have been manufactured incorrectly. Under certain conditions, this could cause an interruption of signal between the OCS and the Airbag control unit (ACU). This could result in the passenger airbag being suppressed. The (red) supplemental airbag warning light would flash & the (amber) front passenger airbag status light would illuminate to alert the vehicle operator, however in case of a crash a suppressed airbag could result in personal injury or death. Correction: Dealers will test the signal between the OCS & ACU and if necessary will replace the seat cushion containing OCS hardware.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2008363; Units affected: 12,880 (includes other models)

    2009-2010: On certain vehicles, the metal upper strut insulators may have been manufactured incorrectly and, as a result, could fail. In the worse case this could allow the strut rod to come out of its mounting position, adversely affecting vehicle handling. This could result in a vehicle crash causing property damage, personal injury or death. Correction: Dealers will replace the front strut insulators.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2012056; Units affected: 30

    2012: On certain vehicles, the side curtain airbag inflators may have been incorrectly manufactured and, as a result, one or both airbags may not deploy as intended. Failure of a side curtain airbag to deploy during a crash (where deployment is warranted), could increase the risk of personal injury to the seat occupant. Correction: Dealers will inspect and, if necessary, replace one or both side curtain airbag assemblies.

    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

    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.

    For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.