• (3.5) 51 reviews
  • MSRP: $1,232–$6,248
  • Body Style: Sedan
  • Combined MPG: 23-26
  • Engine: 175-hp, 2.5-liter I-4 (premium)
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel Drive
  • Transmission: 4-speed automatic w/OD
2002 Nissan Altima

Our Take on the Latest Model 2002 Nissan Altima

2002 Nissan Altima Reviews

Vehicle Overview
Rather than merely touching up its Altima sedan, Nissan has moved it to a brand-new platform with markedly greater dimensions for 2002. As a result, the formerly compact Altima has leap-frogged right past the midsize category and now qualifies as a full-size model by cars.com standards. A V-6 engine is available for the first time, but about 80 percent of Altimas are expected to retain four-cylinder power. The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, Nissan’s archrivals in this category, also sell far more four-cylinder models than V-6s.

The 2002 Altima went on sale in September 2001, and Nissan expects to sell 190,000 units annually, in contrast to recent totals of 140,000 to 150,000 per year for the previous Altima. Nissan expects the four-cylinder 2.5 base model to grab about 1 percent of sales, while the 2.5 S edition should draw about 63 percent of total Altima buyers.

Nissan views the 2002 version as a “conquest” vehicle, which is able to capture shoppers who might otherwise select a different car. The target audience is younger and more affluent than those who bought Altimas in the past.

Exhibiting a cab-forward profile, the Altima looks — and is — bigger all around in its fresh form. The wheelbase has grown by 7.1 inches to 110.2 inches, and its overall length has increased by 5.7 inches, now stretching to 191.5 inches. Its width has grown by 1.3 inches, and the 2002 Altima stands 2 inches taller than its predecessor. But its weight has increased by only 70 pounds.

Boasting particularly long side windows, the cabin looks huge compared to the car’s hood and trunk. Door handles are at different heights, following the distinctive full-length bodyside character line. Taillights are said to have been inspired by “super bikes.” A fully independent suspension is used, and Nissan says structural rigidity has improved by 170 percent. Four-cylinder models get 16-inch tires, but V-6 sedans ride on 17-inch rubbers.

Seating for five occupants includes separate front seats and a three-place bench in the back. The front-seat hip point has been raised by 1.5 inches for improved visibility, and interior volume is 10 percent greater than in the prior Altima. Models with the automatic transmission use a gated gearshift.

Standard equipment includes power windows and door locks, a tachometer, electric rear defroster, fold-down rear armrest, tilt/telescoping steering column and an illuminated entry system. The 2.5 S model adds cruise control, a CD player, air conditioning, remote keyless entry and power mirrors. The 2.5 SL gets leather-appointed seats, an eight-way power driver’s seat, eight-speaker Bose premium audio system with an in-dash CD changer, and a Vehicle Security System. The 3.5 SE with V-6 power has a six-speaker CD audio system. Options for the 3.5 SE include a rear spoiler, high-intensity-discharge (HID) headlights and a Leather Package.

Under the Hood
The base engine is a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 180 horsepower, 25 horses more than the 2.4-liter engine it replaces. Standard on the 3.5 SE sedan is a 240-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 that is similar to the one in the larger and more luxurious Maxima. Either engine can mate with a five-speed manual or a four-speed-automatic transmission, and premium fuel is recommended. Traction control is available for V-6 Altimas with the automatic transmission. Antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats and roof-mounted side curtain-type airbags are optional.

Driving Impressions
More refined with an automatic transmission than with a manual shift, which is a bit on the clanky side, the Altima steers with a rather light touch. The sedan is stable on the road — even when driven through repeated tight curves — and it exhibits minimal body lean. Ride comfort is satisfying as the fully independent suspension deals adeptly with bumps and holes in the road, but the Altima tends to feel a little “harder” all around than its more cushy Maxima cousin.

Strong performance from the V-6 engine matches excellent response from the automatic transmission, which downshifts promptly and eagerly for passing. Acceleration is even more energetic with the five-speed manual. Seats feel comfortable and pleasantly supportive, and the Altima comes across as tightly constructed.


Reported by Jim Flammang  for cars.com
From the cars.com 2002 Buying Guide

Consumer Reviews


Average based on 51 reviews

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Oil burns fast

by joeyc1999 from Brunswick on October 16, 2017

If your a mechanic and you know of these cars, if you can maintenance this car accordingly it will serve you well. By doing this you will be forced to put money into, which is fine every used car even... Read Full Review

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4 Trims Available

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Wondering which configuration is right for you?
Our 2002 Nissan Altima trim comparison will help you decide.

Nissan Altima Articles

2002 Nissan Altima Safety Ratings

Crash-Test Reports

IIHS Ratings

Based on Nissan Altima 2.5 Base

Moderate overlap front

IIHS Ratings

Based on Nissan Altima 2.5 Base

G Good
A Acceptable
M Marginal
P Poor

Moderate overlap front

Left Leg/Foot
Overall Front
Right Leg/Foot
Structure/safety cage


Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers. IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in high-speed front and side crash tests. IIHS also evaluates seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts.

NHTSA Ratings

Based on Nissan Altima 2.5 Base

Overall Rollover Rating

NHTSA Ratings

Based on Nissan Altima 2.5 Base

Overall Rollover Rating
Front Seat
Rear Seat
Side Barrier Rating Driver
Side Barrier Rating Passenger Rear Seat
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. NHTSA provides vehicle safety information such as front- and side-crash ratings and rollover ratings. Vehicles are rated using a star rating system from 1-5 stars, with 5 being the highest.


There are currently 12 recalls for this car.

Safety defects and recalls are relatively common. Stay informed and know what to do ahead of time.

Safety defects and recalls explained

Service & Repair

Estimated Service & Repair cost: $5,000 per year.

Save on maintenance costs and do your own repairs.

Warranty Coverage

What you should get in your warranty can be confusing. Make sure you are informed.

Learn More About Warranties

Warranties Explained


Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.


Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

Roadside Assistance

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

Free Scheduled Maintenance

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

Other Years