2012 Nissan Altima

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Key Specs

of the 2012 Nissan Altima. Base trim shown.

  • Body Type:
  • Combined MPG:
    22-27 Combined MPG
  • Engine:
    175-hp, 2.5-liter I-4 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain:
    Front-wheel Drive
  • Transmission:
    2-speed CVT w/OD and auto-manual
  • View more specs

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Four-cylinder, CVT performance
  • Steering feedback
  • Gas mileage (four-cylinder)
  • Front-seat comfort

The Bad

  • Firm ride
  • Occasional drivetrain clunk (four-cylinder)
  • Backseat roominess
  • Drab tan interior
  • Backseat release straps in trunk

Notable Features of the 2012 Nissan Altima

  • Sedan or coupe
  • Standard four-cylinder
  • available 270-hp V-6
  • Continuously variable automatic transmission
  • Available iPod connectivity
  • Available navigation system

2012 Nissan Altima Road Test

Mike Hanley

If there's a model that epitomizes the concept of flying under the radar, it's the Nissan Altima. Often overlooked when the topic of family sedans comes up, it's quietly become one of the best-selling cars in the U.S. and is currently behind only the Toyota Camry, year-to-date.

The 2012 Nissan Altima remains a well-rounded family sedan that gets passing grades in many areas despite having few exceptional qualities.

We evaluated a 2.5 S sedan with an as-tested price of $24,450. Similarly priced competitors include the Toyota Camry LE and Honda Accord LX-P; to see a side-by-side comparison of these three cars, click here.

Ride & Handling
The Altima's ride quality is sportier than the family sedan norm. Some editors thought it was too firm, but I found it tolerable, though its body control isn't as good as the Volkswagen Passat's over bumps. The ride firmness might have been more appreciated were we testing the performance-oriented V-6 model as opposed to the mainstream 2.5 S.

The steering is well-executed. It provides nice weighting that strikes a balance between being overly heavy or light. There's actually a little steering feedback, too.

Four-Cylinder Performance
Nissan has embraced continuously variable automatic transmissions to a larger degree than most automakers, and the transmission is used in all versions of the Altima; neither a manual transmission nor a conventional automatic are offered.

The transmission brings out the best in t...

If there's a model that epitomizes the concept of flying under the radar, it's the Nissan Altima. Often overlooked when the topic of family sedans comes up, it's quietly become one of the best-selling cars in the U.S. and is currently behind only the Toyota Camry, year-to-date.

The 2012 Nissan Altima remains a well-rounded family sedan that gets passing grades in many areas despite having few exceptional qualities.

We evaluated a 2.5 S sedan with an as-tested price of $24,450. Similarly priced competitors include the Toyota Camry LE and Honda Accord LX-P; to see a side-by-side comparison of these three cars, click here.

Ride & Handling
The Altima's ride quality is sportier than the family sedan norm. Some editors thought it was too firm, but I found it tolerable, though its body control isn't as good as the Volkswagen Passat's over bumps. The ride firmness might have been more appreciated were we testing the performance-oriented V-6 model as opposed to the mainstream 2.5 S.

The steering is well-executed. It provides nice weighting that strikes a balance between being overly heavy or light. There's actually a little steering feedback, too.

Four-Cylinder Performance
Nissan has embraced continuously variable automatic transmissions to a larger degree than most automakers, and the transmission is used in all versions of the Altima; neither a manual transmission nor a conventional automatic are offered.

The transmission brings out the best in the four-cylinder. The Altima moves away easily from a stop and there's power to spare at midrange cruising speeds. It's great for around-town driving. Gas mileage is a respectable 23/32 mpg city/highway.

The drivetrain takes some getting used to, though. The transmission's lack of traditional gears leads to engine drone when accelerating hard, like when merging on the highway. On the other hand, the transmission's manual-shift mode is actually pretty responsive — more like a dual-clutch automatic than the average traditional automatic.

The sedan has little trouble keeping pace with fast-moving highway traffic, but at 70 mph there's not much power left in reserve, which isn't uncommon among four-cylinder family sedans. When you press down hard on the gas pedal, you get more noise than acceleration.

There was one quirk: After first putting the car in Drive, I could consistently count on a clunking sound when passing 25 to 30 mph. I wouldn't hear it again for the rest of the drive, but it returned again when starting a new trip. It didn't badly compromise the driving experience, but the presence of something like this in a relatively new car is a little worrisome.

The Inside
The Altima has room for five, but its cabin doesn't feel as spacious as some of its newer competitors, like the Passat. This is most evident in the backseat, which is reasonably comfortable for adults thanks to cutouts in the front-seat backrests that provide extra knee room.

The front bucket seats are comfortable, but our test car's cloth upholstery didn't look that great in Blond (light tan). The whole interior was finished in drab shades of tan, in fact, which made me wish for the Charcoal (black) color scheme. That said, cabin materials still rate well, and the controls are easy to use.

The trunk measures 15.3 cubic feet, which is respectable for this class, but Nissan created a less-than-ideal method of folding the standard 60/40-split backseat. Instead of traditional trunk-mounted knobs, you have to reach deep in the trunk and pull a strap to release each backrest section.

Safety
The Altima has been crash-tested by both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In IIHS testing, the Altima sedan received Good ratings in frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests and Acceptable ratings in the roof-strength and head restraint tests. Meanwhile, NHTSA awarded the Altima four out of five stars in its front-crash and rollover-resistance tests and five stars in its side crash test. Its overall rating is four stars.

Standard safety features include antilock brakes and an electronic stability system, which are required on all new vehicles as of the 2012 model year. Additional standard features include side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags for both rows and active front head restraints. Check out the Standard Equipment & Options page to see additional safety features.

Altima in the Market
The Altima's sales success might have industry-watchers scratching their heads, as the car hasn't had a full redesign since the 2007 model year, but its formula for success is no secret. Simply, it does well in areas that matter most to families: It's easy to drive, relatively fuel efficient and has a good reliability record. Add to that some enticing cash-back deals and it's no wonder the Altima is a popular choice for value-conscious families.

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2012 Altima Video

Cars.com's Mike Hanley takes a look at the 2012 Nissan Altima. It competes with the Chevrolet Malibu and Toyota Camry.

Latest 2012 Altima Stories

What Drivers Are Saying

Exterior Styling
(4.5)
Performance
(4.4)
Interior Design
(4.3)
Comfort
(4.4)
Reliability
(4.6)
Value For The Money
(4.4)

Latest Reviews

(5.0)

fun and fast

by MCENIX from Los Angeles on July 17, 2018

This car is so fun to drive and has everything you need. Added bonus, it gets great gas mileage. Excellent for highway driving, accelerates quickly. Comes with XM radio, backup camera, large trunk ... Read full review

(5.0)

Perfect for a college student.

by buymycar12 from FL on July 12, 2018

It was reliable. It got me through college driving all over the place. Repairs were never out of reach. Loved the car. The blond leather never got too hot in the Florida sun. Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2012 Nissan Altima currently has 4 recalls

Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

The 2012 Nissan Altima has not been tested.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Nissan

Program Benefits

24 Hour Emergency Roadside Assistance, Towing Assistance, Trip Interruption Benefits, 3-month free subscription to SiriusXM Satellite Radio on properly equipped vehicles, Complimentary CARFAX® Vehicle History Report™ and 3-Year CARFAX® Buy Back Guarantee

  • Limited Warranty

    7 years / 100,000 miles

    7-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty from original in-service date; $50 deductible
  • Eligibility

    Under 6 years / 80,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a 167 point inspection and reconditioning.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Altima received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

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.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

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.

What is included in 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).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

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.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker