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History of the Nissan Altima

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Front view of 2021 Nissan Altima driving on windy paved road next to silver guard rail with trees in the background
2021 Nissan Altima
Photo: Nissan

Nissan first introduced the Altima in 1993 to contend in the extremely competitive midsize sedan segment. Since its introduction, the Altima has given other vehicles a run for their money, becoming one of the top sellers in the segment.

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Early history and updates

The Altima is a continuation of Nissan’s Bluebird line, which was first introduced in 1957 and ran until 1992 when it received the “Altima” name. (It was originally called the Stanza Altima, but Nissan dropped the first part.) The Altima was marketed as more luxurious than the Sentra but slightly smaller than the Maxima — perfect for those indecisive drivers. When it debuted, the Nissan Altima was offered in four different trim levels: XE, GXE, SE, and GLE.

It was only 5 years until the Altima entered its second generation in 1998, with updates in the following years including a roomier cabin, a revised cassette/CD stereo, and increased engine power. In 2002, the Altima was undergoing changes yet again. The body styling slowly started to become more modern, but it wouldn’t be totally changed until the fourth generation in 2007. The model’s fifth generation began in 2013 and the Altima was equipped with a powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine and more tech updates in its cabin.

A blueish green 1995 Nissan Altima parked in a cul-de-sac within a neighborhood
The Altima has come a long way since this 1995 model
Photo: Bamman via CC

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Recent generation

The Nissan Altima entered its sixth generation in 2018 with even more modern styling, advanced driver-assist technology, and a compression turbo engine. The current 2021 model gets an exceptional 39 mpg on the highway and can still manage 248 horsepower. And thanks to all of that safety technology that’s been added over the years, the 2021 Altima was named a Top Safety Pick Plus by the IIHS.