Nissan Altima 2007-2012: problems, lineup, fuel economy, pros and cons

Updated: January 21, 2020

The 2007-2012 Nissan Altima offers a snug, comfortable interior and sporty handling with a solid road feel. The Altima comes as a sedan or coupe, with a 4-cylinder or V6 engine.

Nissan Altima 2008 interior
Nissan Altima interior.

Transmission choices include a six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

The interior is sporty and nicely finished. Front seats are comfortable and supportive. The steering tilts and telescopes. Available features include Push Button Start, Bluetooth, HID headlights and Navigation with Rear-view camera. The Nissan Altima is one of the most fuel-efficient family sedans. What are the reported problems?

Nissan Altima problems: Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) can be troublesome, especially in the Rust Belt due to corrosion at the tire pressure sensors. Replacing a tire pressure sensor is not very expensive. ($120-160)
A faulty brake light switch can cause a variety of problems, including a no-start. This problem is easy to diagnose as the brake lights stop working when the switch goes bad. The repair is also not very expensive.

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A leaking oil cooler gasket is often reported. The oil drops appear on the passenger side of the engine. The repair costs $250-370.
Loose exhaust heat shields can produce rattling noises from underneath the car; the common fix is to secure the heat shields with worm gear clamps.
Several owners reported the brake master cylinder leaking brake fluid. Nissan issued Voluntary Service Campaign PC125.
Noisy brakes are not uncommon.
A bad wheel bearing can cause a humming noise noticeable at high speed. The noise gets louder when changing lanes. The replacement of the wheel bearing costs from $280 to $400.

2008 Nissan Altima
2008 Nissan Altima

Nissan has also issued the Electronic Steering Column Lock (ESCL) Service Campaign. Check for recalls at the NHTSA website.

Lineup: The 2007-2012 Altima sedan was offered in base 2.5, 2.5 S, 2.5 SL trims with a 4-cylinder engine and 3.5 SE, 3.5 SL (3.5 SR from 2010) with a V6, as well as Hybrid. The 2010 Nissan Altima hybrid is rated at 35/33 mpg (6.7/7.1 L/100 km) city/highway.

Engine: The base 170-hp 2.5L 4-cylinder DOHC QR25 is good on gas and has decent power. Overall, it's a good engine; it can last long with proper maintenance.
The praised 270-hp 3.5L V6 VQ is strong, smooth and refined. The VQ engine has been used in many other Nissan vehicles since the early 00's and is proven to be very reliable.

Timing belt or chain: Both the 2.5L 4-cylinder engine and 3.5L V6 have a timing chain; there is no timing belt. The timing chain doesn't need to be replaced at regular intervals.

EPA Fuel Economy: mpg
city/hwy
L/100 km
city/hwy
2007-2010 Altima Hybrid 35/33 6.7/7.1
2010-2012 Altima sedan 4-cyl auto 23/32 10.2/7.4
2007-2009 Altima sedan 4-cyl manual 23/32 10.2/7.4
2007-2009 Altima sedan 4-cyl auto 23/31 10.2/6.9
2008-2011 Altima coupe 4-cyl auto 23/31 10.2/6.9
2010-2012 Altima sedan, coupe V6 auto 20/27 11.8/8.7
2007 Altima sedan V6 auto 20/26 11.8/9.0
2007,2008 Altima sedan V6 manual 19/27 12.4/8.7
2008-2009 Altima coupe, sedan auto V6 19/26 12.4/9.0
2009-2012 Altima coupe V6 manual 18/27 13.1/8.7

Fuel Economy: The 2007 Altima with a 4-cylinder engine and a CVT transmission is rated at 23/31 mpg (10.2/7.6 L/100 km) city/highway, which is better than most family sedans. For example, the 4-cylinder, automatic Toyota Camry gets 21/30 mpg; the 4-cylinder auto Honda Accord is rated at 21/31 mpg.
The 4-cylinder Altima with a CVT gets an estimated 522 miles (840 km) on one 20-gallon (75.6 liters) fuel tank in mostly highway driving. The V6 Altima is rated at 20/26 mpg (11.8/9.0 L/100 km) on premium gasoline.

Mechanical: The Altima has disc brakes on all four wheels. Antilock brakes were optional on 2007 4-cylinder model, standard on the V6. Electronic stability control was optional in early models, standard on all trims from 2010.

What is a Continuously Variable Transmission: The CVT uses a steel belt running on two pulleys that can vary in size, changing the gear ratio continuously, without shifts.

Nissan Altima 2.5L 4-cylinder engine

Nissan Altima 2.5L 4-cylinder engine.

2008 Nissan Altima hybrid rear seat

2008 Nissan Altima hybrid.

The main benefit of the CVT is that the engine RPMs stay in the most fuel-efficient range. The CVT is commonly known for its 'rubber band' effect, however, Nissan CVTs are more refined, especially in V6 models. Read more: Pros and cons of buying a car with a CVT transmission.

Handling and ride: The Altima handles well, with a good road feel. The ride is firm, but not punishing. The 4-cylinder engine is a bit noisy on acceleration; otherwise, it's a fairly quiet car.

Safety: The 2007-2010 4-door Altima received five stars in government frontal crash tests. In side-impact crash tests, 2007-2010 models received five stars for driver protection. Rear passenger protection scores varied between four and five stars. In tougher NHTSA crash tests introduced in 2011, the 2011 and 2012 4-door Altima received four stars in frontal- and five stars in side-impact crash tests. Check Safercar.gov for details.

Pros: Sporty styling in and out, originally looking coupe, good handling, above-average reliability, crash test scores, fuel economy for 4-cylinder models.

Cons: Rear seat space is average for the class, the CVT is the only automatic choice, troublesome Tire Pressure Monitoring System.

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Overall: As of January 2020, only the 2009, 2011 and 2012 Altima were rated 'Better than average' by Consumer Reports. There were some issues with the CVT transmission, although the CVT warranty has been extended for some model years. Read more on this page of the Nissan USA website. Overall, it's a nice car to drive, but if the transmission fails and it's out of warranty, the repair will be expensive. Some owners report paying over $4,000 for the CVT replacement, and that's a lot.

What to look for when buying a used Nissan Altima: Check all the accessories inside: the air conditioner, windows, the audio system, etc. During a test-drive, watch out for a whining or humming noise that is more noticeable at higher speeds; it could be caused by the CVT.

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A humming noise from the wheel area that is more pronounced at higher speeds can also be caused by a bad wheel bearing; replacing a wheel bearing could cost from $350 to $500. See if the driver's seat shifts during turns, there are some complaints about this issue. If the engine rattles at a cold start, avoid the car. Read more: How to inspect a used car - illustrated guide. It might be a good idea to pick the Altima model without the Tire Pressure Monitoring System. Before buying, have the car properly inspected by a mechanic.

Maintenance: The CVT transmission requires genuine Nissan CVT fluid. The 2010 Altima Owner's Manual says:

Using transmission fluid other than Genuine NISSAN CVT Fluid NS-2 will damage the CVT

Nissan recommends using premium gasoline for early V6 models; check your owner's manual. If your car doesn't start with a push start button, check if the brake lights work. If the brake lights don't work, have the brake light switch checked. Follow this link if you need to download an electronic owner's manual. Here you can check the maintenance schedule.

2011 Nissan Altima specifications (4-door sedan)

Dimensions:
Overall length:
Overall width:
Overall height:
Wheelbase:
190.7 in (4,844 mm)
70.7 in (1,795 mm)
58.0 in (1,473 mm)
109.3 in (2,775 mm)
Cargo Volume: 15.3 cu. ft.
Engines:
4-cylinder:


V6:


2.5L, 16-valve 4-cylinder DOHC
with Continuously Variable Timing Control, model QR25DE
175 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 180 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm

3.5L, 24-valve V6 DOHC with
Continuously Variable Timing Control, model VQ35DE
270 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Recommended Fuel:
Unleaded regular 87 AKI
Fuel Tank Capacity:

20 US gal (75.6 liters)

Engine oil capacity with filter:
Oil Change including filter:
QR25DE:
VQ35DE:

4-7/8 US qt. (4.6 liters)
5-1/8 US qt. (4.8 liters)
By Samarins.com Staff