It took a while for the Nissan Altima family sedan, introduced in 1993, to establish itself in the American marketplace and become popular with the public. The first two generations enjoyed only moderate success. The third-generation, which includes the 2002 Altima, has undergone several upgrades and redesigns to increase its appeal. It is available in four trims: Base, S, SL, And SE and comes with a good collection of standard convenience and safety features.
Body Styles: sedan
Engines: 2.5-liter four-cylinder, 3.5-liter V-6
Transmissions: five-speed manual, four-speed automatic
Models: Nissan Altima, Nissan Altima S, Nissan Altima SL, Nissan Altima SE
The 2002 Nissan Altima was completely redesigned. It got a new, optional, 3.5-liter, V-6 engine and a new four-wheel independent suspension. The cockpit was redesigned to be more driver-friendly and the interior was made roomier to increase passenger comfort.
Exterior features for the 2002 Nissan Altima includes: 16-inch steel wheels, variable intermittent windshield wipers, privacy glass, rear defogger, and power door locks and windows. The S trim adds power mirrors and a remote trunk release. The SE trim replaces the steel wheels with 16-inch alloy wheels and adds remote keyless entry.
This sedan has an aggressive exterior styling when compared to the Japanese competition. The wheels are located near the four corners for a wide stance and better handling. The grille and front bumper protrude slightly, but they are nicely accentuated by multi-parabola projector-beam headlights with four bulbs that are set behind large triangular covers. The sloping roofline looks more like a coupe than a sedan. The high trunk line showcases bold, round taillights and turn signals. The trunk has a large opening for easier loading and unloading.
The interior features of the 2002 Nissan Altima includes: tilting/telescoping steering wheel, velour upholstery, front bucket seats, and a split-folding rear seat. The S trim adds air conditioning and cruise controls mounted in the steering wheel. The SL trim adds leather upholstery, universal remote transmitter, air conditioning, eight-way power driver’s seat with manually-adjustable height and lumbar settings, and audio and cruise controls mounted in the steering wheel.
The instruments in the cockpit are deep-set and brightly back-lit so you can read them in the sunlight. The redesigned dashboard is laid out to conveniently place the audio and climate controls within the driver’s reach. The material quality of the cabin is subpar and the manual shift is crudely constructed. The doors have large openings for easier entry and exit. The front seats are comfortable and supportive with good head and legroom. Head and legroom in the rear seating area is limited, especially for taller passengers. The rear bench seat is not wide enough to comfortably seat three adults. The overall look of the interior is conservative yet stylish.
Performance & Handling
The 2002 Nissan Altima has two powertrains: a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that gets 175 horsepower and a 3.5-liter, V-6 engine that makes 240 horsepower. You can get either engine mated with a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic. It sits atop a four-wheel independent suspension.
The V-6 engine provides good acceleration and takeoff power and the four-cylinder engine produces adequate power. The four-cylinder engine is noisy, but the V-6 engine operates quietly and produces only a low growl at full throttle. The ride in the SE is firm due to the performance tires, but it was not jarring; the ride quality in the other models was smooth and the bigger bumps were adequately absorbed. The steering is good, but the car pulled to one side during rapid acceleration, a phenomenon known as torque steering, with the V-6 engine. With a turning circle of 37.4 feet, maneuvering in tight spaces is difficult. Models equipped with anti-lock braking system have good stopping power, but the other models displayed instability during panic stops.
Standard safety features for the 2002 Nissan Altima includes: dual front airbags, engine immobilizer, ventilated front disc/solid rear disc brakes, electronic Brake force distribution, and emergency interior trunk release. All models except the base can get the optional side/curtain airbags.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Altima four stars for frontal crash protection for front passenger and driver, side rear passenger, and rollover protection, and three stars for side driver impact protection.
EPA Fuel Economy
Nissan Altima Base: 20/27 mpg city/highway
Nissan Altima S: 20/27 mpg city/highway
Nissan Altima SL: 20/27 mpg city/highway
Nissan Altima SE: 19/24 mpg city/highway
- Conveniently-placed, easy-to-use controls
- Powerful V-6 engine
- Lots of standard features
- Distinct new shape
- Decent acceleration from the V-6 engine
You Won't Like
- Subpar material quality
- Vague steering
- High step-in with near-useless narrow side steps
- Engine noise from the four-cylinder engine
A refined family sedan with lots of features and roominess, and great performance.
If You Like This Vehicle
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