When you’re shopping for a car, there are a lot of decisions to make and a lot of questions to answer. Do you want an SUV or a sedan? Do you want a new car or a used car? How much money are you willing to spend on your next vehicle? All of these questions can be overwhelming, so it is a big relief when you finally decide on a certain model that you know you want to be your next vehicle.
However, once you’ve picked a model, you have another decision to make. Do you want a model from the current model year or from a past model year? If you are in the market for either a 2020 or a 2021 Nissan Altima and are trying to decide between these two very similar models from different model years, keep reading to learn more about each of these models and the differences between the two to help you make your decision on whether a 2020 Altima or an all-new 2021 Altima is the best choice for you.
5 Changes to the 2021 Altima
These 5 changes basically sum up all of the minor updates, upgrades, and new features that differentiate the 2020 Nissan Altima from the 2021 Nissan Altima.
Limited All-Wheel Drive
For the 2020 Nissan Altima, all-wheel drive is available for every trim level—including the base S model. All-wheel drive is no longer available for the Altima S base model for the 2021 model year.
Narrowed Turbo Engine Availability
The standard engine for all 2020 and 2021 Nissan Altima models is a 2.5-L four-cylinder engine. For the 2020 model year, a more powerful turbocharged version of that engine is available on both the sporty SR trim level and the top-of-the-line Platinum trim level.
For the 2021 model year, however, this turbocharged engine is only an available option for the sporty 2021 Altima SR. It is no longer available for the Platinum trim level.
Shuffled Trim Levels
Confusingly, Nissan shuffled the trim levels of the Altima between 2020 and 2021. In order from lowest to highest trim level, the 2020 Altima is available in the base S trim, the SR trim, the SV trim, the SL trim, and the top-of-the-line Platinum trim level.
For the 2021 model year, the lineup of trim levels is exactly the same except for the fact that the SR and the SV trim levels switched positions in that lineup—which means that the SR trim level is now higher than the SV trim level for the 2021 Altima.
Driver Assist Package for Base Model
A brand-new Driver Assist package is available for the base S model Altima for the 2021 model year.
This Driver Assist package adds Nissan’s Safety Shield 360—which includes 6 advanced safety and driver-assist features—and a rear sonar system for safer and easier backing up to the 2021 Altima S for an additional $475.
The prices of some Altima trim levels did change between the 2020 and 2021 model years, but only slightly.
The base-model Altima S did not change in price at all. The 2021 Altima SL is actually $250 cheaper than the 2020 Altima SL. Because the 2021 Altima Platinum is now only available with all-wheel drive, it increased in price by $350 from the 2020 model year. The price changes between 2020 and 2021 for the Altima SR and the Altima SV are not significant enough to mention.
Which Altima Should You Choose?
If you are in the market for a base S model of the Nissan Altima and value athletic performance on the road, you are better off purchasing a 2020 Altima S than a 2021 Altima S. The base-model 2020 Altima gives you the option of all-wheel drive, whereas all-wheel-drive is no longer available on the base 2021 Altima S model.
It is also better to purchase a 2020 Altima if you value the power and agility that comes with the Altima’s available turbocharged engine but plan to purchase a trim level that is not the SR trim level, because the turbocharged engine is only available for the SR trim level for the 2021 model year.
However, if you plan to purchase a base S model Altima and are okay with front-wheel drive and prefer to prioritize safety instead, a 2021 model is likely the best choice for you. The price of the Altima base model remained the same between 2020 and 2021, but the base S model is available with its brand-new Driver Assist package—which only tacks $475 onto the price tag of this model.
The truth of the matter is, which Altima should you choose depends on your driving habits, budget, which features you prioritize in your vehicle, and which Altima trim level you plan to purchase.