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One reason midsize sedans have remained popular is the safety they offer. Though smaller cars are safer than they’ve ever been, it’s physics. A larger, heavier vehicle with a longer hood has a distinct advantage in frontal collisions. And one highly rated midsize sedan is the 2021 Nissan Altima. In fact, it just earned an important safety designation.

So, how safe is the latest Altima?

The Nissan Altima is a 2021 IIHS Top Safety Pick+

The latest Nissan Altima recently earned two major safety designations. It’s a 2021 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+. Plus, it earned an overall 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), achieving 4 stars on the frontal crash test and 5 stars on the side crash test and rollover evaluation. These are the highest ratings a vehicle can earn from the two agencies.

In addition to its safe design, the new Altima boasts many advanced safety features. It offers automatic emergency front braking with pedestrian detection, along with lane-departure warnings. The S to SV trim levels add blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear automatic emergency braking. And according to MotorTrend, the SL and Platinum models get the ProPilot Assist system. It can guide the car along the road using adaptive cruise control and lane-centering.

How the Nissan Altima earned the top IIHS award

For a new vehicle to earn a Top Safety Pick+ award, it must receive Good ratings in all IIHS crash tests. That includes the new passenger-side small overlap front test, which the organization added in 2020. The vehicle must also earn an Advanced or Superior rating for front collision prevention and a score of Acceptable or Good for its headlights. Trims with optional lights can earn the headlight score, but some lower or base trims might not earn the designations. All Nissan Altima trims earned Acceptable headlight ratings.

The vehicle must also garner Advanced or Superior ratings in both the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations for front crash prevention. The vehicle systems can be standard or optional and include features like automatic emergency braking and forward-collision alerts. An important consumer consideration when buying a safe car is which features are standard and which are optional.

More about this sedan’s excellent driver assists

The 2021 Nissan Altima earned such high safety marks thanks to several excellent active safety features.

The new Altima offers standard forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection. The system is designed to let drivers know if they’re too close to a car ahead. There are two levels of alerts, audible and visual, depending upon the situation.

The system activates the automatic emergency braking at various increments depending upon the collision threat’s severity. If a crash is inevitable, the brake assist system will apply maximum brake force. With pedestrian detection, a camera in the windshield watches so that the system can apply the brakes between speeds of 6 and 37 mph if it detects a person.

Nissan’s version of lane departure warning activates when the Altima drifts to the road’s centerline. A steering wheel vibration and a loud buzzing sound alert the driver. Once engaged, it’s not easy to deactivate.

The blind-spot warning system monitors the Altima’s blind spots to let the driver know when another vehicle is present via a light on the pillar next to the side mirror. That light flashes when the Altima detects another vehicle in that lane. An audible warning works with the flashing light to alert the driver when the turn signal is activated and the intended lane is occupied.

Last, when the 2021 Nissan Altima is in reverse, the rear cross-traffic warning uses sensors to detect vehicles approaching from the sides. It warns the driver with side mirror flashes and a chiming sound.