2021 Nissan Altima and 2021 Nissan Sentra earn Top Safety Pick awards

New headlights illuminated the path for two of Nissan's bestselling sedans to earn at least a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS, the automaker announced last week.

The 2021 Nissan Sentra compact sedan earned a Top Safety Pick in certain trims, while the 2021 Nissan Altima mid-size sedan earned the non-profit safety group's highest honor with a Top Safety Pick+ on any trim. 

The Altima aced all six crash tests with a "Good" rating that complements its top five-star rating from the NHTSA. The insurance-industry funded IIHS commended the Altima's standard automatic emergency braking system as "Superior" in avoiding crashes with other vehicles in 12 mph and 25 mph tests. The system had a harder time slowing down to avoid dummy children in crash tests of 25 mph, earning an "Advanced" rating for pedestrian detection.

It was the improved headlights, however, that earned the Altima its "+" designation this year. Both the halogen lights on the base S model, and the LED projector lights on every other trim were "Acceptable" at illuminating long distances and curves, while not causing excessive glare to other drivers. 

The 2021 Altima joins the 2021 Honda Accord, 2021 Mazda6, 2021 Subaru Legacy, 2021 Toyota Camry, and 2020 Nissan Maxima for getting highest honors in the mid-size sedan class. 

The headlights on the 2021 Nissan Sentra were not as effective, though it aced crash tests and had the same ratings on its driver assist systems as the Altima. Only Sentras equipped with the Premium Package on SR and SV trims qualified for the Top Safety Pick award. The base S trim and top SR trim had "Poor" headlight ratings. The LED projector headlights in the Premium Package illuminate the night much better, but that package costs $2,270, or about 10% of the otherwise reasonably priced $21,385 Sentra SV, including destination. 

Most of the Sentra's compact sedan competition rated similarly, getting TSP awards conditionally based on optional headlights. 

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