Power188 HP / 180 LB-FT
Curb Weight3,329 LBS
As Tested Price$34,475
For the new generation, the Altima wears much more taut sheet metal with a bold grille and trendy floating roof. Under the skin is a new platform and two engine options, a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter inline-4 making 188 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, or the turbocharged variable-compression 2.0-liter inline-4 from Infiniti making 248 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are coupled to a CVT, and the 2.5-liter engine is available with optional all-wheel drive. Our version was a top-level Platinum with the 2.5-liter engine and all-wheel drive.
The driving experience is fine. The 188-hp four cylinder is quick enough from launches and the CVT is non-offensive. The steering is a little numb, but the suspension is well-calibrated for a comfortable, though not floaty ride. The Altima is in a tough segment. I like its looks, but would favor the Honda Accord, Mazda 6 and perhaps the Chevy Malibu over the Nissan for the completeness of their executions, inside and out. Regardless of your pecking order, the Altima is competitive and worth a look, even if it's not class-leading.
Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: While I wouldn't choose it over the Mazda6 or, probably, the Honda Accord, I do like the Nissan Altima – for the most part. It's got a nice interior with interesting and quality materials (though I'd opt for something other than the fake wood trim). I love the look of the leather and the stitching. The steering wheel looks sporty. The seats are comfy. I found the infotainment system easy to use, and especially appreciated being able to customize the screens and move modules around — similar to Honda. I love how calm and quiet the ride is. It's pretty economical on fuel, and is even offered with Nissan's excellent VC-Turbo engine technology (though our car had the 2.5-liter inline-four).
There's just one thing that drove me absolutely nuts when I drove it. The steering.
On center, the steering is completely anesthetized, and has what feels like too much play. Outside of that dead, zone, though, the steering is almost too quick to react. While the car tracks pretty well on its own, the nature of this steering makes small corrections difficult. It creates a tendency to correct late, and then overcorrect. This had me twitching around in my lane a lot more than I'd liked.
Apart from the steering complaint, it'd be a solid choice for the segment. I'd suggest any potential customer test drive the competition as well, particularly at freeway speeds — there are better all-around options that don't have sloppy steering. If you like the Altima, and can get used to the steering feel, more power to you.
Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale: This new Altima doesn't seem remotely related to its predecessor, and that's a great thing. And even against the midsize sedan competition, it does an admirable job. It's impressive in several respects: The ride quality is excellent, soaking up bumps quietly and smoothly. And it doesn't trade agility for comfort, as it will change directions quickly and confidently.
The powertrain is solid, too. The naturally aspirated four-cylinder is adequately powerful, and the CVT works surprisingly well. It reacts quickly, helping the engine feel peppier than it is, and it keeps the revs extremely low most of the time so that the cabin is quiet and the fuel consumption is low. There's even all-wheel-drive available or the VC-Turbo four-cylinder, a Tech of the Year finalist.
It's just let down by its overboosted steering, which doesn't tell you anything useful about the road. But spending more time with it, I did find it to be accurate and reasonably precise, so I gradually adapted to it. The problem is that vehicles such as the Accord deliver everything the Altima does, but with a more engaging helm.
As for the rest of the car, it looks fairly attractive, though I feel like some elements such as the grille and rear pillar are a little too extreme for the rest of the design. The interior is spacious and the controls feel good and are easy to use. The materials are on the cheap side, though, particularly the fake wood. Fix the steering and optimize the interior, and the Altima could be one of the best in class. For now though, it's just a bit behind the segment leaders.