Family saloons have never really been seen as cool or fun to drive. Honda and Toyota have pretty much ruined the family saloon image. Nissan however is trying to change all of that with the Nissan Altima. It's roomy, stylish and offers a suprising level of kit for the money. Can the Altima bring style and substance to the dull market of family saloons?
Performance: There's a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 179hp, and a 3.5liter six-cylinder with 270hp. The pick of the bunch is the 2.5S. There's a great balance of performance, fuel economy and price. The six-cylinder engine is smooth, but feels overwhelming to the car's chassis.
Ride & Handling: The Altima offers decent handling if you don't push it hard. The six-cylinder models offer a sports suspension that makes them more of a kick to drive. You'll either love or hate the ride comfort. It feels floaty even on the bumpiest of roads. Trade-off is the suspension soaks bumps up really well, but there's body roll and not much driver entertainment. The steering feels lifeless and leaves the driver feeling disconnected from the car and road.
Refinement: Wind and road noise is well supressed in the Altima. The transmission sounds buzzy when accelerating from standstill. But once you rev the engine, you'll hear a sporty exhaust noise. But it fades away quickly and continues to pull strongly. There's little noise from the suspension.
Buying & Owning: The Altima is more stylish than its rivals. If you stay clear of the V6 and ignore the base trim level, you'll find a Altima that's reasonably priced and holds its value well. The hybrid offers a fuel economy benefit and tax credit. However, the higher asking price and rarity of the vehicle makes it harder to find at dealer lots.
Quality & Reliability: The Altima has excellent fit and finish inside out. The interior feels logical and well laid out. There's all your controls within easy reach. All the plastics used look and feel like they will last long hard use. Mechanicals shouldn't give any worries as Nissan has excellent reliability record. With above average customer satisfaction scores on JD Power Survey.
Behind the wheel: Some drives may not like the front seats. They lack upright seating position, which makes the driver feel like they're sitting further away from the steering wheel than desired. The seats are comfortable, and there's reach and height adjustments for both the steering wheel and seating.
Space & Practicality: There's plenty of room for five passengers. The trunk has an old fashioned hinges, which eats into the cargo space. The rear seats offer plenty of room for two, there's room for three. However, the third passenger will have to make do with sitting on the transmission tunnel.
Likes: Roomy interior, peppy range of engines, slick shifting transmission, well balance of refinement and quality.
Dislikes: Ride often feels floaty, lifeless steering, front seats don't offer upright seating comfort.
Overall: The Nissan Altima presents an excellent alternate to the class leaders. While there are other rivals that offer more driving satisfaction and extensive safety kit. You'll like the Altima's charm and the low asking price for such a stylish well made vehicle.