New Car/Review

Nissan

NISSAN ALTIMA SE (2000)

SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide

By Matt/Bob Hagin

Nissan Full Line Video footage (8:30)
SPECIFICATIONS
     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 18,640
     Price As Tested                                    $ 22,423
     Engine Type              DOHC 16-valve 2.4 Liter I4 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 146 cid/2389 cc
     Horsepower                                   155 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               156 @ 4400 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  103.1"/69.1"/185.8"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     2983 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  15.9 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                              205/60R16 H-rated
     Brakes (F/R)                                     Disc /disc
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            21/31/27          
     0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          16.0 seconds @ 84.5 mph
     Top speed                                           110 mph

     * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

(Nissan is in the eighth year of production with the Altima. Matt Hagin says it's the replacement for the Stanza of the '80s. Bob Hagin one was in the family fleet for a while before it was wrecked.)

MATT - With its last body being redesigned only two years ago, it's understandable that the 2000 Altima has had only minor changes. Its an architypal four-cylinder front-wheel drive economy car that seems to improve over the years. Nissan is well-know for its engineering creativity and this year it was able to squeeze a little more fuel mileage and power from the little 2.4 liter engine that powers all models of the Altima. It still has two cams in the cylinder head and 16 valves so the increases are partly due to small things which pumped the power up to 155 horses. As an example, the Altima engine uses aluminum valve lifters and a more advanced intake manifold design. These are the kinds of small innovations which Nissan uses in its development of its Infiniti V8 IRL engine It's one of the two production-based engines used by International Racing League (IRL) racing teams. I guess being involved in top notch racing has its rewards and it's a plus to be able to pass those on to the consumer.

BOB - As I tested our SE Altima on the twisty back roads we use to wring out test cars, the acceleration felt good but I noticed more understeer than I remember on the older version. Maybe some tire pressure changes would help. With the option of the 205/65R H-rated 16-inch tires and wheels Nissan adds two stiffening bars atop the front struts to tie them together. It's hard to believe that even with the final gear ratio lowered to provide more zip, the car's fuel milage specs could raise to 23 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway. We noticed an average of around 27 miles over all. Since the Altima design is pretty much as it was before most of the changes for '00 can't be seen. There's a reduction in interior noises because of the additional insulation that's been put behind the panels. The Altima is a bright spot in the Nissan sales picture. Nissan sold almost 150,000 of them in '99 and it's understandable. The car has a great reliable record and it's on the entry-level side of Nissan's offerings although it's one step up from Nissan's Sentra line. This puts the Altima in the tough mid-sized category and the car is at a disadvantage in that it doesn't offer a V6 engine and never has. The increased performance would be more on the order of "bragging rights" because the car doesn't suffer from poor performance especially when it carries the five-speed stick shift transmission like the one that came in our SE model test car.

MATT - There's four trim levels on the Altima. The first is the XE or base model and the next up is the GXE with some additional convenience extras. The top two of the line are the GLE and the SE. The SE is the hot-rod version while the GLE is more on the luxo side. All Altimas come with a five-speed manual transmission but with a optional four-speed automatic. The exception to that rule is the top-of-the-line GLE which comes with the automatic only and no manual transmission available. I was disappointed that there was no four-wheel disc brakes offered, not even on our sporty SE test car.

BOB - I not a big fan of leather and it's optional only on the two upper trimmed Altimas. The extra $300 for leather could better be used on something practical like the optional front seat side airbags. They're standard only on the GLE and not even offered on the Base XE. The back seat is tight for two adults let alone three. The XE also loses out on the rear seat pass-through that I always find handy when transporting long items like skis. I found the sunvisor extenders to be very useful and so were the adjustable lumbar supports up front. The big 205/65R16 H speed rated tires make twisting roads fun especially when they're coup[led with the manual transmission but the dinky emergency spare keeps the owner from doing a five-way rotation.

MATT - Dad, in this age of convenience, not many drivers do their own tire rotations anymore and most owners don't even know how to use the jack that comes with the car.

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