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Heels on Wheels - 2012 Nissan Altima Review

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2012 Nissan Altima

SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyers Guide - Specs, Prices and Comparisons

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

A stalwart in the mid-size sedan market, the Nissan Altima is a solid pick for those who require their five-passenger vehicle to present bolder style and snazzier four-cylinder or V6 engine performance than what you typical find in an often sedate segment.

I drove a 2012 Nissan Altima with the smaller 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with Nissan’s Xtronic, a six-speed automatic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with manual mode. Available in three main trims and two engines – a base 2.5 and 2.5 S trim and a 3.5 SR with a 270-horsepower V6 engine – my 2.5 S trim came with the following standard features: push-button start; a six-speaker sound system; and cloth trim seats. Optional equipment included a $1,350 Convenience Package (power driver’s seat, alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel with mounted controls and Bluetooth), a $1,150 Convenience Plus Package (moonroof, dual-zone climate control, integrated turn signal in side mirrors), plus a few other components, for a total price of $26,320 with destination charges.

I compared last year’s model to its Camry counterpart, with results coming in at a draw thanks to equally appreciated performance and convenience features between the sedans. However, much can change in a year, and a lot of it happened to the redesigned Camry that now sports racing-inspired performance components and tougher exterior fascia. There are also the Kia Optima and sister vehicle the Hyundai Sonata to contend with that have skyrocketed sedan style, infotainment technology and power expectations.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: The Altima delivers secured seating support and an excellent cabin canvas to distribute options upon. I’ve always found it necessary to include Nissan packages to not so much achieve an upscale cabin feel as much as to try to avoid a sense the interior has been sparingly put together. Many of the Convenience Package items should built into my mid-level trim and price. Otherwise, controls and buttons located on center console are conveniently laid out and very driver-centric with an overall well-proportioned cabin. Second row is roomy with amble cargo or truck space.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Altima ratings of “Good” in frontal offset and side impact tests, but “Acceptable” in roof strength. Smaller cars, like the Juke, Cube and Leaf, fair better with the IIHS and are Top Safety Picks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the vehicle an overall rating of 4-Stars, with side crash testing fairing the best.

Cost Issues: The base S starts at $20,550, a respectable price for the commendable four-cylinder performance. For $21k, the base Optima gives you that Bluetooth and steering wheel mounted controls pieced out in Altima packages, along with a comparable six-speaker stereo but with XM Radio, a cooling glove box, fog lights, and a dual exhaust with a chrome tip.

Activity & Performance Ability: Acceleration with the four-cylinder is a strong plus, as the Altima digs deeper than behaving sprightly but instead delivers vigorous uphill and on-ramp results. However, the droning noise from the automatic CVT cuts into its aggressive ambiance. The suspension supports comfort more than sporty handling, but the Altima still has taut handling characteristics.

The Green Concern: Nissan dropped the Altima Hybrid version this year, so no more green choice here. The four-cylinder gets 23 miles-per-gallon city, 32 highway and 27 combined with the CVT; the V6 engine gets 20 city and 27 highway. The Camry’s recently refined 2.5-liter four-cylinder now has a two more miles-per-gallon gain for 28 combined.

The 2012 Nissan Altima remains a solid performer matched with stealthy looks, but is posed to be outshined by rising sedan stars like the Optima, Sonata and the newly redesigned Camry that offer arguably sportier results and better-positioned trims.

2012 Katrina Ramser