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2014 Nissan Altima Review By Steve Purdy

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By Steve Purdy

Michigan Bureau

The Nissan Altima, built in Smyrna, TN, fits squarely into perhaps the most competitive segment of the U.S. automotive market, the mid size family sedan category. With front-wheel drive (all-wheel drive not an option) independent suspension all around, 4- or 6-cylinder power, generous room for five and base price close to $20,000 it must compete head-to-head with Malibu, Fusion, Sonata, Optima, Camry, Accord, Chrysler 200, and a few others. Sonata and Optima do not have a 6-cylinder option but offer a turbo 4 that does the same job.

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Our sparkly-brown (they call it Java Metallic) test car is the SV trim level (top level but one) showing a base price of $24,340. (The entry-level car starts at just over 22 grand.) For that price we get the 2.5-liter engine with CVT, 17-inch alloy wheels shod with Michelin tires, trip computer, power driver’s seat, rear-view monitor, dual-zone climate control, Intelligent Key system with remote start, push-button start, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, automatic headlights, chrome dual exhaust outlets and lots more stuff. Overall content, we think you’ll find mostly matches the competition. Our test car has the Convenience Package for $1,300 (one-touch window controls, rear AC vents, moonroof, fog lights, folding outside mirrors, cargo net and a few other goodies) and the Technology Package for $1,090 (navigation system with 7-inch color display, blind spot warning, lane departure warning and moving object detection). Our sticker shows a bottom line of $27,800.

Altima was updated for 2013 and new for 2014 is the latest iteration of the NissanConnect apps and infotainment system that is compatible with iPhone and Android smartphones. Otherwise the car is virtually unchanged from last year’s model.

Exterior style and design fits in the mainstream with enough character to make it distinguishable to those who pay attention to automobiles. But for those who say all cars today look alike because they don’t pay much attention to them, the Altima might be an example they would use since its profile, stance and overall look breaks no new ground.

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Interior design is pleasant, efficient and comfortable. A conventional layout with little gimmickry, nice but not especially high-line materials and a flawless execution (fit and finish) make this an attractive and uncomplicated place to spend time. We find no trendy stitching or superfluous trim, just decent quality plastics and metal. The USB and auxiliary input ports conveniently reside in a covered bin at the front of the console, base of the center stack. We do not have leather, or faux-leather, seats and interior trim (except the leather-wrapped steering wheel) and the textured black fabric on the seats and door panels do not call attention to themselves.

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Powering our Altima SV is Nissan’s trusty 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, without any exotic enhancements like direct injection or turbocharging, making 182 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, mated to an efficient but wheezy CVT (continuously variable transmission). Nissan pioneered CVTs and the company uses that technology on most of their sedans. This one is well developed with electronics that allow it to feel like a conventional automatic under some circumstances. Nissan claims a zero-to-60mph time of just under 8 seconds.

Acceleration feels a bit tepid on normal driving and you don’t notice the wheeziness. On hard acceleration we have more than adequate umph for most any situation but then we really feel what some of us (mostly driving enthusiasts) find the starkness of a CVT. For most drivers, however, the efficiency more than outweighs any unpleasantness. EPA ratings show 31 mpg in the city and 38 on the highway. In our mixed driving environment this week we easily managed 33.4 mpg, a very good number for a midsize sedan considering my driving style. With that mileage capability the 18-gallon fuel tank makes for an exceptional cruising range.

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Speaking of the size, Altima’s interior volume and seating dimensions are very close to those of a full size sedan, including stable mate Maxima. The driver’s seat boasts a range of movement greater than most and would easily accommodate the average hoop star. Rear seat room is generous as well. We had back seat passengers this week who raved about not only the roominess but the seating position as well. Rear seatbacks fold (not all the way flat) for some extra cargo flexibility but the pass-through space limits the size of cargo you could slip through there.

Altima’s overall driving dynamics will please almost everyone. Suspension is a bit firm but that, along with a sophisticated independent rear suspension geometry makes for some of the best handling in the class for those who like to drive with some enthusiasm. Steering is precise with just the right amount of resistance. And, the chassis feels admirably stiff and always under control. The ride is smooth and the cabin is as quiet as any.

Nissan’s warranty covers the car for 36 months or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

One of my evaluation criteria when reviewing a car relates to how I would like to live with this car if I owned it. The answer to that question, in this case, is that I would be fine with that – not excited, not giddy, but content. Altima’s price, content, style and performance makes a fine balance.

If you are shopping in that segment, you should certainly have the Altima on your list.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved