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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

Four years since my last Altima test drive, Nissan gives this economical mid-size sedan another routine makeover for the model year featuring updated styling, safety technology and the addition of a sportier SR trim. Underneath the hood is the same 182-horsepower 2.5-liter still yielding excellence fuel economy at 31 miles-per-gallon combined.

I drove a 2016 Nissan Altima with the 182-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired to Nissan’s Xtronic six-speed automatic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with manual mode. Available now in five main trims – base, S, the new SR, SV and SL plus two engine choices – my more modest SV trim came with the following standard features: eight-way power driver’s seat; zero-gravity front seats; five-inch color display; rearview monitor; XM Radio; NissanConnect; Bluetooth; Siri Eyes Free with voice recognition; remote start; push-button start; Rear Cross Traffic Alert; Blind Spot Warning; fog lights; seventeen-inch wheels. Total price as described came to $25,460 without options.

Competitors include the also affordable Kia Optima, sister vehicle Hyundai Sonata, and the sportier Mazda6, but extends to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Nissan has designed some of the most comfortable seating on the market with their “zero gravity” claim – take it from someone who experiences sacrum spine back pain as the ride feels extremely smooth and pleasant. Optional equipment for my test drive included a $1,350 Convenience Package (moonroof, rear AC vents, one-touch power front windows); a $580 Navigation Package (upgraded seven-inch touchscreen with voice recognition ability); and a $500 Cold Weather Package (heated front seats, heated steering wheel) – nothing really too notable (and some of which you really shouldn’t pay extra for) plus the technology in general pales to what many competitors are putting out.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Altima ratings of “Good” all impact tests making it a Top Safety Pick (the Optima and Mazda6 are also recommended sedans). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the vehicle an overall rating of 5-Stars.

Cost Issues: Low prices remain an attraction draw for the Altima, with the base starting at $22,500. Additional packages to my 2.5 SL test drive raised the overall price to $28,935. A base Mazda6 Sport trim starts at $21,495; the mid-level Touring at $23,945; and a recent Grand Touring test drive at $30,195.

Activity & Performance Ability: Strong four-cylinder acceleration remains the Altima’s major performance asset, as the Altima steps up with vigor on hills and when launching into the open freeway. Handling characteristics are also a bright spot. However, the Optima and sportier Mazda6 can make the Altima’s road attitude appear mild and archaic, as these sedan competitors are capable of more notable pickup due to smarter performance mechanics like the Mazda6’s high-performance SKYACTIV technology – best to hit speeds of 70 miles-per-hour on your test drive to see how you really feel about the Altima. Adding safety technology isn’t much of a headline, but it is important Nissan has made it available for this sedan.

The Green Concern: Nissan dropped the Altima Hybrid version and put its green focus on the Maxima. Fuel economy stats are 27 miles-per-gallon city and 39 highway for a combined 31 miles-per-gallon, which makes the Altima a draw for many commuters.

Still a tad behind the class curve, strengths for the 2016 Nissan Altima include fuel economy, safety, price and very comfortable seats – unfortunately competitors offer a more enticing edge on in-car technology and overall driving experience.

©2016 Katrina Ramser

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