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SEE ALSO:Nissan Buyer's Guide

The Altima is Nissan's newest model, and it has the distinction of being both designed and built right here is America. Introduced in late 1992 as a 1993 model, the Altima was styled by Nissan Design International in San Diego, California. Nissan Research and Development, Inc. in Farmington Hills, Michigan, also played a significant role in its development and in the involvement of domestic suppliers in producing the finished product. The Altima is built by Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corporation U.S.A. in its recently-expanded plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. Almost $500 million was spent to add or improve the necessary facilities for producing this four-door midsize sedan. To assure top-quality production as well as close fit and finish tolerances this ultramodern plant uses the patented computer-controlled Intelligent Body Assembly System that was originally developed for the upscale Infiniti models.

The Altima is available in a choice of four trim levels: the base XE, the popular high volume GXE, the sporty SE, and the top-of-the-line GLE. All Altimas are powered by a four-cylinder, 2.4 liter, double overhead cam, 16-valve, multiport fuel injected engine that develops 150 horsepower. A similar version of the versatile engine is used in the newest Nissan 240SX Sport Coupe.

We gave the popular GXE version a thorough test by driving it up and down I-5 from northern to southern California and back, plus many city miles in between. Here are my recollections:

APPEARANCE: The Altima was a distinct change for Nissan design when it first appeared. Its importance and influence can now be seen in the newest Maxima. The cabin is the most prominent part of the car. This not only states the importance of the passengers and their comfort but provides very good visibility from inside. The 1995 Altima may be distinguished from earlier models by its new grille and slightly different taillight treatment. Its oval shape and smooth rounded lines are unchanged as are its side rub strips, bright side window trim and Goodyear Eagle GA touring tires.

COMFORT: Nissan calls the Altima "the affordable luxury car." If comfort can be equated with luxury, they may be on to something. A well-designed interior using quality materials, good control placement and adequate passenger roominess makes the inside of the Altima a pleasant place to spend the day. Interior material is largely nylon velour and naugahyde, with a tasteful use of walnut veneer for a touch of luxury. All important gauges are right in front of the driver and easy to read. Climate and radio controls are easy to reach and use, and both work well to maintain a comfortable cabin environment. Standard and value option equipment on the GXE includes power windows, door locks and side mirrors, tilt steering, dual cupholders, and remote trunk and fuel door releases. The back seat has a central pass-through for long items like skis, or 2 x 4's, while the spacious trunk has a low liftover height for easy access.

SAFETY: Besides having good brakes, handling, and engine response for active safety, the Altima has both driver and passenger-side air bags. Three point seat belts are on all outboard seats, and the front shoulder belt anchors are adjustable for height. Steel side-guard door beams are built into the doors. In case of an accident both the steering column and bumpers are constructed to be energy-absorbing.

ROADABILITY: The Altima GXE strikes a very good balance between ride and handling. It's four- wheel independent suspension uses an improved control system and is anchored to a very rigid chassis. This not only allows good road feel without appreciable torque steer but insures that in heavy head and cross winds the Altima will hold its line and provide a smooth, comfortable and quiet ride. It's accurate handling and maneuverability promote active safety and a pleasant driving experience.

PERFORMANCE: The 150 horsepower, 2.4 liter, four-cylinder, 16-valve inline engine used in all Altimas also delivers a good amount of torque. In fact it has plenty of low-speed power for town and traffic driving and matches very well to the optional four-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission on our test car. This transmission lets the Altima move smartly away from a stop, and deliver good power for passing and merging. Also, it can cruise all day at any highway speed and return close to thirty miles per gallon while doing so.

CONCLUSIONS: The development of the Altima and the subsequent improvement of its American production facilities signaled Nissan's intent to build high quality automotive products in the U.S. on a long range basis.


           Base Price              $ 15,799
           Price As Tested         $ 17,379
           Engine Type             I-4, dohc 16v, smpfi*
           Engine Size             2.4 liter/146 cid   
           Horsepower              150 @ 5600
           Torque (ft/lbs)         154 @ 4400
           Wheelbase/Length        103"/181"  
           Transmission            4-speed automatic w/od
           Curb Weight             2970
           Pounds per Horsepower   20  
           Fuel Capacity           16
           Fuel Requirement        Unleaded regular  (87 octane)
           Tires                   Goodyear Eagle GA  P205/60R15 all-season
           Brakes                  anti-lock optional  vented disc/drum
           Drive Train             front engine,  front drive
           * - Sequential multiport fuel injection
           EPA Economy - miles per gallon,        
             city/highway/observed          21/29/27.6  
           0 to 60 mph                      9.5
           1/4 mi (E.T.)                    16.9 sec           
           Coefficient of drag (cd)         .34