The sales battle in the mid-size sedan segment has become a four-horse race. We’re used to seeing the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord alone at the top, but over the last couple of years the competition has really heated up. The Ford Focus made waves, as has this week’s dazzling test car: The Nissan Altima.
Sure, it’s not the sexiest beast on the road, but the Altima is turning heads for other reasons, which is why it has vaulted into the top four in sales (top three in some charts).
For 2013 Nissan hasn’t changed much in terms of power. Instead, they focused on spritzing up the interior, and to that end they succeeded. What was once a rather ordinary car is now a real player.
I’m a big fan of Infiniti, which is Nissan’s luxury vehicle division, and it’s apparent that a lot of the attention to detail has filtered down to the Altima. It begins with extremely comfortable seating, thanks to NASA. Yes, seriously. Nissan used research data from the space folks to design seats that provide varying levels of support to the back and pelvis. What they’ve essentially done is create a “zero-gravity” form of seating, one that mimics the body’s natural position in a weightless environment.
That means it’s really comfortable.
But the rest of the interior is equally well-designed. The cockpit is laid out in a convenient manner, with upgraded materials to rival a more upscale label. The only knock might apply to the rear headroom, but that’s a minor black mark. Overall you’ll find the Altima’s standards quite high.
Then there’s the ride. Depending on your choice of trim style, you’ll get up to 270 horsepower (in the SL’s V6 engine), and that power is delivered in a quiet, comfortable ride.
Another eye-opener is the mileage. Choose the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and you’ll enjoy about 38 mpg on the highway, and a very respectable 27 in the city. Even my test vehicle - the V6 SL - pulled an average of about 25 mpg.
Nissan has quietly rolled up its sleeves and taken on the big boys at Toyota and Honda, and it’s paying off. Car magazines are gushing over the Altima, and I’m right there with them. If you’re hungry for a classy mid-size sedan that delivers a good balance of power, comfort, handling, and gas mileage, this could be the one you’re looking for.
Reviewed by Dom Testa. Car supplied by the manufacturer.