Nissan Altima test drive

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The Nissan Altima has been a very familiar face on our roads.
The current generation came out in 2012. So this is by no mean a new design. ( with a “facelift” for 2016)
But I think it still looks fine.
Kind of squeezed in between more conservative models like the Passat and Sonata, and sleeker ones like the Fusion or Optima.
Soon the all new Camry will be entering the market. And an all new Accord is just around the corner.
But the “aging” Altima is still a very popular choice in the US. With over 307 000 sold last year alone.
So, mid sized sedans are not dead yet…

 My test car was a loaded SL model.
It had a really nice color called “Storm blue”. With looked great. Especially with the tan/black interior.

 That interior is also familiar.
And there is really not much wrong with it.

The light interior color is very relaxing. It is just a very nice place to be.
Everything feels solid and tight. (Although not has much as in the Passat.)

And that back seat is really roomy.

Instead of the obvious fake wood finish (Or piano black), it looks like Nissan is trying something else (Like they do in the Murano)
This “kind of woodsy” finish actually matches very nicely the light interior.
While not obviously trying to look like wood.

I think it really works.
At least a new idea.

The seats are very comfortable. Also there is still a bit of a bump in the lower back area. (No matter how you tweak the lumbar support)
At least, it is a soft bump. ..

 The Bose stereo is, almost as usual, a bit disappointing. It does sound good, but nothing like what you’d  expect from “Bose”.

And the screen is now pretty small (that’s where you know the car came out in 2012)
The picture is pretty low-rez. And there is this annoying message.
Every time you plug your phone in. It doesn’t matter if you answer “yes’ or “no”
It’ll be there next time….

I know it’s a small thing. But it’s annoying.

I also noticed that the air conditioning worked very quietly. Even at full blast.
A nice detail.

 Of course it has a huge trunk.

 The very first thing I noticed (right after driving the GTI for a week) was the steering feel.
Wich is pretty artificial at first.
Which it is the case in most modern Nissans.
And after just a day or two. I actually got used to it….

Still. It has that “fake sporty” feel. Some Honda models have it too.
It’s just not as great as cars like the Ford Fusion with its remarkable steering feel.

The steering wheel itself is a bit skinny.
And you can feel a bit of vibrations when the engine is cold. Which does disappear when warmed up…

 Other wise, the car is very quiet. The engine itself isn’t the smoothest of all, but there is enough power that you never really need to push it.
The ride is very comfortable.
The CVT works great. No weird noises. Or strange behavior.

I think the Altima is still a very good choice when shopping for a mid sized sedan.
There is nothing really bad here. But nothing stands out either.
The  Fusion is a much more engaging drive.
The Passat is larger and feels like a tank.
There is a lot of competition. And these days, pretty much all of them are good cars!
Optima, Sonata, Malibu, Camry, Accord, Mazda6. Everyone seems to be in the mid-sized sedan game (Except poor Chrysler…) and everyone seems to be doing it right.
My test car was the loaded 2.5 Liter engine SL. 
It costs over $32 000. Not cheap. But really loaded.
And really, it kind of feels like what luxury sedans were just a few years ago….

Here is the whole story. Right here.
Click on it to open the door to numbers, lists, disclaimers. And more numbers!

Conversation 16 comments

  1. Vince, can you be more specific about the steering? Are you saying it is light, heavy, loose, needs constant corrections on the freeway? And what about handling? Did you do any of that or you just drove it…. straight?

  2. What would make you think I just drove it in a straight line if I mention the steering fell???
    And who drives a car just straight for a whole week???

    It is just weird. Hard to describe . Not at all natural.
    Not light. heavy in a fake way. But I have to say, it does not need correction on the freeway (since it stays pretty heavy)
    Once you get used to the weirdness, the handling is just fine.
    It is actually heavier at super low speed. When parking (Which doesn't make much sense…)

  3. Ok.

    So I know this is a rather petty complaint, but the interior door handles feel SO flimsy. Something you have to touch so often should feel a lot more substantial…

  4. I don't think this is a petty complaint.
    You are right. This is one of the parts we touch often.

    I just didn't notice it….

  5. Anonymous Anonymous said…
    This cars biggest weakness is the CVT transmission

    I'd disagree. The biggest issue(s) with this car
    – It's a Nissan (poor QC / long term reliability)
    – Average design
    – Poor steering (not just a Vince observation)
    – Average power

    Nissan brought their C+ game to an A+ category. Why anyone would buy this when there are MUCH MUCH MUCH better products for the same (if not better) price is beyond me.

  6. I guess it is in vogue for lots of folks to bitch about CVTs, as if the automatics were any better. Then they drive one and the say…oh…ok…I did not know. CVTs have come a long way guys. You need to get more often out of the house and drive one.

  7. I had one for a rental a few years ago. I loved everything about it except the "boat" feeling with the steering. I felt like it wanted to turn on a dime, but the suspension and tires keep it from doing so. The seats are the most comfortable of any car I've driven or ridden in. This is why they sell like hot cakes. I couldn't imagine paying $32,000 for something like this brand new though, especially as this is the 4cyl. I'd rather buy a year or two old car with all the bells and whistles (even this) for $25,000 or less.

  8. I had one of these for a few days as a rental. The steering felt vague and disconnected. Not much feedback and had a numb feeling to it. The CVT was fine, not as bad as I thought it would be. But it doesn't ever give the impression you're driving something sporty. The whole car seems to want to give a sensation-less vibe. No thrills, no chills….just A to B without any fuss. At least fuel economy was good. I am sure there is a market for the Altima, but it's just not for me.

  9. Babylon in action here: the steering is vague, heavy, disconnected, poor. So let me quote what the Car and Driver's take is of the 2016 Altima: "Body motions are reasonably well controlled, and the Altima’s electrically assisted power steering is nicely weighted. Nissan has retuned the steering this year for quicker response." Now can we all get along?

  10. Well. I can't comment on the car they drove.
    Only on the one I drove every day for a week, which had the opposite of a "nicely weighted" power steering.
    I never said it was vague. or disconnected. It is not.
    It just has a very weird artificial heavy feel to it. It feels like a computer idea of a sporty steering feel.

    But then again, I am not getting advertising money from Nissan.

  11. Vince, the comments about steering are not only yours, but of the participants in this blog as well; some of them may be simply shooting their mouth. I have never driven the Altima and I do not intend to do so, but by reading your review versus the comments, it is confusing. Car and Driver, despite "advertising dollars" found some weaknesses in the car they drove, including
    Mid-pack performance, handling, and roominess; no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay; small touchscreen

  12. I think there will be a brand new Altima in about a year.
    So I am sure most of these problems could be solved.

    As of now, the Maxima is a much better car. (It is actually an excellent one)
    I just saw they are leasing them for something like $299 a month.

    A vastly better car for not that much more money.
    Or, I would buy a year old (or two) Maxima over a new Altima.

    These 2 cars feel completely different.

  13. The main problem with the Altima, besides it being mediocre in every way, is that it looks like it belongs parked on a lawn in front of a dilapidated home in a bad area. The design is so bad, so un-smart, and completely average. Spending $30-something-thousand on one would be absurd. That's why most of them on the road are sub-prime spec models.

  14. The main problem with the Altima, besides it being mediocre in every way,

    307,000 disagree with you genius with the dilapidated home.

  15. I just traded in my 2009 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited 4 door on the Nissan Altima SL, fully loaded, as you've reviewed here — in Storm Blue with the Charcoal leather interior. I've owned 4 Jeep Wranglers over the years, including the basic, standard Wrangler, the Jeep Wrangler Long Bed, the 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara with leather interior, and finally the 2009 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon with leather. I've enjoyed every one of them, and I thought I would drive them forever. I'm 62 now, and my preferences are changing. I'm less thrilled with the bumpy ride around town with the sound of everything on the outside audible on the inside, even with the windows and everything else closed up. It's no longer the ride for going out with friends or even taking my dogs to the vet. It's still wonderful for what it was designed for, though, and I decided it was time to give it up and let it go to someone who will take it out to "play". I finally reached the point where I didn't feel it would break my heart to see someone else driving it. I was ready for a "car" with room for friends to sit in comfort, as well as my dogs and my family. I wanted the trunk space, the newer tech features, a lower ride compared to climbing up into a jeep, and something I can drive into my later years. I started on the lower price range when I looked at cars, and of all the makes and models I saw, I liked the look of the Altima. I would have taken the basic or one that looked like a station wagon. When we saw the Altima SL in Storm Blue, we fell in love with it. Our test drive just made us love it more. Owning it and adjusting to it does take time, especially after driving jeeps, but I have no regrets at all. As far as how it will look in any neighborhood after a number of years, that depends on your income level, your neighborhood, and how you take care of what you own — including your car, truck, jeep, or whatever gets you around. I'm sure it's not for everyone. My husband drives a top of the line 2017 Nissan truck we own, and we have a 2008 Roush Mustang just for fun. It's like anything else. You have to get what fits your taste, your needs, and your lifestyle. : )

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