Background: Hard as it may seem to some, Nissan
's front-wheel- drive, four-door Altima
is a relative newcomer. Steady sales and a decent-sized advertising budget has kept the Altima
name in the public consciousness from the start.
First introduced in 1993, Altima
fits snugly into Nissan
's three-sedan strategy. The four-door, compact Sentra is available to entry-level shoppers while the Maxima sedan satisfies larger appetites. Altima
is bigger than a traditional compact (i.e. Ford Escort), but smaller than mid-size sedans (i.e. Chevrolet Malibu). Altima
replaced the underachieving Stanza in Nissan
's marketing mix in 1993. The second-generation Altima
debuted five years later. The 2000 Altima
receives an assortment of cosmetic changes, but nothing of a radical nature. Nissan
in America at its Smyrna, Tenn. facility which also assembles the popular, all-new, 2000 Xterra compact sport utility vehicle.
Trim levels and engine: The Altima
sedan is available in four trim levels: entry-level XE, value-oriented GXE, luxury-appointed GLE and sporty SE. In addition, special option packages are available in certain trim levels including the XE option package, GXE value option package and GXE appearance and convenience packages.
One four-cylinder engine powers all editions. The 16-valve, 2.4- liter, double overhead cam engine produces and impressive 155 horsepower (up five from 1999) and 156 ft.-lbs. of torque. Dual- tipped platinum spark plugs are built to last 100,000 miles before needing replacement. Altima
's horsepower is significantly more than Mazda's four- cylinder 626 mid-size sedan generates. However, the 626 also offers a six-cylinder powertrain with 170 horsepower.
Safety features: All Altima
editions include reduced-force dual front air bags, front and rear crumple zones, energy-absorbing steering column and front bumpers, anti-theft security system and child safety rear door locks at no additional charge. Standard on the luxury-appointed GLE and optional on GXE and SE are front seat, side-impact air bags. Remote keyless entry comes standard in SE and GLE and optional in GXE models. Anti-lock brakes rate as a $499 option in all editions except entry-level XE. Traction control is not offered.
supplied the Daily Herald with a mid-trim, GXE Altima
with manual transmission and a starting price of $16,340. The lowest-priced model, an XE with five-speed manual transmission starts at $15,140 with the top-of-the-line GLE begins life at $20,390.
Mazda's lowest-priced 626 with five-speed manual transmission starts at $18,245 while a four-cylinder, five-speed manual Oldsmobile Alero GL1 four-cylinder sedan checks in at $17,820.
Standard equipment: All four trim level include: power windows, tilt steering wheel, power outside mirrors, intermittent front windshield wipers, electronic rear window defroster, rack and pinion steering and front and rear stabilizer bars. Five-speed manual transmission comes standard in XE, GXE and SE while four- speed automatic transmission is a staple in GLE. If desired, automatic transmission is an $800 option in GXE editions. Air conditioning comes standard in SE and GLE editions, optional in GXE and is not available in XE models.
Options: Sunroofs are optional in all Altima
s except XE, where it's not available. A rear spoiler, standard in SE is a GXE and GLE extra. Power door locks, not available in XE, come optional in GXE and standard in the uplevel editions. Cruise control, an extra in XE comes standard in the three other models. Compact disc players, optional in XE and GXE come standard in SE and GLE.
Interior: For the 2000 model year, Altima
receives 20 modifications reducing the amount of noisy vibrations seeping into the passenger compartment. Indeed, interior noise from the engine was noticeably dampened inside our test-drive Altima
Headlights operate from the turn signal stalk while windshield wipers monitor from a right-hand-side steering column stalk. The large, rectangular, rear window defroster button is conveniently located on the dashboard just left of the steering wheel. The trunk and fuel door share the same release lever found on the floor just left of the driver's seat. Pulling the lever up opens the trunk while a push-down motion unlatches the fuel door.
In between the comfortable and supportive front bucket seats resides the hand-operated parking brake, a small, square flip-top storage bin and dual beverage holders cloaked by retractable covers. A ceiling caddie houses sunglasses in a retractable pocket just behind the rearview mirror. Both front doors include map pockets for storage.
The steering wheel is home to all cruise control functions. Power mirrors are controlled via dashboard push-button dials left of the steering column. Power lock and power window controls for all four doors are found on the driver's door. The front passenger door was the only door with a ceiling handle.
High on the dashboard equidistant between front seat passengers rests the rectangular ventilation system operating with a circular dial for fan speed, a sliding lever monitoring temperature and several push buttons guiding blower direction.
Below sits the well-organized stereo system with large present buttons and circular dial controlling volume. The frequency display shares time with the digital clock. The instrument panel includes two central circular displays (speedometer and odometer) flanked by two smaller displays (fuel and temperature.) Only the odometer features digital readouts. The central dashboard's lower portion included polished wood enhancements.
Seating comfort: Cloth seating was the norm for our test-drive GXE as well as XE and SE editions. Leather seating, standard fare in GLE is optional in sporty SE models.
Convenient 60/40 split rear seat backs come standard in every Altima
with the notable exception of XE editions. While Nissan
as a five-seater, two averaged-sized adults fit most comfortably in back.
Wheelbase: 103.1 inches
Overall length: 185.8 inches
Overall width: 69.1 inches
Overall height: 55.9 inches
Curb weight: 2, 945 pounds
Trunk: A temporary spare tire fits snugly under the trunk's flat floor in a covered wheel well. Trunk volume measures 13.8 cubic feet which is more than the 12.1 cargo volume of Toyota's Corolla sedan, but far less than the 17.1 cubic feet of room found in Chevrolet's Malibu. Maxima's 626 features a 14.2 cubic-foot trunk.
's front grille get refreshed this year while clear-lens headlights rate as an all-new addition.
The sedan's conservative exterior includes flush-mounted, body- colored door handles adorning all four doors. Side-view mirrors also feature body-color design, but unfortunately don't fold in or 'breakaway' when inadvertently brushing up against objects. The in- glass radio antenna is smartly molded into the rear window.
Both headlights and taillights wrap around to fenders. The locking fuel tank door is found on the left side rear fender. The cap is not tethered, but includes molded cast metal inside the door for holding the cap when refueling.
Fifteen-inch tires with all-season radial tires came standard in our mid-level GXE and also graces XE editions. Larger 16-inch wheels get mounted on SE and GLE versions and are optional on GXE editions.
Color choices include: Alpine White Pearl, Black Cherry, Blue Dusk, Brushed Pewter, Green Emerald, Platinum Metallic, Sandrift Beige, Superior Black and Titanium Frost.
Fuel economy: Our five-speed manual transmissioned Altima
averaged 23 miles per gallon in city driving and 30 m.p.g. along the highway. When coupled with four-speed automatic transmission, figures slide a little to 21 m.p.g. in city travel and 28 m.p.g. cruising the highway. These numbers rank on par with most competitors. Altima
holds 15.9 gallons of unleaded, 87-octane regular fuel.
Final thoughts: During the 2000 model year, Nissan
introduced all-new, next-generation offerings of its other two sedans, Sentra and Maxima. While the mid-size Altima
won't receive a major update for a couple of years more, Nissan
borrowed a few 2000-model-year Sentra/Maxima enhancements for this year's Altima
Several competitors including Mazda's 626 sedan and Oldmobile's Alero offer six-cylinder engines; Altima
offers one four-cylinder offering in all editions; but the engine produces a class-leading 155 horsepower, much more than the four-cylinder Mazda 626 (130 horsepower) or Toyota Corolla's ( 125 horsepower) or the four- cylinder Alero (150 horsepower.) Another Altima
selling point is its $15,140 price tag for the entry-level XE edition which rates as one the lower dollar amounts in the segment.
Last March, French automaker Renault purchased a 37 percent stake in Japan's Nissan
Motors which, while working feverishly to refresh its model lineup during the past five years, has also accumulated more monetary debt than its rivals.