The Nissan Altima is a front-drive, midsize sedan. Competitors include the Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat. Changes to the 2016 Altima include an exterior refresh, additional safety and convenience features and the addition of a sporty SR trim level.
Available only as a four-door sedan, Altima rides a 109.3-inch wheelbase which places smack in the middle of the class size wise. Two engines are offered a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that makes 182 horsepower and a 3.5-liter V6 with 270 horsepower. Both engines mate to a continuously variable automatic transmission.
Five trim levels are available: base, S, SR, SV, and SL. Prices range from $22,500 to $32,690. Exterior changes for 2016 are highlighted by a V-shaped grille, new headlights and revised taillights. Newly available is adaptive cruise control that's paired with forward collision warning and automatic braking.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes, stability and traction control and dual-front, front-side and full-length side-curtain airbags. A rearview camera is standard on S and above. SV and SL trims receive blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert. Also available is NissanConnect Services system, which includes automatic collision notification, emergency assistance and stolen vehicle locating services.
The Altima has an $835 destination charge and is assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee, and Canton. Mississippi.
Altima's 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine provides better-than-average acceleration when compared to competitors equipped with base engines. Zero-to-60 mph comes up in a tick under 8 seconds. More importantly, the engine provides acceptable passing punch and is relatively refined. The available 3.5-liter V6, which is one of the most powerful engines in the class, drops the 0-to-60 mph time to about 6 seconds. It's got great passing power and is buttery smooth.
Both engines mate to a CVT automatic that has simulated stepped gear ratios to make it feel more like a traditional automatic when accelerating. The CVT is a great transmission that does an excellent job of finding the right ratio for any given situation. In addition, it's got a tall enough final drive ratio that both engines cruised at very relaxed RPM on the highway.
EPA Fuel economy estimates for the 4-cylinder Altima are 27 mpg city and 39 mpg highway. Those numbers are among the best in the class. In fact, it's easy to surpass those ratings in relaxed suburban commuting. This makes Altima one of the most fuel-efficient midsize sedans around.
Altima's ride offers a nice blend of comfort and refinement - somewhat at the expense of athleticism. The suspension does an excellent job of soaking up pavement imperfections and reducing secondary motions. There's a fair amount of body lean in quick maneuvers and moderate brake squat in hard stops. The steering is numb but has good on-center feel and tracks straight and true on the highway. Brakes have adequate stopping power and an easy-to-modulate pedal.
With its 18-inch wheels, performance tires and sport-tuned suspension the new SR trim is the athlete of the Altima family. It is available with either engine and also adds paddle shifters, sport seats and a rear spoiler.
Inside, Altima isn't as quiet as class leaders like the new Chevrolet Malibu. While it certainly isn't noisy, there's some road and wind noise at speed and the 2.5-liter four groans more in hard acceleration than it should.
Altima's interior is a study in subdued refinement. Materials are appropriate for the class and price and assembly quality is top notch. Drivers face two large dials for vehicle and engine speed flanking a center information display. The setup isn't as configurable as similar designs in competitors but generally provides enough information as well as being easy to read day or night. Center stack houses climate, audio and navigation controls in a pleasing mix of buttons and dials. Sadly, the navigation system seems a step behind class leaders and there's no Apple Car Play or Android Auto integration.
Front seats are extremely comfortable and offer great support on longer trips. Head and leg room are generous and outward visibility is great. Rear seats are quite roomy for the class - easily accommodating three adults.
With 15.4 cubic-feet of cargo space, Altima matches most vehicles in the class. As you might expect, the trunk opening is large, the floor is flat and the rear seats fold for extra cargo-carrying capacity. Interior storage is average as well with a few open and covered bins throughout, a center console bin and medium-size glove box. A few additional auxiliary-power outlets would be welcome.
Overall the Altima is a near-perfect midsize sedan. It clicks off all the boxes most shoppers in this segment expect and excels with great fuel economy, powerful engines and plenty of passenger space. While the design isn't dated, Altima lags behind in the infotainment space and could be a little quieter. This class is crowded and that means great competition, low prices and plenty of rebates. Be sure to shop around for the best deal.