Nissan Altima
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Overall

Nissan is already improving its fifth-generation Altima with an eye to value and technology; two-door Coupe not answering the bell for 2014.

Drivetrain

Four-cylinder and V6 engines with continuously variable transmissions and impressively low fuel consumption.

In the most competitive market segment around, the fifth-generation Altima makes a very good case for itself. It has a graceful shape that’s sure to find favor with potential owners, while the well-appointed interior features NASA-inspired “zero-gravity” front seats for greater comfort. Cabin noise is reduced thanks to sound-absorbing materials around the instrument panel, floor and roof areas and the upgraded engine mounts that improve isolation. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder delivers 182 horsepower while a continuously variable transmission (CVT) offers fewer moving parts, significantly reduced friction and electronic-control improvements so that it more closely mimics a traditional multi-speed automatic (less noise). Nissan claims fuel performance of 27 mpg city and 38 highway, compared with 23/32 for the previous Altima. Those numbers also beat current four-cylinder versions of the Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata and Honda Accord. The Altima’s optional 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 remains unchanged, but it also benefits from the same CVT upgrade and is now rated at 22 mpg city/30 highway (previously 20/27). Altima boasts Active Understeer Control that applies light braking pressure to the inside wheel in a corner to counteract the car’s natural tendency to continue in a straight line. Also assisting the driver is Nissan’s Easy Fill Tire Alert that was initially installed in the Quest minivan. Instead of trying to decipher your tire pressure gauge (especially daunting at night), the horn will sound when the correct amount of inflation has been reached. Finally, the Altima’s headlights automatically turn on after the wipers have completed four cycles, which helps other drivers see you during downpour conditions. There are actually seven Altima trims, but for 2014 several add-on packages have been introduced, renamed or had their contents changed, but nothing that would drastically change the car’s desirability.

Base price (incl. destination): $21,200 (2013)
Type: Four-door sedan
Base engine (hp): 2.5-liter DOHC I4 (182)
Optional engine (hp): 3.5-liter DOHC V6 (270)
Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; continuously variable (opt.)
MPG (city/hwy): 27/38 (2.5, CVT)
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; stability control; traction control
Weight (lb.): 3,110