Car reviews - Nissan - Altima - range
Sharp pricing, smooth, comfortable ride, powerful sound-system, rear-seat comfort
Room for improvement
Some cheap-feeling interior materials, foot-operated park brake, droning four-cylinder thanks to continuously variable transmission
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26 Nov 2013
FIRST impressions of the new Nissan are good, with a look different enough to attract a curious glance or two but without making babies cry.
Clear-lensed tail-lights dotted with LEDs are an up-to-the-minute styling trick, while a pointy nose complimented by a flowing roofline give an impression of a sedan capable of eating up freeway kilometres with ease.
The 18-inch alloy wheels fitted as standard to the range-topping, V6-engined Ti-S complete the outside look but smaller 17- and 16-inch rims on less richly equipped variants variants still look the part.
Jump into the front row in any Altima and you will land on what Nissan calls “zero-gravity” seats, named in recognition of the NASA research used in their design.
According to Nissan, the design of the seats mimics the posture of those designed for astronauts in in zero-gravity. On Earth, they are meant to increase comfort and help to reduce fatigue on long journeys. In our Ti-S, the electrically adjustable seats trimmed in leather and synthetic hide did provide a good level of comfort.
Soft-touch dash and door trims add a sense of class to the cabin, which is only occasionally let down by some cheap-feeling plastic around steeringwheel switches, the centre console, and door handle cappings.
Another interior disappointment was the dated foot-operated parking brake thatate into the footwell space and felt unintuitive.
Comfort in the rear seats is just as pleasant as in the front ones, with acres of legroom for taller adults, good headroom, and decent visibility for both adult and child passengers.A dark tint in the top spec Ti-S creates an air of prestige as well as affording a sense of privacy.
The general feel of the interior is dark, understated and tasteful, with comfort for all occupants.A nine-speaker Bose sound system, fitted to all but the entry-level ST variant, remained sensationally crisp all the way to the top of the volume dial.
The view from the driver’s seat reveals a few other treats, including a seven-inch touchscreen to access the entertainment system, and another very neat four-inch screen displaying vehicle data nestled in the instrument cluster between the speedo and tacho.
Features such as cruisecontrol, dual-zone climate control and automatic headlights are standard even on the $29,990 entry-level ST, while more premium versions add lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, satellite navigation and Xenon headlights.
The open road is where the Altima feels most at home, giving the impression it is capable of covering big distanceswith ease.
Minimal road noise was transmitted to the cabin even on the largest-diameterrims,while uneven surfaces did not upset the serenity.
Only the highest $45,390 Ti-S gets the silky 183kW/312Nm 3.5-litre V6 engine, but the lump was our pick over the equally refined, but less powerful 127kW/230Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder powerplant.
Through twisty bits around the Dandenong Ranges that fringe eastern Melbourne, the Altima did struggle to remain composed while the traction-control light flickered frequently, especially over rough surfaces, with the tail going light over undulations.
The featherlight steering told little of what was going on underneath the car, but that said, a comfortable mid-size sedan from Nissan isn’t necessarily about point-to-point speed.
Both engines are mated to a continuously variable transmission, and while the rev-holding nature was more subtle when bolted to the V6, it was all too obvious when attached to the harder-working, but versatile four-cylinder engine.
Compared with the V6, though, the four-cylinder varieties handled better over the twisty sections of road, with less weight over the front wheels and more forgiving high-profile tyres — although they don’t get theadded engagement of the steering wheel-mounted gear-shift paddles fitted to the V6 version.
Nissan’s active understeer control system works effectively, automatically braking the inside wheel during corneringto pull the Altima around a corner and limit the plough-on tractionloss traditionallyassociatedwith front-wheel-drive cars.
Even a high-speed blast on the Phillip Island circuit just a day before its V8-engined sibling rolled out for battle in the V8 Supercars series wasn’t too much for the sensible Altima, which behaved well on the flawless surface.
With decent looks, competitive levels of equipment and pricing not a million miles away from Holden’s$28,490 Malibu, the more premium $33,460 Mazda6 and Toyota’s $30,490 Camry, the Nissan Altima is a bigdeal. No, make that a mid-size deal.
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