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Driven: Nissan’s Camry-fighting Altima touches down

Altimate warrior: Nissan’s new mid-sized sedan will go head-to-head with Malibu and Camry, with image boosted by V8 Supercar kudos.

The Maxima is dead, long live the Altima, as Nissan’s new mid-sizer arrives at $30k

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Nissan logo22 Nov 2013

NISSAN has jumped into the fierce Australian medium-car market against the likes of Toyota’s locally made Camry and the Mazda6 with its all-new Altima, priced from a sharp $29,990 plus on-road costs.

Illustrating its volume aspirations, Nissan is predicting base versions of the car to perform well in the competitive fleet market, with up to 60 per cent of sales at the bottom end going to business buyers.

While it may be dimensionally similar to the outgoing and low-selling Maxima large sedan, Nissan is pitching the Altima at a different sort of buyer, notably using its V8 Supercar team to boost appeal. The company insists the Altima is not a direct Maxima replacement, but without a new Maxima on the horizon, it will serve as such.

Therefore, the Altima – at least, a racing chassis with an Altima bodyshell – fights the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon on the circuit at the same time as it goes toe-to-toe with Holden’s Malibu and Ford’s Mondeo on the road.

Speaking from the local launch this week, Nissan Australia CEO Peter Jones is hopeful the Altima will continue the success it has experienced in other parts of the world, and projects segment wide growth of six per cent by 2016.

“This car is hugely successful in the US, from time to time it is the number-one seller but we are going to see where it settles,” he said, before stating the company’s volume aspirations did not extend to overtaking the dominant Camry, which has around 30 per cent market share.

“We’ve got great competition against Camry but we don’t aspire to be number one,” he said. “It is a very, very competitive segment especially in the fleet market.”“The way these cars are specified it is going to be aimed specifically at the fleet market – 2.5 litre… We have been out talking to the fleet customers.

Kicking off the range is the fleet-focused ST at $29,990, with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 127kW of power and 230Nm of torque, coupled to a continuously variable transmission and returning fuel consumption of 7.5 litres per 100 km.

Middle of the range ST-L and Ti variants share the same powertrain with added equipment priced from $35,890 and $40,190 respectively.

Moving up to the $45,390 top-spec Ti-S variant puts a 3.5-litre 183kW/312Nm V6 under the bonnet, with a combined fuel consumption of 9.3 l/100km and adds everything on the option list except premium paint colours.

No manual gearbox option is available for the new Altima but the Ti-S variant has steering column mounted gear-shift paddles incorporated with the X-tronic CVT.

Fitted to all variants, the Altima’s so-called ‘Zero-Gravity’ seat design reportedly uses NASA research to hold occupants in a position similar to one naturally adopted in space. Nissan claims the result is excellent comfort, support and reduced fatigue for passengers during long journeys.

Also debuting in the new model is Nissan’s Active Understeer Control, which uses inside-wheel braking to counter understeer and maintains a predictable course during enthusiastic driving or on low-grip surfaces.

Speed-sensitive electric power-steering, multi-link independent rear suspension and disc-brakes all-round are typical to the entire range. All variants also get the Nissan ‘Advanced Driver Assist Display’, which displays vehicle information on a four-inch screen situated between the speedometer and tachometer.

Information such as outside temperature, fuel economy, remaining fuel mileage, elapsed time and average speed can be scrolled though using a steering-wheel mounted button.

For its sub-$30,000 price tag the entry level ST Altima gets a comprehensive list of standard equipment with Bluetooth, five-inch entertainment system touch-screen, cruise-control, dual-zone air-conditioning, keyless entry/start, automatic headlights and electric folding door-mirrors included in the base-price.

Outlaying another $5900 adds an L to the ST variant, which boosts the levels of equipment. The Altima ST-L alloy wheels grow an inch from 16 to 17-inches and its dash mounted screen grows by two-inches, displaying satellite navigation and rear-view camera images on the seven-inch monitor.

A nine-speaker Bose sound-system is also fitted to all variants above the base ST as are power-adjustable front seats and rain sensing wipers.

Progressing up further still to the Ti version adds yet more to the price-included gear with alloy wheels growing another inch in diameter to 18-inches, memory driver’s seat and mirrors, blind-spot/lane departure warnings, xenon headlights, rear privacy-glass and a power rear sun-shade.

Flagship Ti-S Altima variants get the same top-toys of the Ti but with the beefy V6 engine performance for an extra $5200.

The new Altima joins the Pulsar, Juke and Pathfinder as part of Nissan’s core range and will go on sale at dealerships from December 1.

Nissan Altima pricing*
ST (a)$29,990
ST-L (a)$35,890
Ti (a)$40,190
Ti-S (a)$45,390
*Excludes on-road costs.

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