New & Used Nissan Altima: In Depth
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The Nissan Altima has been redesigned for the 2013 model year, which in turn has made it a more legitimate contender in the mid-size sedan segment. The Altima is also offered as a coupe that borrows the previous body style from this year. It competes with the Hyundai Sonata, Honda Accord, and the Toyota Camry, but the Altima has better handling, a quieter interior, and a lower price tag than many of these other cars.
For more details of the Altima range, including prices, options, and specifications, see our 2014 Nissan Altima full review.
Previewed at the 2012 New York auto show, the new 2013 Altima four-door retains the four- and six-cylinder engines of the previous generation, as well as its continuously variable transmission (CVT). On 182-hp four-cylinder cars , improvements to the CVT mean the sedan gets an EPA-estimated 38 miles per gallon highway, among the best in its class. The thirstier 270-hp V-6 adds paddle controls and programmed "shift" points to the CVT that simulate the feel of a conventional automatic gearbox. The 2013 Altima Coupe comes only in a single configuration, with the four-cylinder 2.5-liter engine and the CVT. Nissan hasn't yet said anything about a redesigned two-door model.
The new Altima sedan also adopts more safety and technology, with standard Bluetooth and streaming audio, and available wide-angle rearview camera, lane-departure warning systems, and satellite radio. The NHTSA gives it five stars overall for crash-test protection.Introduced in 1993, the Altima has grown from its original compact-class size to a mid-sizer, and from a mediocre offering to a very good one. The 1993-1997 and 1998-2001 Altimas were compact sedans powered by four-cylinder engines, offering a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed automatic transmission. They were the successor to the Stanza sedan, and did well for Nissan against the Toyota Corolla.
In 2002, the third-generation Altima was the first of a new wave of dramatically styled Nissan models when it launched, drawing great acclaim for its distinctive lines. That 2002-2006 model offered a 2.5-liter four and a 3.5-liter V-6, with standard five-speed manuals or automatics (four-speed for the four, five-speed for the V-6). The sportiest SE-R model included not only the 250-horsepower V-6, but also revised suspension settings, 18-inch wheels and tires, and some styling flourishes to set the car apart from standard Altimas.
Restyled for 2007, the current generation of the Altima continues as a more stylish alternative to middle-of-the-road mid-size sedans like the popular Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, as well as the up-and-coming Hyundai Sonata and domestic competitors like the Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu. It may be most notable for displacing the Nissan Maxima as Nissan's biggest sedan, though the current Altima and Maxima share much of their running gear. The Altima also has featured one of the largest applications of continuously variable transmissions, which have replaced conventional automatic gearboxes in both body styles.
The Nissan Altima was mildly refreshed for the 2010 model year with a new grille along with both new interior materials and an expanded list of options. Engine options continue to include a four and a V-6, in this case a 175-hp, 2.5-liter four or a powerful 275-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard on the sedan and coupe, with a six-speed manual offered on the coupe only.
The Altima Hybrid was available through the 2011 model year. It paired a specially tuned, 162-hp version of the 2.5-liter four to an adapted version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system, producing gas mileage rated at 35 mpg city, 33 mpg highway. The model was dropped for the 2012 model year as Nissan accelerated production of its all-electric Leaf hatchback.
A new Nissan Altima Hybrid, with supercharging and batteries and motors applied to the 2.5-liter four-cylinder, is in the works and expected by 2015. A preview of its hybrid system can be found in the upcoming 2014 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid, which will be the first vehicle to make use of the Nissan-designed hybrid powertrain.