- Fuel efficiency with Hybrid or four-cylinder
- Handles responsively
- Simple but comfortable interior
- Tight backseat
- Keyless ignition system is mandatory
- Hybrid powertrain uneasy in highway cruising
The 2010 Nissan Altima remains one of the sportier choices among mid-size sedans, though if interior space matters, it might not feel as roomy as rivals.
The Nissan Altima remains different from most other mid-size models on several levels. First, it offers (in sedan form) a limited-availability Hybrid model, as well as four-cylinder and V-6 models. Secondly, it has a sleek coupe body style in addition to the four-door sedan. The Altima was last completely redesigned for the 2007 model year and gets a styling refresh for 2010, including a restyled front end, some new interior materials, and a revised options list.
Even though it's been more than three years since the Altima sedan's complete redesign, it remains one of the better-looking mid-size four-doors on the market. Attribute that to its racy profile and relative simplicity in the details; unlike some other sedans, the Altima doesn't come across as overwrought. The Hybrid looks almost indistinguishable from the sedan, aside from low-key badging. But the Coupe is very distinctive; it's several inches shorter, with a much more tapered roofline and sculpted rear flanks, plus an altogether different treatment in back. The same holds true inside; the Altima's instrument panel is straightforward and simple, yet sophisticated and a little sporty. The overall look can be drab in some colors, but bright trim and bezels spice it up somewhat.
Across most of the 2010 Nissan Altima Coupe and sedan models, you have a choice of a four-cylinder or V-6 engine. The 2.5-liter four makes 175 horsepower and does just fine either with the six-speed manual (coupes only) or the Xtronic CVT automatic (both models). The CVT works better than most, even with the four-cylinder, with revs settling down to an economical level at cruising speeds, and revving higher when accelerating, yet avoiding the uncertain rubber-band feeling that some CVTs have. Underneath the hood of SR models is a 270-horsepower version of Nissan's well-regarded 3.5-liter DOHC V-6. With the V-6, the Altima feels refined and strong in either body style—although there's a little too much torque at times for the Altima to deliver smoothly through the front wheels. The Altima Hybrid gets an advanced full-hybrid system with the 2.5-liter engine, tuned down to 162 horsepower for improved efficiency; altogether the hybrid system makes 198 hp. That power reaches the road through a continuously variable transmission, via the front wheels. The driving experience, no matter which version, is on the sporty side, with great steering, and the sedan's suspension just absorbent enough to soak up most bumps.
The 2010 Nissan Altima sedan has an interior that comes across as positively functional, rather than gimmicky, with neat, attractive styling and nice materials, but its backseat could be tight for taller adults. Coupes give up several inches of useful cabin space and are quite a bit tighter in back, with headroom scarce. The instrument panel in either model has the intimate look and feel of a sports coupe without seeming tight, and controls are close at hand. Our only lingering complaint is that the tactility of the controls leaves something to be desired, as does the plethora of hard, drab plastics. Ride quality tends to be good, though a bit on the firm side, in any of the sedan models; the Coupe's shorter wheelbase can make the ride slightly more pitchy, however.
The 2010 Nissan Altima has reasonably good crash-test scores, though it's less than perfect in a class of overachievers. The Altima sedan and Coupe models get a mix of four- and five-star ratings in federal crash tests, along with Good ratings from the insurance-affiliated IIHS in frontal and side impacts and Acceptable ratings in both the seat-based rear-impact test and the new roof-strength test. Front, side, and curtain airbags, along with electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes, are all standard across the line.
Especially at the base S level, the Altima comes with a few more features than you'd expect. Nissan's push-button ignition system is included on all Altimas, whether you like it or not. Other extras on the S are the Intelligent Key system, six-speaker sound, air conditioning, rear seat heaters, a trip computer, dual power remote-controlled side-view mirrors, and speed-sensitive variable intermittent windshield wipers. Top SR models get a power driver's seat, wood interior trim, and a few other extras, while options include a Sport Package with High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights, fog lights, a moonroof, and a rear spoiler, or a Technology Package with a nav system, Music Box hard drive music system, Bluetooth streaming audio, and XM NavTraffic and NavWeather. A Premium Package wraps those audio upgrades with leather seats (heated in front), plus mood lighting, rear A/C vents, and a HomeLink garage-door opener.