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GREEN | 7 out of 10
2014 Nissan Altima: 27/38 mpg or 31 mpg combined (four-cylinder sedan); 22/31 mpg or 25 mpg combined (six-cylinder sedan); 23/32 mpg or 26 mpg combined (Altima Coupe)
Fuel economy hasn't always been the Altima's strong suit, and careful tuning with Nissan's latest transmissions finally helps this mid-size sedan compete with some of the Korean all-stars in the segment.
The net for the four-cylinder is EPA-rated gas mileage of 27 miles per gallon city, 38 miles per gallon highway, and 31 mpg combined--or 3 mpg better on the highway cycle than the best four-cylinder mid-size sedan can muster today. With the V-6 and CVT, the Altima is rated at 22/31 mpg, or 25 mpg combined.
Both the four-cylinder Altima and the V-6 version come equipped with a single transmission. The "Xtronic" CVT (continuously variable transmission) uses a set of pulleys and a belt to simulate an infinite number of gear ratios--on V-6 drivetrains, with some electronically constructed "gears" programmed in along the way for a more conventional driving feel. The CVT has seen progress all its own, with Nissan changing out 70 percent of its parts in the name of efficiency, for a reduction in friction of 40 percent--which helps the Altima along to a 15-percent improvement in fuel economy across the board.
The Altima sports an excellent 38-mpg EPA highway rating in four-cylinder form--and it's reachable in the real world.