The Altima doesn't feel much larger than the previous model, though it's grown a little on its 109.3-inch wheelbase to slot itself just shy of the Honda Accord, and significantly smaller plus-sized VW Passat. It's 1.4 inches wider than past models, with front legroom at 45.0 inches, and rear legroom at 36.1 inches, both about average for the segment. Headroom is 40.0 inches in front and 37.1 inches in the rear–shave an inch off in the front for cars equipped with the sunroof.
Those numbers make for a roomy cabin with space for four adults–five in a pinch–and excellent comfort thanks to the Altima's new seats. Headroom is also more than adequate even for tall drivers. Nissan claims that the seats' shape and compression were patterned after NASA's own research, and we've found them to be equally comfortable for short- and long-distance trips. The Altima's dash cuts into a little of the knee room, though, leaving cars like the Passat with an advantage there. The driver's seat is a standard power six-way adjustable seat, with the option to upgrade to eight ways, but the passenger seat remains manual in all trims.
In back, the Altima has just enough head room to keep tall passengers from making contact with the headliner. The seat is laid back at a fairly steep angle, and there's some, not a lot, of foot room under the front seats. The rear seatbacks are split 60/40, and fold down for access to the trunk.
With 15.4 cubic feet of space the trunk is average or a little better than average. Look up ahead of its hinges, though, and it's left unfinished, with exposed speakers, as we've seen in the Sonata. While Ford and Hyundai and VW have moved their seatback releases into the trunk, Nissan's kept some in the cabin--but they've added a thoughtful second set in the trunk, too. To save weight, they're not made of plastic though--they're lightweight fabric loops that weigh next to nothing and probably cost even less. You have to admire the ingenuity, and the bold cost-cutting, all at once.
The Altima excels in muting and filtering out almost all road noises. It's far better than the Passat and Sonata, for example, at eliminating the constant tire drone from freeway driving--though it's challenged by the four-cylinder's aggressive, always-present exhaust noise. The V-6 is subdued to a mellow hum, and it's easy to hear the sound system at low volumes, whereas the Passat's stereo has to be cranked up to overcome its significant tire and wind noise.
Elsewhere, the Altima's fit and finish is mostly a success, but some trim is better than others. The dash cap is soft and thick, and so are the armrest and those supportive cloth seats. The door pulls are hard plastic; the piano black trim on the dash is the kind that swirls and scuffs easily and quickly; and the radio buttons are metal chiclets of equal size and texture. They look like lesser pieces stuck on a center stack that's otherwise well composed, and mature. Skip the faux-metal trim on some models if you can--it reads like a cheap sharkskin suit.