- Better safety technology than ever before
- Flowing design that looks like an Infiniti
- Improved infotainment systems
- Quiet, comfortable ride
- Fuel economy that touches 38-mpg
- CVT is the only transmission available
- Borderline bland interior
- Less sporty handling than previous models
Following improvements that hit all the right spots, the 2014 Nissan Altima is a solid choice for those who don't mind a CVT.
The 2014 Nissan Altima remains one of the family sedans that we recommend most highly--but the reasons have changed over the years as the Altima itself has grown up and matured. Going back a couple of decades, the Altima was always the scrappy upstart with tight handling and enjoyable roadholding, against the blander and more predictable Toyota and Honda models against which it competed. Fast forward to the last redesign, however, and the Altima is a more comfortable car, a far more mainstream option, and a safer pick for more buyers.
A dressed-up cabin that includes new infotainment systems, a simplified set of powertrain options, and exceptionally comfortable seats, the Altima strikes a better balance between handling and ride comfort. Today's car addresses all of its predecessors' weak spots, and the result has been steadily increasing sales--and the emergence of the Nissan Altima as a tough competitor for Toyota, Honda, Ford, Chevy, and Hyundai among volume mid-size sedans.
The latest Altima begins life with a new shape, which Nissan says comes from an emotional take on styling, and some advanced manufacturing techniques that enable some complex surfaces on the attractive new body. The front end wears some of the angled, arrowed cues of other Nissans and Infinitis at the headlamps and taillights, while the side glass tapers gradually to a tasteful backstop. The fenders swell out in ways that recall Nissan's compact Juke crossover. The interior's a big contrast: it's conservatively drawn, with straight lines dividing off the center stack of controls from the driver and the passenger. There's also more space left for larger LCD screens for more advanced infotainment systems, a selling point where the Altima's lagged behind the Koreans and Americans.
The Altima sedan's still a five-seater, riding on the same 109.3-inch wheelbase it did in the 2012 model year, 191.5 inches long in all. There's not much more room in any direction, and that's fine--the Altima was large enough for almost any family. Nissan's spent quality time on the seats, and it's paid off in very comfortable chairs that hold up for hours on end, at least for the front-seat passengers. On base models, the front seats are adjustable six ways for the driver, four for the passenger. A power driver seat and heated front seats are an option. The rear seats are split 60/40 and fold down to expand access to the trunk. Leather seats are still an option.
All versions of the Altima sedan will continue to ride on an independent suspension, and it's upgraded to Sachs shocks for better ride control and a more luxurious feel, Nissan says. They've hit that goal--and coupled with a switch to fancy electrohydraulic steering, they've polished the Altima's road manners to a quiet gloss. The Altima now has excellent compliance over most every surface, but the tightly controlled ride and eager feel dialed into the old hydraulic-only steering have gone AWOL. We miss the more immediate feel already, because it's long disappeared from cars like the Honda Accord.
The standard powertrain is a 182-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Tuned here for higher mileage than ever, Nissan's aiming for an EPA highway rating of 27 miles per gallon city, 38 miles per gallon highway, putting it on par with some hybrids and above leaders like today's standard Hyundai Sonata, rated at 35 mpg highway. It's plenty of power for the point-A-to-point-B school of driving, though the drivetrain can be loud at the higher reaches of its range. Premium Altimas will continue to offer a quick-footed 3.5-liter V-6 with 270 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, rated at 22/30 mpg. They'll also be fitted with the CVT, but with standard paddle controls and a manual shift mode that simulates the gear ratios on a conventional automatic transmission.
With safety as strong a selling point as fuel economy in the Altima's class, Nissan's updated the sedan's technology to include all the advanced features on the shelves of suppliers. The list will include standard or optional rearview camera, blind-spot monitors, and lane-departure warning systems. The IIHS has already given the Altima its Top Safety Pick+ accolade (with top scores in all but the new small overlap test), while the NHTSA gives it five stars overall for crash-test performance.Finally, on the infotainment front, the Altima catches up to the competition with new bundles of features connected to audio and Bluetooth, which now comes standard on the sedan, as does audio streaming and incoming text-to-voice translation, along with a CD player and an auxiliary jack. The Altima's infotainment system also permits streaming from Pandora, and accepts mapping information from Google Maps, too. A central display in the instrument cluster brings together all this information for the driver to monitor while on the road.
Other available features will include automatic headlights; LED taillights; heated rearview side mirrors; a USB port; Bose audio; satellite radio; a navigation with a 7-inch screen, a big step up from the Altima's current small navi display; dual-zone climate control; pushbutton start; a wide-view rearview camera; and a glass sunroof.
The Altima sedan is priced from $21,500. Seven models will range in price up to $30,000. Now in the thick of the family-sedan sales race, the Altima's come a long way since its scrappy also-ran days. Maturity has its upside--but we'll sure miss the frisky old feel.
The Altima Coupe? You're curious, right? It's gone, and Nissan has announced no plans to replace it.
2014 Nissan Altima
The Nissan Altima has matured over the years; it keeps more of its edge in its sheetmetal than in its sober interior.
Last year's redesign of the Nissan Altima brought with it smoother sheetmetal and a tastefully refined interior. Where past Altimas have taken a quirky approach to style and details, the current model looks and feels like the next of kin to its upscale Infiniti cousins–so much so, that we're starting to wonder if there's really room for the Maxima in the lineup these days.
Nissan claims that the body stampings on the Altima's sheetmetal are some of the most complex the brand has ever done, taking cues from the larger Maxima and several Infiniti's flowing lines to create one very attractive mid-size sedan. The angled, arrow-themed cues are most obvious in the headlights and taillamps, and the sidelights draw to a point after they gracefully taper to a gentle upkick. The grille is much simpler than those of the Murano or Juke, and we've come to like this half-hourglass motif.
The interior stands out in sharp contrast to the sheetmetal. It's conservatively drawn, with straight lines dividing off the center stack of controls from the driver and the passenger. There's also more space left for larger LCD screens for more advanced infotainment systems, a selling point where the Altima's lagged behind the Koreans and Americans. Big dials and a three-dimensionally drawn screen between them fill up the gauge cluster, while the wide center console is spanned by the shift lever, cupholders, some usefully large storage bins, and covered in a decently rendered artificial woodgrain or a back-to-wardrobe metallic print that looks like bad sharkskin material cut on a bias. The finishes are more spendy this time, and more soft-touch plastics meet the hand and the eye--except at the door pulls, where it's hard, wide-grain plastic. It's probably as durable as possible.
2014 Nissan Altima
The CVT's far better than before, and so is the ride, but where has the Altima's old, athletic feel gone?
The 2014 Nissan Altima chooses to buck the current trend of downsizing engines for turbocharged models, and it continues forward with its four- and six-cylinder mills. However, there's only one transmission available, and that's the brand's improved CVT.
Those looking to save money will love the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder. It produces 182 horsepower, and gets to 60 mph in just under eight seconds. The CVT has been heavily reworked, and it's considerably more responsive than it has been in the past–especially in sport-shift mode, where it moves more quickly in the rev range, making the most of the smaller engine's power. This engine is loud, though, and the CVT doesn't do it any favors there. Drivers will be discouraged from running it all the way toward the redline, even though it's surprisingly refined at those engine speeds.
The swift Altima is the 270-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 model. It's fitted with a CVT too, but to go with its manual-shift mode, it also gets paddle shifters and simulated gear ratios that click the engine down a few hundred rpm once it flies too close to the redline. It's effortlessly smooth compared to the four, very fast (60 mph in about 7.1 seconds), and not too thirsty, at 22/30 mpg, estimated.
Along with a change from hydraulic to electrohydraulic steering--now the norm on all Altimas--the suspension changes have tipped the balance away from athletic response to a very well-controlled ride. Nissan says it's gone after a luxury-car level of shock performance and a plush ride--and they've achieved those goals. But the last two generations of Altima sedans have had an immediacy of steering feel and a more tightly damped ride, that made them feel like the sports coupes of the class. Like the Ford Fusion, the Altima was the "other" choice in a class full of softly sprung four-doors. Now it's the VW Passat that has the old Altima's resolutely firm, taut ride, while the Nissan has moved into the Accord realm. It's demonstrably better in some important ways, and still a few big steps ahead of most other family sedans in handling talents--but it's less enthusiastic about its own talent this time around.
All versions of the Altima ride on an independent suspension, now upgraded to Sachs shocks for better ride control. The rear suspension eliminates one of its lateral links, incorporating it into a structural brace that creates a wider, stiffer axis for better wheel control. A new Active Understeer Control applies braking to inside front wheels to tighten cornering lines. Sixteen-inch wheels are now standard on the Altima; 17- and 18-inch wheels and tires are available.
2014 Nissan Altima
Comfort & Quality
Roughly the same size as before, the Altima's gained much-improved seats and a profoundly quieter cabin.
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.
2014 Nissan Altima
Top safety scores are a new Altima feature, along with a raft of safety technology.
Past generations of the Altima fared well in the safety arena, earning four stars and a rating of "good," but the current generation really steps things up a notch. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2013 Altima five stars in all tests with an exception for the four-star rating in rollover resistance. That earns the Altima an overall five-star rating, and since the 2014 model sees few changes, we think it's likely that the same ratings will apply. The car also earned the Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS.
While the previous Altima lacked the latest safety technology, the new one raids the high-tech cupboard for nearly every major add-on introduced in the past few years. The list will include standard or optional rearview camera, blind-spot monitors, and lane-departure warning systems. All three can be ordered together in a Technology package, bundled with a navigation system.
The new Altima has more safety gear than ever, starting with the requisite dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control; and tire pressure monitors. Nissan uses those monitors cleverly for Easy Fill, a system that lets you put air into the tires until the horn sounds--your signal that the tire pressure's reached the recommended level, no gauge required.
2014 Nissan Altima
Nissan's updated the Altima's standard features to rival those in Korean sedans; the options list misses out on a few features.
You'd think that with sever different versions available between two different engines, the Nissan Altima would have all of the latest and greatest features available. There are a few gaps between the models, though, and at least a couple features that aren't on the list at all.
The base Altima 2.5 checks in with cloth seats; power locks, mirrors and windows; push-button start and Intelligent key; folding rear seats, air conditioning; Bluetooth with streaming audio; and AM/FM/CD player with four speakers.
On the 2.5 S, Nissan adds a power driver seat; cruise control; six-speaker audio; steering-wheel audio controls; automatic headlights; On the 3.5 S, the Altima also gets 18-inch wheels and paddle shifters with a manual shift mode.
At the top of the lineup, the Altima SL comes standard with leather seating; nine-speaker Bose audio; heated front seats and steering wheel; an eight-way power driver seat; an auto-dimming rearview mirror; LED taillights and mirror-mounted turn signals; and heated side mirrors.
On both four- and six-cylinder Altima SV sedans, Nissan fits remote start; alloy wheels; a rearview camera; a more advanced Bluetooth system with inbound text reading and outbound pre-programmed responses for some phones (but currently not the Apple iPhone); a USB port; and satellite radio. This Altima's infotainment system also permits streaming from Pandora, and accepts mapping information from Google Maps, too. The 3.5 SV also adds fog lights, a universal remote, and a moonroof.
All Altimas also get a new Drive-Assist Display, which replaces the typical trip computer and related functions with a 4.0-inch LCD screen between the gauges, depicting the car--in the correct color--in a 3D-like effect. The display shows information on fuel economy, trip distance, tire pressures, audio functions, and directions when a navigation system is included.
Options include a navigation system with a larger 7-inch screen, a welcome step up from the last-generation Altima's puny LCD readout; remote start; and a rear spoiler.
The model lineup seems complex, but with so many features bundled together, the Altima's actually been packaged for simpler, more efficient assembly. It's also been configured to a target weight and price--which might explain why some versions omit things like rear-seat air vents or even an option for satellite radio, and why no versions can be fitted with a power passenger seat.
2014 Nissan Altima
The Altima sports an excellent 38-mpg EPA highway rating in four-cylinder form--and it's reachable in the real world.
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.