2014 Nissan Altima: Familar, friendly, and great as ever

4 Aug 2014 | 1,616 views | No Comment
By Donald Hammonds The French say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Could that really be true of the 2014 Nissan Altima?  We think it is. And that's a good thing.   The  2014 Altima is what it always has been:  Roomy, ultra quiet, and a car that appeals to the performance minded family person. Only Honda's Accord and to a slightly lesser extent, the Ford Fusion, can go to the mat with Altima on the performance angle.      If you're wondering how to position Altima among mid-sized sedans, think of it as a value/sophistication proposition. Value is relevant here because the Altima, with a base price of around $21,860, is less expensive than all but a handful of the midsized sedans on the market.      And sophistication comes into play because experts in the mid-sized sedan market data say that Altima buyers pick it because they are looking for something upscale and elegant, with a bit more to separate themselves from the other mid-sized products, and also because the car is a strong performer on the road.       But the real story may be fuel economy.  Altima gets a pretty striking 31 miles per gallon overall, and 38 miles per gallon on the highway!  City mileage is 27 miles per gallon.  The government says the 2.5 liter, 182 horsepower,  four cylinder engine that powers the Altima 2.5 SL that we drove uses 3.2 gallons of gasoline per 100 miles.       The government says you can also save $3,000 in fuel costs over five years, compared with other new cars, by buying an Altima with this engine, and the CVT transmission that is one of the smoothest on the market.  Fuel costs for the Altima run $1,700 a year, based ono 15,000 miles of driving  with gasoline costing $3.50 a gallon.         But none of this suggests that this is an economy car in a way that people think of with fuel sippers.  The Altima has an air of luxury and graciousness inside, aided by sumptuous leather, an attractive two toned theme with tasteful wood accents and chrome accoutrements everywhere.  In other words, this is an elegant, attention getting automobile.       It certainly is among the most roomy cars in its class, with plenty of stretch out space for legs, and comfortable, very well-positioned headrests for the back seat passengers.  It's a lovely place to take a nap as your driver heads down the highway! The instrument panel, by the way, is one of the most tasteful around, with easy to use controls, a generally intuitive function for all systems, and a navigation and BlueTooth set up that is almost impossibly simple to use.  Every action leads to another logical action, with no guesswork involved here.       Handling is excellent, with stable, mostly body-lean cornering, and the brakes are excellent, displaying no grabbiness or sensitivity to pressure.   Our test model was an SL, with a base price of $27,760. That included aluminum alloy wheels, eight way power seates, leather seats and heated front sates, a heated steering wheel, cruise control, a nine speaker Bose audio system including woofers, Sirius XM Satellite radio, BlueTooth, dual zone automatic temperature control, rear air conditioning vents,  remote start system, power doors, locks, windows and seats, push button ignition, automatic on/off light system, LED taillights, chrome exhaust features and other items.        With the optional moonroof package, technology package, and carpeted mats, the bottom line was $30,625. We had no problems at all with the Altima. But we do note that Consumer Reports predicts that the Altima would have "much worse than average reliability" with the main issue found on 2013 models being body part integrity.  However, to be fair, we would also note that we saw absolutely no evidence of that, or any  other fit and finish issues on our well-built example.      Styling?  We like it a lot.  The semi fastback roof design, the aggressive front end and the sense of presence in the side profile suggest a sleek, sporty sedan. But--we would also say that the next generation of Altimas, we hope, will have a new overall styling theme, because this one has been around now for some time in several generations of being on the market.        The Altima is, what we have always believed it to be: A solid, satisfying buy.

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