– Cleveland, Ohio
It’s so difficult to find the right midsize sedan. I should know – at my last job, I produced this impractically long buying guide on midsize sedans. The problem is that automakers compete so fiercely for your midsize sedan dollar that none of them make a truly bad product, Nissan included. Being good, though, just isn’t enough in today’s field of 11 worthy four-doors. The Nissan Altima is a good car, but its refreshening for 2016 doesn’t go far enough to make it as great as competitors like the Subaru Legacy, Honda Accord, and Mazda6. Here’s why.
- The Altima is truly exceptional at one thing: fuel economy. With EPA ratings of 27 miles per gallon in the city, 39 on the highway, and 31 combined, it’s nearly the most fuel-efficient gas-powered midsize sedan you can buy (ones that offer special engines like the Hyundai Sonata Eco just eek it out). Its particularly good highway fuel economy is 1 and 2 mpg better than the Mazda6 and Honda Accord, respectively, though all three post combined ratings of 31 mpg. Credit the aerodynamic work Nissan did on the Altima’s front end and underbody for the extra mpg it earns now compared to last year’s version.
- Speaking of highway cruising, it’s where the Altima feels most at home. Not only are you sipping fuel, the continuously variable transmission has the Altima’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine operating at whisper volume, turning over just 1,500 rpm at 60 miles per hour and 1,750 rpm at 70 mph. The cabin is quiet, the ride is smooth, the newly shaped seats are cushy, and the steering doesn’t need to be babysat to keep the car in its lane.
- The Altima uses a continuously variable transmission, one that exhibits some of the worst traits automakers have been trying to fix in CVTs for years. For instance, the engine drones on at a constant engine speed when accelerating. Also, there’s a “rubber band effect” that occurs when the revs increase out of sync with the car’s speed. The CVT in the Altima I drove even had a wandering tach needle that jumped and fell seemingly at random, and when I lifted my foot off of the accelerator, it held the engine’s revs at 1,250 rpm, which seemed strangely high.
- Despite the fact the Altima’s interior was updated for 2016, it still offers nothing exceptional in terms of design, the quality of the materials used, or functionality. The best thing I can say is that it’s relatively straightforward to use, but I can also say that the fake wood treatment in this top-of-the-line SL tester is an eyesore (it looks like something you would doodle in a notebook during detention). Furthermore, the leather on the driver’s seat bolster is already wearing after a few thousand miles of use, and the controls are the same cheap-feeling bits and pieces we’ve seen in every Nissan over the last few years.
- Speaking of design, the Altima’s new look for 2016 is called “Energetic Flow.” It was introduced on the 2015 Nissan Murano and 2016 Maxima, both of which were all-new, clean sheet exterior designs. The Altima, however, gets this new look grafted onto the same basic car we had last year. It looks forced to me because the smooth, rounded lines from last year’s car are still present on the doors and fenders, but they meet up with new, sharper, more angular sheetmetal on the front and rear ends. Styling is, of course, subjective, but I liked last year’s look more.
- Chevrolet Malibu
- Chrysler 200
- Ford Fusion
- Honda Accord
- Hyundai Sonata
- Kia Optima
- Subaru Legacy
- Toyota Camry
- Volkswagen Passat
|2016 NISSAN ALTIMA 2.5 SL|
|OUTPUT||182 Horsepower / 180 Pound-Feet|
|EPA FUEL ECONOMY||27 City / 39 Highway / 31 Combined|
|CARGO VOLUME||15.4 Cubic Feet|
Photos: John Neff / Motor1.com