Is there a more hotly contested automotive segment than the mid-size family sedan market? Every year it seems there is a new darling in this slot and after this year’s media dominance by the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata, Nissan has released its answer to the duo from Korea. Nissan knows that gas prices are foremost on American’s minds these days and with weight being the biggest enemy of fuel economy, responded by dropping the weight on the already light-weight Altima by 80 lbs. while increasing interior space in nearly every dimension. This, combined with some aggressively frugal “gear” ratios in the Altima’s CVT transmission and the addition of direct injection to the 4-cylinder allows for an impressive 38mpg highway and 27 mpg city. They achieved this number without resorting to hybrid technology or turbo chargers. This leads me to believe there is more fuel economy to found in this platform is Nissan decides to start including any or all of those technologies in the Altima.
In normal city driving, the CVT keeps the 2.5 liter 4-cylinder low in the RPM band, ostensibly for fuel economy reasons, but the other hidden reason for this is that the 2.5 gets rather unrefined the higher it climbs in RPM. This isn’t my first run-in with Nissan 4-cylinders making quite a racket, and I suspect the reason Nissan has gotten away with a rather unrefined 4-cylinder for so long is due to their excellent CVT transmissions keeping the engine calm.
Over the road, you can feel the lightness of the platform in the corners. Cornering is sharp, but the car feels slightly nose heavy. Noise isolation was another sore spot for me with excess tire and engine noise intruding into the cabin.
Nissan’s 2013 Altima has all of the basics down to take on the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima as well as the Accord and Camry, but some work to refine the engine and additional power train choices would make it a stronger contender in this competitive market.
The full gallery of pictures from the IMPA Test days is located here and will continue to be built as quick drive reviews are added:
Trim: 2.5 SL
Engine: 2.5 Liter 4-cylinder with Direct Injection
Driveline: Front wheel drive, Constantly-Variable Transmission
Horsepower @ RPM: 182 @ 6000 RPM
Torque @ RPM: 180 @ 4000 RPM
Fuel Economy: City/Highway: 27/38
Location of Manufacture: Smyrna & Decherd, Tennessee and Canton, Mississippi
Base Price: $21,500
Est. As Tested Price: $29,920