It's not easy being number three. Especially in the class of the midsize sedan where the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry rule the roost. But there is a model which has been making itself at home in third place. That model would be the Nissan Altima. In its current incarnation, the Altima has been making a name for itself among the likes of the Accord and Camry. But why does the Altima end up sitting in third place in sales at the end of year? Well I spent a week with a 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL and I think I have an answer to that.
The Altima’s exterior sits somewhere in the middle of the midsize sedan design spectrum. It isn’t as exciting as a Kia Optima or a Mazda6, but it isn’t as bland as the Toyota Camry or Volkswagen Passat. The Altima’s front has has a trapezoidal-shaped grille and front headlights that carry a boomerang-shape as seen on 370Z. The boomerang light idea continues in the back where the rear taillights carry the same design. One other cue to take note of on the Altima is the flowing front fenders.
The Altima’s interior follows the same design as the exterior. Nothing too flashy, nor too bland. The layout is very simple with leather, fake wood and metal trim lining parts of the interior. This makes it feel very upscale when compared to competitors. One of the big selling points on the Altima its zero-gravity seats which they say helps put less of a load on on the spine, pelvis and muscles on long trips. Now I cannot say whether or not the seats provided less stress to my back, but I can say they were comfortable. Back seat passengers will find a surprising amount of head and legroom.
The center stack featured a seven-inch touchscreen which comes as part of the SL Tech package. The touchscreen features the latest version of the automaker’s infotainment system which includes NissanConnect, a way for certain apps such as Facebook to be used in the vehicle via your smartphone. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to play around with this. What I did get to play around with was the system itself. The interface looks somewhat old, despite it being a brand new system. However, the system is really easy to comprehend with large touch points, hard buttons on either side of the screen, and simple layout. But in my tester, the system had some problems that ranged from slowness to the entire system doing a reboot. I don’t know if this was an odd occurrence or a common problem at the time I had the vehicle. I need to spend some more time with Nissan’s system before I can really answer this.
For Thoughts On The Powertrain and Ride, See Page 2
Like Honda and Toyota, Nissan is sticking with a four-cylinder and V6 engine lineup for the Altima. My tester, was equipped with the 2.5L four-cylinder which makes 182 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. It's paired up with the company’s Xtronic CVT. The 2.5 is pretty peppy with power being always there and offering decent acceleration. What I wished for was a bit more refinement from the engine. Apparently Nissan’s engineers had listed on engine requirements was to make sure everyone in the interior knew the engine was working. Well that has been accomplished. The CVT for the most part is unobtrusive and is able to deliver the power smoothly. The only downside is that when you push down on the accelerator pedal, the CVT makes itself known. On the fuel economy front, the EPA rates the Altima equipped with the 2.5 at 27 City/38 Highway/31 combined. I averaged 30.5 during my week-long test.
Taking the Altima out on the open roads, it proved to be a fine cruiser. Whether on the freeway, in the city, or out in the suburbs;, the suspension does a very good job of smoothing out the bumps and imperfections. As for noise isolation, the Altima sits in the middle once again. A decent amount of road and wind noise is contained, but it cannot compare to the likes of the Chevrolet Malibu. Out on the curvy stuff, the Altima once again sits in the middle. The suspension is capable enough to keep the Altima level and the steering has a nice response and feel.
To go back to the question I asked earlier about why the Altima sits in third place, I think I have the answer. Nissan has most of the pieces together with the Altima. But there are a couple of stumbling blocks for the model with the engine needing some more refinement and the buggy infotainment system. Because of these problems, it puts the Altima right in the number three spot. If Nissan were to fix these problems, then we might have a three-horse race for #1.
Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Altima 2.5 SL, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Trim: 2.5 SL
Engine: 2.5L DOHC Inline-Four
Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
Horsepower @ RPM: 182 @ 6000
Torque @ RPM: 180 @ 4000
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/38/31
Curb Weight: 3,206 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Smyrna, Tennessee
Base Price: $27,760.00
As Tested Price: $30,625.00 (Includes $790.00 Destination Charge)
Technology Package - $1,090.00
Moonroof Package - $890.00
Carpeted Floor and Trunk Mats - $185.00