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the_yellow_dart

Test drove the Altima hybrid

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Wandered around Pickering yesterday at lunch looking for a hybrid to drive. Stopped at an Acura dealer first, in case there was a hybrid CSX (I thought that made sense but apparently not).

Then I stopped at Chevy, where the salesman told me they haven't ordered another Silverado hybrid since the first one took them many months to sell.

Next door was Nissan, who had a Altima hybrid on display. Lettering on the windshield proclaimed a $3500 rebate from the Canadian government. Interestingly, the Nissan Canada website seems to claim only $1500. Not sure of the source of the discrepancy here. This is part of the same fuel-reducing incentive program that now slaps $1000 rebates on the Yaris, but not the Fit, which is 0.1 L/100 km off the mileage goal for a subcompact - hmmm, that's not Toyota throwing money at the Canadian government, is it?

The front of the trunk was boxed off for the batteries. This gave it what looked like about the same size trunk as my Cobalt. The main problem though, is this means that you cannot fold down the rear seats for more room.

The wireless key and pushbutton ignition were definitely impressive, especially on a hybrid. When I first pushed the button, the car sprang to life and turned on the A/C without immediately starting the gas engine. The key itself pulled apart to reveal an actual key inside, for opening the doors should the key battery die. There was also a slot in the dash that would hold and recognize the key for ignition purposes, also in case the key battery died. One thing I noticed while looking at the normal Altima model in the showroom however: Since there is no key hole in the trunk lid, there is no way to open the trunk if the battery dies. You can't even get there from the main cabin of the car, so you'd really be screwed. For locking and unlocking the doors with the remote key, there was a little black rubber button set into the outside of the door handles. It was kind of neat, but left me wondering why they didn't just make it open when you pull the handle with the key in range.

As for the drive. It was a very different feeling to drive something with a CVT and Hybrid system working together. The smoothness of the CVT was only made more other-worldly by the electric motor. Accelerating to freeway speed happens much quicker than you realize. I think it would be very easy to speed in this car. Without the snap of gears, you almost don't realize how much work the engine has done.

The instrumentation was very clean and well thought out. No fancy diagrams like Honda or Toyota hybrids. Just a speedometer, battery charge gauge, and an electric motor thrust gauge. The electric motor thrust gauge showed the boost or charge of the electric motor, and was sized and placed like a traditional tach. It was neat to see it dip below "0" into the charge portion during braking. I would have liked to see a traditional tach as well, but that's coming from a manual transmission fan, so I doubt I'm the core audience here.

There was a "B" mode on the transmission - as in "PRNDB". It's a battery-only mode, where the driver can select to only use the electric engine, if desired. Not sure why you'd want to do this, as you'd have to charge the battery eventually anyways, but I still thought it was nice to give the driver the choice to do this.

One thing I was very disappointed with was the colour choice. The normal Altima colour palette is already pretty boring, but the hybrid choices are further limited. There were only 5 choices - black, two silvers, a sand colour, and "Jade green" which was a very dark and sedate green. Talk about grandpa colours! I felt like I was shopping for a damn Camry. Why has the choice of real colours become so rare from so many manufacturers lately??

The brochure also showed something pretty disappointing - the mileage rating. I didn't see a mileage readout in the car, so I don't have a real-world comparison. However, the mileage ratings were:

5.6 L/100 km (50 mpg) City

5.9 L/100 km (48 mpg) Hwy

This may sound impressive, but I achieve numbers like this with the Cobalt fairly regularly.

In fact, I decided to take my Cobalt on a high-mileage run home after work that day to check the real-world mileage, 78,000 km into its life. It was a good traffic day, and I managed a readout of 49.6 mpg for the 40 km (25 mile) ride home. Mind you, this was almost entirely highway, and the Altima would likely have shown much more impressive numbers than the Cobalt in city-based driving. Still, why pay so much more for a hybrid? Hardly seems worth it when the mileage is so comparable from "old tech" traditional cars which are much more usable for cargo room and easier and cheaper to service, not to mention probably better for the environment after the batteries from the hybrid end up in the dump.

So although the car was impressive, I would never buy one. Nor would I buy any hybrid for sale today. Tell me, why is everyone jumping on the hybrid bandwagon?

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i can only see them for things like the T-900s, or a city vehicle (one extreme or the other), but something like a smart car ,size and power wise might be better than a hybrid in the city.

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the electric only mode is great for going stealth on city streets at night....stalking exes.......

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the electric only mode is great for going stealth on city streets at night....stalking exes.......

it'd be nice if you ever shuffle cars , i doubt many people on here do though, but i would be one of them.
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