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Yet another Nissan Altima review, by way of rental


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Reviewing the Altima was on my bucket list.  I then saw another member did a very thorough job of reviewing it and wondered if I should review it.  My spin on the car is somewhat the same, yet different, so I will review the typical base model Nissan Altima found in rental fleets.


Japanese iron has made serious inroads into rental fleets.  If you call ahead to find out what the full size car might be, you are likely to hear a list of Camry and Company.  After a very slushy and unremarkable but absurdly cheap 2009-ish rental of a Camry in Canada, I vowed to avoid renting the larger Japanese cars in the future.


It turned out that I had a weird flight connection in MSP, one that required that I overnight there.  I arrived late one night and departed the next day.   The trip was on a free ticket.  To get around, a mere $22 got me a full size car from one of the majors at the airport.  When I arrived, the inventory had been picked through and their IT system was down for maintenance, so my R.A. was filled out by hand.


After hemming and hawing about the choices out on the parking deck, I opted for a silver Altima.  Being that I'm so used to GM, I had to get familiar with all of the features and controls in this car.  Not only that, it was dark and I was tired.  I got a better feel for the Altima the next day.


The interesting thing about the car is the CVT.  I wondered if it would feel like an electric cart people use for maintenance chores.  Not a chance.  The CVT revs upward to get the engine where it needs to be relative to how much throttle you give it.  Then, it retreats down to a cruising level of rpms, perhaps 100 or 200 rpm lower on the highway than I have seen in a car where the transmission has gears.  This will placate the driver's need to feel as if they have gone through a shift point.  Reports on CVTs have been all over the board.  The explanation of how they work sounds very plausible, and even appealing.  Some claim they've been reliable.  Others report that they have not.  In speaking to a Nissan agency, I learned that they don't overhaul these often.  It's most likely a R&R (repair and replace), to the tune of about $3,000.


The Altima has some appealing angles, such as the profile, and some angles which are less appealing.  With this latest model, the extra canted vane in the front grille helps make the expanse of it look smaller and more agreeable.  Also, the previous rear tail lamps looked too narrow, and the latest ones extend inward toward the license plate more and look nicer.


Inside, the Altima has a lot of features that are commendable - a clearly organized dashboard, a simple center stack that doesn't take too long to learn, flatter as opposed to overly sculpted yet still comfortable cloth bucket seats, headrests in the rear seats that are integral and don't block the view, and sort of an opera window effect in the C-pillar area that make visibility decent.  Controls for the trunk release, fuel door release, and resetting the trip odometers are fairly obvious.  It might all be utilitarian, but it's all user friendly.  The only major demerit was the kink at the bottom of the center stack, where it leans back in, yet doesn't provide much room nor a cubby hole to make it very usable.  It reminded me of the console lever in the 06-07 Monte Carlo (last gen) where the gear selector in park position interfered with operating the lowermost tier of the center stack - the climate control panel.


The Altima's ride is smooth, comfortable, and predictable.  This is a car that doesn't want to be pushed in the cloverleafs, though.  It is quiet enough, but not GM quiet.  There's a slight tire drone ... or some sort of a hum. 


If the CVT gets to the point of being almost faultless, this could very well be a good car for many people.  However, I'd only recommend it in base form.  Out the door, and before taxes and license fees, this is a car you don't want to spend more than the low 20s for.  I see going into the high line, leather trimmed, and sunroof equipped versions as sort of pointless.  Most of the rental fleet cars feature a black cloth interior.  I noticed that they offer a beige cloth interior.  Paired with the dark blue metallic exterior, this sounded like a winner.  In real life, the beige is practically a soulless off white color and it has black trim.  It looks terrible.  Had the shade of beige been darker and the trim been a darker shade of a similar color, it would have been very attractive.


Lastly, the fuel mileage for this size of car is remarkable.  I could tell it sipped fuel.  On one jaunt, on a very cool night, with no A/C, flat terrain, and the cruise set at a hair under 65 mph, I recorded about 41.1 mpg.  It's remarkable because a mini Smart car doesn't even get that sort of mileage.


Three exterior views (2 in silver and 1 in burgundy) and one interior view (rear headrests and C-pillar area):











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