The Nissan Altima is one of the most popular cars from Nissan not only in our region, but worldwide as well. As cars in this segment normally are, competing with the likes of Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, it’s a mid-sized sedan bringing over Nissan’s personality of sharp design and focus on performance with award winning engines.
With the new Altima, Nissan seems to have asked their design team to take the existing Maxima, make it slightly smaller in size with more emphasis on curves. The result is a chunky looking saloon that looks like it’s trying too hard to please. Certainly an improvement over the previous generations rather bland looks, though.
It seems like as Toyota and Honda are going for sharp edges with aggressive angles, Nissan seems to be going the opposite direction with flowing lines and muscular outlooks.
Inside the new Altima is appropriately spacious with decent legroom for a car in this segment. Our tester came with beige leather seats and upholstery with silver plastic and wood grain trim.
On the center console the new Altima has had a much needed update thanks mainly to the 7-inch navigation system. The screen itself is crisp and very responsive, with one of the fastest Bluetooth connections to my iPhone 5 I’ve seen in any car recently. Paired with the Bose 9-speaker system, you have some really good audio pumping into the fairly quiet interior of the Altima.
The steering wheel has a full navigation buttons for the system display (Advanced Driver Assist Display) within the speedometer. Media controls along with cruise control are also thrown in for good measure. Driver assists such as blind spot warning and lane departure are clearly visible and easily adjustable on the Advanced Driver Assist Display.
The overall interior of the new Altima is very nice, at least in the range topping 3.5SL, brining it very close to its Infiniti cousins. The general quietness of the cabin, relatively spacious legroom and pleasantly designed panels and buttons make a powerful statement as to how far mid-sized Japanese family sedans have come.
Our Altima was equipped with Nissan’s legendary VQ35DE engine, so with 3.5-liters this V6 produces 270HP and 350Nm torque. The horsepower is reduced a little to keep the Altima 3.5SL from undercutting Nissan’s more expensive VQ35 equipped cars, such as the Maxima which makes 290HP.
As with the previous generation Altima, and most Nissan family friendly cars for that matter, the new Altima comes equipped with a CVT transmission. On the 3.5 SL we get the paddle shifts behind the steering wheel which emulates a 7-speed gearbox.
I must say that while I’m not a fan of CVT transmissions in general, the VQ35DE does a great job of porting the torque quite nicely through the RPM range. In particular city driving with traffic the CVT performs beautifully as the acceleration feels very controlled and smooth. If ever I wanted to drive a bit enthusiastically, simply putting the gear into Sports mode did the job adequately. Of course, the paddle shifts do add that feeling of gears changing.
All said and done, the CVT doesn’t hinder the performance of the Altima 3.5 SL, as sporty driving is only a hand-flip away. Oh, and a full tank with completely city driving will give you almost 600km.
So the drive is very subdued, with comfy (but not overly cushioned) suspension, lack of road noise and general sense of speed when you need it at an, admittedly hard, push of the foot. My only complaint is the amount of body roll, although it’s not unusual in this segment.
With great fuel economy, nice interior, updated driver assists and navigation system, plus a bold design, the new 2013 Nissan Altima is a compelling buy and excellent value for money if you’re looking for a new family sedan.