By KBB.com Editors
After a successful redesign in 2007, the 2009 Nissan Altima carries on with only minor changes. Spun from Nissan/Renault's robust D-Platform architecture, this stylish front-drive four-door continues as the volume leader in the division's lineup, having been joined by a limited-production, gasoline-electric Hybrid variant as well as a sporty Coupe model (both reviewed separately). Even in conventional form, the Altima sedan covers a lot of competitive ground, offering four trim levels, both four- and six-cylinder power and the choice of a six-speed manual or Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). That wide selection helps it face off against the current best-seller, Toyota's popular Camry, as well as the Chevrolet Malibu and Honda Accord – both formidable foes in one of America's toughest market segments.You'll Like This Car If...
The Altima's breadth of powertrain and packaging choices opens the door for lots of comparatively affordable variations on the theme that can meet and exceed the needs of all manner of mid-size sedan buyers – whether they're seeking basic transportation or want something with a more sporting character.You May Not Like This Car If...
Anyone who regularly plans to carry adults in the rear seat will find the Chevy Malibu, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry all offer a bit more usable "stretch space" in the aft quarters than the slightly smaller Altima package.What's New for 2009
The base 2.5 model receives more standard features including new 16-inch wheel covers, a CVT automatic transmission, power side mirrors, a trip computer and outside temperature gauge. The 3.5 SE trim receives Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), HID headlamps, fog lamps and a rear spoiler.Driving It Driving Impressions
An extremely rigid body structure serves as a great foundation for all Altima models. Even with their smaller wheel-and-tire packages, the four-cylinder variants have a semi-sporty feel, and things get more overtly engaging when you step up to an SE V6 variant. While not quite as dynamically sophisticated as the new Accord, the Altima's suspension soaks up minor road imperfections while delivering a comfortable and well-controlled ride over most surfaces. The four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are competent and consistent stoppers. Both the 3.5 SE and 3.5 SL also offer the Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) group that adds both driver-selectable stability and traction controls to deliver an extra measure of confidence.Favorite Features
Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
Standard on the base 2.5 and 3.5 SL and available on all others, the Xtronic is Nissan's third-generation CVT. This computer-controlled stepless shifter helps improve performance, economy and emissions. In "Sport" mode, it even creates six "virtual" gears that closely approximate the response of a conventional manual gearbox.
Optional 2.5 SL Package
This fashionable extras group gives buyers who want a more fuel-efficient four-cylinder Altima 2.5 S virtually all of the main upscale trappings of a 3.5 SL, adding leather upholstery, power and heated front seats, a moonroof, dual-zone climate control with rear air vents, HomeLink universal garage-door opener and numerous lesser luxury touches.