By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.1
In the crowded mid-size family sedan segment, Nissan's 2012 Altima remains a viable alternative to the Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu and Volkswagen Passat. Although starting to show its age, the 2012 Altima Sedan still has much to offer. While it's not as sleek or modern as the Kia Optima or Hyundai Sonata, the Altima is still an attractive car with a very sporty side that makes it a favorite among enthusiast-oriented drivers who need four doors. With a choice of 4- or 6-cylinder engines, and even a hybrid model, the 2012 Altima Sedan covers a wide price bracket with features ranging from basic needs to cutting edge. Regrettably, Nissan has chosen to drop its manual transmission, even from the V6 cars, leaving a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) as the only choice. The CVT is excellent for maximizing fuel economy and power, and it even features a program to make it feel as though it is shifting gears like a traditional transmission. But, if you want to know the joy of shifting for yourself, you'll have to look to the Honda Accord, Kia Optima or Mazda Mazda6 for that thrill.
The 2012 Nissan Altima Sedan is a car with multiple personalities. In base form, it serves those seeking a low-cost source of secure transportation while still enjoying some nice standard features. Go big, and you can be driving a potent V6-powered sport sedan loaded with everything from a Bose audio system to voice-activated navigation.
If the "newest and the latest" are a big part of your car-buying criteria, the aging 2012 Nissan Altima probably won't excite you. The Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata offer fresher skin and cost less when comparably equipped. Others worth considering include the VW Passat, Dodge Charger and Toyota Camry.
Changes for 2012 are limited to a new Value Package that includes Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, auto on/off headlights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and HomeLink. Bluetooth is now standard on the 3.5 SR and available on the 2.5 S.
Driving Impressions The key to the 2012 Nissan Altima Sedan's longevity is a rigid body structure that helps boost the car's sporty driving characteristics. Even the base cars with their smaller wheel...and tire packages and 4-cylinder engines are fun to drive. The action gets more intense when you move the V6-powered 3.5 SR, which offers 270 horses under the hood, bigger wheels, and a performance suspension. Again, there are newer and better suspensions out there, but the Altima still offers a pleasant combination of comfortable ride and good handling that should satisfy all but the most hard-core drivers. The Altima Sedan's 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) deliver competent and consistent stops, and the standard Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) adds both driver-selectable stability and traction controls to deliver an extra measure of confidence.
Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
Xtronic is Nissan's third-generation CVT. This computer-controlled stepless shifter helps improve performance and economy and lessen 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 4-cylinder Altima 2.5 S virtually all of the main upscale trappings of a 3.5 SR, adding leather upholstery, power and heated front seats, rear air vents, HomeLink universal garage-door opener and numerous lesser luxury touches.
The 2012 Nissan Altima Sedan's cabin is a handsome design that has stood the test of time well. Nissan adds a generous helping of quality plastics and soft-touch surfaces, as well as numerous storage spots for drinks, cell phones and valuables. Controls are logically placed and easy to view, backlit with white or red lighting. The instrument cluster houses the tachometer, speedometer, fuel and temp gauges, again with white font and bright red needles. As for comfort, we found the Altima Sedan's seats a bit soft, needing more in the way of lateral and lower back support. Rear-seat accommodations are fine for two adults, but those needing maximum head or legroom will probably want to look elsewhere, perhaps at the Dodge Charger or Honda Accord. The Altima's 60/40 rear split-bench seat can be folded down, accessing the 15.3-cubic-foot trunk.Exterior
Covered in traditional Nissan styling details, the 2012 Altima Sedan is trying to keep pace with a rapidly expanding field of newer, fresher competitors, but it's getting tougher every year. New wheel designs help the car look current, as do little touches such as the available rear spoiler and bright metallic paint. Upper-end trims include foglights, chrome trim around the deck lid and tailpipes, and integrated turn signals in the side mirrors.
Even the low-volume, 2012 Nissan Altima 2.5 base model includes anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, power locks, air conditioning and push-button start/stop. The 2.5 S, which accounts for the majority of all Altima sales, adds an audio system with CD player, Intelligent Key keyless entry and offers the luxury-oriented SL Package as an option. In addition to its V6 power the 3.5 SR appeals to driving enthusiasts with its sport-tuned suspension and performance tires. On the safety front, all Altimas feature front, front-side and side-curtain airbags.
An impressive array of upgrade packages is offered for all but the base 2.5. Even the 2.5 S can be outfitted with leather upholstery, a dual-zone climate-control system, power moonroof, voice-activated navigation system, premium Bose audio system, XM Satellite Radio, rearview camera and lots more. The 3.5 SR offers a Premium Package that adds heated front seats, driver's-side power lumbar support, rearview monitor and Bose audio with nine speakers. The Technology Package adds Nissan's next-generation hard-drive navigation and audio unit complete with streaming Bluetooth, real-time traffic and weather updates and Zagat restaurant review guide.
Conventional 2012 Altima Sedans offer the choice of an in-line-4 cylinder engine or a V6. Both engines are made from lightweight aluminum, have four valves per cylinder and use continuously-variable valve timing to improve response and efficiency across their entire operating ranges. The 2.5-liter four develops a solid 175 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque while the 3.5-liter V6 raises those figures to 270 and 258, respectively. Nissan's Xtronic CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission) is the only transmission choice.
2.5-liter in-line 4
175 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
170 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm (California)
180 lb-ft of torque @ 3,900 rpm
175 lb-ft of torque @ 3,900 rpm (California)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/32
270 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27
By Humble on Wednesday, March 25, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 11,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Easy to drive, excellent ride."
Cons: "Speedometer calibrated in 20MPH steps"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Had the Altima for three years and never a problem. Dealer easy to deal with for required maintenance."
By Phil on Monday, March 23, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 130,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Value and comfort for the money"
Cons: "Required additional set of snow-worthy tires"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"This car has been excellent for both in town and road driving over 7+ years. Physically and in performance it has met or exceeded all expectations. Best car I have ever had as to value and performance to costs."
By Meg on Thursday, March 19, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 80,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Better than ice cream.....go buy one now!"
Cons: "Poor visibility when looking rear"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I LOVE my Nissan coupe! I have all the power I need to use when necessary, like moving beyond a vehicle who suddenly swerves into your lane, or driving safely up and down steep mountains, or ending a game of "pass me at 75 & then drive 60" - now I can, within seconds! Okay...basically I think this car is nice looking too...I have leather, heated power seats...Bose sound, moon/sun roof, Bluetooth, auto headlights etc., none of which I have had before....this is all a lovely, fun, and since used, affordable dream to me, which I absolutely deserve. And yes, I do drive carefully....... I think everyone should own a car like this at least once in a lifetime....most definitely !! Unless you are a cat with 9 lives...then take your time doing what is on your bucket list . Me? Next will be a new coupe!"
By amcinak on Tuesday, March 17, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 39,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"I bought this car in the summer when there was no snow. I purchased it because of the ratings on gas mileage and because it is roomy inside but still looks somewhat sporty. I have driven in snowy/icy road conditions for thirty years and this is by far the worst handling car I have ever owned for these type of conditions. This is with new all weather tires. The ride is smooth on pavement but if you go over any type of speed bump, enter/exit a parking lot with any type of hump/bump you will bottom out. And that is going as slow as possible and still actually moving. It's also got some type of felt like/fabric covering on the wheel wells, which I don't understand. Snow and ice builds up on it and rubs the tires consistently. I do like the fact that it is roomy and comfortable to drive and I get about 28 mpg highway in cold temps."
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By RockitMan on Saturday, February 28, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 34,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "Easy to drive sporty quick subwoofer cool car"
Cons: "small not cheap bad in snow not good mileage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"80% of the reason I bought the car was the salesperson claimed 32mpg average. Turns out one person got 32mpg with straight highway driving. I'm getting 24-25 with 90% highway driving and cold weather. NO long warmups. Not easy to enter/exit for a fit 60 year old, but I knew that. I just thought I could handle it. Sporty handling means jarring bumps. Low ride height means you can't see well down the road. Headlights are not the best even with upgraded bulbs (not HID). No fog lights on mid-range model?? Corners well. Brakes don't stop well for such a light car, until you're nearly stopped, then they really grab. Not easy to see out of. Four headrests and 3rd brake light occupy much of the rear view mirror. Not worth squat in snow. Tires spin and brakes anti-lock. Tires are Michelin MX4, Consumer Report's top-rated tire. Trunk is large and so is the gas tank. Most panels are held together with plastic buttons. Superficially, this is a neat car. Am I just getting old? What in the world was I thinking when I bought this car??"
5 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By Alan on Thursday, February 26, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 54,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great economy,roomy,and easy to drive"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Have seen these vehicles all over,and decided to trade my 02 Impala in...Best thing I ever did Loved the Impala,but love the Altima just as much..I plan to trade every 10 years or so,and im sure it will continue to be a nice ride..."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful