While the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord are the acknowledged leaders in the midsize-sedan segment, the Nissan Altima has consistently nipped at their heels. Our recent comparison bears out the reason why: All three, when it comes to size, rear seat comfort and trunk capacity are cut from the same cloth. Therein lays its appeal -- the Altima has plenty of room, a decent 4-cylinder powertrain and a price that puts it solidly mid-pack and in the hunt for buyers looking for good value.

There's a few reasons why the 2014 Nissan Altima is not, however, a midsize-sedan segment leader. The first is that its design is, quite frankly, a little anonymous. The body lines flow nicely, but the grille and overall appearance is not as cutting edge as other designs from Nissan, like the newly updated Murano. Of course, the same can be said for the Toyota Camry, however, that car has a mid-cycle refresh coming in short order. The good news for Nissan fans is that the next Altima will be more distinctive, much in the way of the bold looking concept that is purported to be the next Maxima.

The growly 182-horsepower 4-cylinder engine in our test vehicle provided adequate power for a car in this class, and the continuously variable transmission actually mimics shifts like a conventional automatic in some instances, which makes for a more familiar driving feel. The Altima's handling is composed, and some editors put it third behind the Mazda6 and Ford Fusion in pure driving enjoyment. Of course, steering feel is subjective and one comment complained of steering that could have been more precise. But in day-to-day use, the Altima midsize sedan comes across as controlled and comfortable. The front bucket seats were supportive and easy to settle into with 6-way adjustment.

The other area of concern was the center touch screen, most notably about the usable size of the display. The area is compromised by menu bars across the top and bottom that can't be hidden. I found the lack of size was compensated by ease of use. Before leaving for our first midsize-sedan rendezvous in Santa Monica, it only took a couple of minutes to not only program in the destination, but also to pair my phone. The control interface, like the driving experience, is quite user-friendly.

Priced at $27,800, the Nissan Altima 2.5 SV was well-equipped with a convenience and technology package that included single touch front windows, rear A/C vents, a moonroof, fog lights, navigation, and a backup camera as well as blind spot, lane departure and moving object detection. The lane departure warning, in particular, comes on at the first indication of straying and its alarm can be annoying -- thankfully there's an easy-to-find override switch. Even though our test car had a cloth interior, the materials and trim were of high quality and well-executed in their finish. Even though the Altima is not at the cutting edge of midsize-sedan design and technology, with its easy-to-drive nature, roomy cabin and quality build, it holds up remarkably well in a highly competitive segment.

Next Stop

How much should you pay for a new Nissan Altima? How does its 5-Year Cost to Own stack up? Our Nissan Altima Editors' Page is your gateway to answers.

If you're still looking around, check out the other seven cars included in our 2014 Midsize Sedan Comparison Test.


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