Midsize Sedan Comparison: 2016 Nissan Altima

By Allyson Harwood on May 6, 2016 1:00 PM


A good among greats.
 

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Starting MSRP: $23,335

Above Average: Sporty attitude, attractive interior

Below Average: Infotainment, powertrain, steering feel

Consensus: The Altima is recommendable and worth a look, just make sure to also look at some others

600 Miles in 85 Words

The Altima is a midsize sedan that provides what people love about Nissan sedans: an appealing combination of sporty demeanor, comfortable interior and fuel efficiency -- thanks to its frugal 4-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission. The Altima was refreshed for 2016, with sharp new styling on the outside and notable appearance and functional improvements inside. Nissan's continued fine-tuning of the Altima has made this midsize sedan a spirited, fun alternative to some of the more conservative options in the segment.

A Closer Look

The 2016 Nissan Altima is near the top of its class when it comes to (non-hybrid) fuel economy. At the same time, it sets itself apart from the rest of the pack with a taut, sporty suspension that makes the Altima more fun to drive than others in the segment, plus it has an attractive interior. Here's how the 2016 Nissan Altima performed in key categories, followed by a closer look at each rating.

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Highway Driving  
The Altima's 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine offers some of the best fuel economy in the segment, but the downside is that it didn’t provide much in the way of a positive experience on the open highway. The engine felt sluggish, most noticeably when it came to passing power. The CVT did a commendable job, but droned and whined when pushed. However, once the Altima is up to cruising speed, the Intelligent Cruise Control and comfortable, resculpted-for-2016 front seats make it easy to drive several hundred miles without having to shift in your seat.

City Driving  The Altima's powertrain weaknesses also showed up around town, where driving from stoplight to stoplight highlighted the CVT noise and the engine's tepid acceleration. We also observed that the suspension, while tauter and sportier than others in the group, also let in too many road imperfections at the expense of a smooth ride.

Sporty Driving  The Altima offers heavier-feeling steering and a stiffer suspension than others in its segment, and that combination creates a sportier feel than you would get elsewhere. With the Altima SL we tested, we didn't get the most engaging driving experience the Altima has to offer. For that, the new SR trim level offers a more responsive suspension and steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters. And for those who are willing to sacrifice some fuel economy for performance, there's an optional V6.

Interior Appeal  One of the shining stars of the updated Altima is its interior. The light-colored wood accents, plus the light beige interior gave the cabin an airy feel. It wasn't the quietest car of the bunch inside, but fit and finish were top-notch, as were the materials. Most of us liked the reshaped Zero Gravity front seats and appreciated the ease of use of most of the controls in the cabin.  

Infotainment  It was easy to connect a phone via Bluetooth, but the Altima's navigation system was frustrating. Its screen was nearly impossible to use in sunlight, and fingerprints accumulated even during short drives. When using navigation to guide you on a specific route, the system doesn’t allow you to see the ETA and the miles remaining at the same time. The scale was either too close in or too far out, and there weren't enough street names shown on the map. Voice recognition could also use some work.

Rear Seat  When it came to rear-seat roominess, the Altima was our least favorite. The rear seats were the narrowest of the group and seemed to provide the least amount of leg- and knee room. It's nice to have a car that's driver-centric, but that shouldn't be at the expense of people who are sitting behind the driver.

Cargo Utility  When you're in the same segment as the Volkswagen Passat and Kia Optima, both of which have impressively large trunks, it's hard to compete. The Altima's trunk is decently sized and holds a generous amount of cargo -- 15.4 cubic feet -- but it doesn’t offer the space of others in its segment.

Fuel Economy  Another shining point for the Altima is its fuel economy. It delivered on this promise in a big way, scoring the second-highest on our as-tested fuel economy and netting 35.9 mpg on the return drive, fuel economy that was bested only by the Accord.

Resale Value  As the Altima continues to improve, both in the amount of features offered for the money and in terms of reliability, resale values will go up. But for now, the Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry and Honda Accord have the three best resale values in the segment. 

Inside and Out: 2016 Nissan Altima


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