David Linklater takes the new Nissan Altima Ti for a test drive. Will it pass the test? Or is this a car without a market?
Base price: $53,290.
Powertrain and performance: 2.5-litre petrol four, 127kW/230Nm, continuously variable transmission, front-drive, Combined economy 7.5 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4885mm long, 1470mm high, luggage capacity 488 litres, fuel tank 65 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels on 235/45 tyres.
We like: Incredible refinement, luxury equipment, practical cabin.
We don’t like: Powertrain spoils luxury atmosphere under load, chassis does not like to be hurried.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Nissan has embraced the current fashion for crossover-type vehicles more enthusiastically than most. This year alone it has launched new versions of the Qashqai and X-Trail, not to mention the Pathfinder in late-2013.
So in some ways it’s strange to see it persisting with an entirely conventional sedan like the Altima. The days of three-box models dominating the market are long gone, but those who remember the very popular Maxima might still warm to Altima.
It’s not a direct replacement for that car, but rather a sedan that attempts to straddle both medium and large segments: it has a four-cylinder engine like a mid-sizer, but in fact it’s slightly larger than Maxima and has similar dimensions to some big-six models. Which should not surprise, because in other markets it’s also available as a V6.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? Altima is really a car for middle America and that’s how it drives: it’s ultra-refined, the powertrain is smooth and it does not like to be hurried.
Being decidedly unsporting is not a bad thing for a car like this, especially in the flagship Ti specification of our test car. It’s bound to be a vehicle that appeals to either user-chooser company executives or private buyers who prefer an entirely traditional genre of car. Neither necessarily want the last word in driver appeal.
Nissan is fully committed to continuously variable transmission (CVT) and the gearbox in the Altima is certainly an accomplished example of the technology. It’s a great cruising car which could sometimes pass for a six-cylinder model – at least until you hit the sport button and the powertrain tries to become lively. It’s not convincing.
The Altima is set up for a comfortable ride and capable cornering. Overly light steering and considerably body roll are there to remind you that this is a pseudo-luxury car rather than a sporting sedan. It’s actually a role it plays rather well.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? Speaking of which: the Altima Ti is absolutely loaded with equipment. You get the usual accoutrements for this segment, such as leather upholstery, dual-zone climate air conditioning, satellite navigation and a great sound system (Premium Bose in this case).
But the level of luxury detail goes deeper. There’s Nissan’s excellent Around View Monitor (AVM), which gives you a 360-degree view for parking (similar to camera systems on some Audi and BMW models), active safety equipment such as Active Understeer Control (AUC) and blind spot/lane departure warning, and comfort/convenience features like an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with two memory settings and a powered rear sunblind.
Nissan even claims the front seats are derived from NASA technology; don’t know about that, but they are pretty comfortable.
While the cabin styling is nothing striking, there’s just an extra level of luxury detail in the equipment level that adds buyer-appeal to the Altima Ti.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? The Altima is not a great car to drive, but it can be an impressive machine to travel in – at least if you appreciate refinement and luxury equipment.
It’s a vehicle whose strengths may not be immediately apparent, but for those who want to lead a quiet life it’s certainly worth consideration: four-cylinder economy with the presence and luxury of a top-line big-six.
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Blind spot warning: No
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Yes
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Lane guidance: Yes
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Parking radar: Yes with 360-degree camera
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
- Rear ventilation outlets: Yes
- Remote audio controls: Yes
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Seat height adjustment: Yes
- Self-parking technology: No
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
- Steering reach adjustment: Yes
- Stop-start: No
- Trip computer: Yes
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