2014 NISSAN ALTIMA REVIEW
What’s Hot: Sweet V6, plenty of rear legroom, value for money
What’s Not: Coarse-sounding inline four, average dynamics
X-FACTOR: It’s the largest non-large car around. Plenty of metal for your money
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
127kW/230Nm 2.5 petrol 4cyl / CVT auto
183kW/312Nm petrol 6cyl / CVT auto
Price: $29,990 to $45,390
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.5 l/100km (4cyl), 9.3 l/100km (6cyl)
At long last, the Nissan Altima is finally here. Or rather, an Altima that you can actually buy is finally here.
And though the front-drive road car that’s just arrived in showrooms doesn’t pack quite the same punch as the V8, it’s a plenty capable family sedan.
But is it a small car, or a large car? Nissan is at pains to stress that the Altima is not a replacement for the now-departed Maxima, but the Altima is 35mm longer overall, 35mm wider and only 15mm shorter in height.
The quality of materials is up to Nissan’s usual standards. There are soft-touch plastics on the dash and door trims, and everything is bolted together snugly.
Though sourced from Thailand, the Altima’s build-quality is similar to Nissan’s Japanese and European-sourced products. In other words, hard to fault.
However one complaint concerns the glossy piano-black panel that frames the radio and ventilation controls. It shows up fingerprints and light scratches too easily, and only looks good when it’s absolutely spotless.
The fact that the flagship Ti-S model shares the same cross-hatched dash trim as the base model will perhaps be another negative for buyers.
So it’s not terribly exciting visually, but it is a comfortable and functional interior. The button layout on the centre console is easy to interpret at a glance, and the instruments are clear and legible.
It’s also easy to get settled behind the steering wheel. There’s a wide range of adjustment to both the seat and the steering column, and headroom and elbowroom are in good supply.
The seats themselves were designed using research data from NASA, and they do indeed give good support to the lumbar region.
What they don’t do is give much lateral support, and we found ourselves sliding around the seat when cornering hard.
The back seat is roomy, with a very generous amount of rear legroom for a mid-sizer.
Rear headroom is in relatively short supply though, with the slope of the roof cutting into noggin-space for passengers around the 6ft mark.
Boot capacity measures 488 litres, which is a touch smaller than the Maxima’s 506 litre load area.
The 60-40 split rear seats fold down to boost carrying capacity, but the passthrough under the parcel shelf is quite narrow, limiting the ability to ability to accept wide objects.
ON THE ROAD
The Altima range is powered by two engines, with Nissan’s 2.5 litre QR25DE naturally-aspirated inline-four seeing service in the Altima ST, ST-L and Ti.
With just 127kW and 230Nm to motivate 1435kg, the 2.5 litre feels like it's working hard. The CVT gearbox does its best to make the most out of the 4-cylinder’s output, but the 2.5 is far from brisk.
But while speedy overtaking requires a bit of a run-up, the 2.5 is an able cruiser. The CVT keeps revs low at a highway cruise, and the engine is fairly quiet in this mode - something it isn’t when the rpm rises.
The suspension has similar attributes. It’s not totally at ease when being pushed hard, but settles into a more comfortable groove when plodding along.
That’s not to say that it handles loosely.
Even on the base ST’s 16-inch wheels the Altima grips reasonably well in a corner, but there’s an abundance of body roll and it simply doesn’t feel as alert and dynamic as, say, a Mazda6 or Ford Mondeo.
The Altima also reacts poorly to mid-corner bumps, with the soft suspension taking a moment to rein in body movements and restore stability.
The V6-powered Altima Ti-S is a more enjoyable experience at the wheel.
The extra power and torque of the 183kW/312Nm 3.5 litre V6 does wonders for straight-line performance, and the CVT is happier when it has more power to play with.
You also gain a manual shift-mode with the V6, which can help keep the engine on the boil when pressing hard.
The steering gains a bit more weight - and seemingly a bit more authority - with the V6 up front.
As with the four-cylinder there’s not much in the way of feedback through the wheel, but the electro-hydraulic power steering is at least much more consistent from lock-to-lock than most electric power assistance systems.
At a touch under $30k for the entry Altima ST, Nissan’s new sedan looks like a decent buy.
It’s cheaper than the Mazda, Honda and Toyota opposition, and far more appealing than Holden’s Malibu (which undercuts the Altima by $1500).
The V6 is the pick when it comes to power and refinement, but at $45,390 you need to dig a lot deeper.
Will the Altima enjoy greater fortunes than the Maxima (may it rest in peace)?
The next six to eight months will tell if it makes much of an impact in the showroom. On first impressions, we think there's some appeal here for those shopping in the mid-size market.
- Altima ST - $29,990 ($33,513 estimated drive-away)
- Altima ST-L - $35,890 ($39,667 estimated drive-away)
- Altima Ti - $40,190 ($44,025 estimated drive-away)
- Altima Ti-S - $45,390 ($50,784 estimated drive-away)
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