2014 NISSAN ALTIMA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
Price: $45,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 183kW/312Nm petrol 6cyl | CVT auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.3 l/100km | tested: 11.0 l/100km
But in V6 engined Ti-S specification - the one we're testing here - the Altima holds an advantage of two extra cylinders over the Camry and Mazda, and a hefty price advantage over the Accord V6 (and even over a similarly-specced Aurion V6).
So, in the absence of all else, on a price comparison the Altima has a bit going for it.
All fine and dandy, but can Nissan’s fresh new contender pick up the pace where the Maxima was caught snoozing?
Quality: Inside, the Altima is clean and uncluttered. There are no sweeping design flourishes here: simple and open for an spacious, airy feeling.
The dash and centre console impressed most; the focus on functionality makes for ease-of-use and the glossy black and cross-hatched trim elements look good.
Nissan’s old rotary controller has been replaced with a slicker touch-screen system too.
The leather trim however of the Ti-S is a letdown; there’s a huge difference in material finishes between the dull leather and shiny vinyl sections of the seats. There are some inconsistencies in dash and door plastics too.
Comfort: Hard to knock the comfort inside the Altima. Interior space is immense and front powered seats make finding the right driving position a breeze.
The driver’s lumbar support ensures long-haul comfort although the front passenger misses out (and there is not much in the way of side bolstering).
That said, overall, the ‘zero-gravity inspired’ seating has comfort covered.
Rear seat passengers also score well, with easy back-seat access and a broad and comfortable rear bench suitable for the long-legged. A low centre tunnel makes it easy to carry three abreast.
Equipment: The Altima Ti-S includes leather-appointed seats, electrically adjustable front seats with driver’s memory, power-folding mirrors, steering wheel-mounted cruise control and audio buttons, proximity key and push-button start.
There’s also privacy glass, auto-dimming rear mirror, auto lights and wipers, dual-zone climate control, low-beam xenon headlights, shift paddles and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Audio comes courtesy of a nine-speaker Bose system, controlled by a seven-inch touch screen with around-view camera and apps including Facebook, Pandora and Google search connected via Bluetooth with a paired mobile phone.
Storage: Cabin storage features two huge front cupholders (supersize? no worries) generous front door pockets and a big glovebox and centre console.
Boot space measures 488 litres, and the rear seat can be folded from inside the boot for larger items. The boot aperture is a little snug though, so loading bulky items can be tricky.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Nissan builds good sports cars and equally competent SUVs. We were disheartened then to find the Altima’s on-road performance 'off-the-pace'.
The 3.5 litre V6 produces a fairly meagre 183kW at 6400rpm and 312Nm at 4400rpm, a fair bit lower than the Aurion and Accord V6 engines which pump out at 200kW and 206kW respectively.
The upshot is that the Altima lacks the verve of the Aurion and Accord. It is not that it is sluggish - it has no trouble running with the traffic and holding its own in the highway - it just feels a little flat.
It is not greatly helped by the CVT transmission which also takes a bit of edge off the enjoyment.
In normal driving, it is mostly free of droning, but push harder for overtaking and you'll notice the rev-flaring typical of CVTs.
There’s a sports mode, which keeps revs a little higher (but isn’t especially sporty), and steering wheel paddles that are a little slow to react.
Also a debit is that when slowing and accelerating again (without coming to a complete stop), the car shudders a little. We noticed this in our recent Pathfinder review, but it was certainly more noticeable in the Altima.
Refinement: Despite a hushed engine, the gearbox shudder steals some of the sense of refinement away.
The cabin is a tad boomy too. At highway speeds, there is a fair bit of tyre noise that’s grating on longer stints.
Ride and Handling: As per the class average, The Altima rides on MacPherson front suspension with a multi-link independent rear. It delivers its best work when fully laden.
With just one or two people aboard the ride never settles, niggling over small imperfections in the road surface and taking too long to settle after bigger hits.
While pin-point accuracy in the steering isn’t an absolute necessity, the Altima pushes into light-understeer early (despite being fitted with electronic Active Understeer Control). The feel from the wheel is light, and minimises feed-back from choppy roads.
Braking: Vented front and solid rear discs pull the Altima up firmly. We gave the car a brake-intensive run through the hills and didn’t detect any obvious fade issues.
The pedal is smooth and well graduated. And, while we’re not greatly thrilled with a foot-operated park brake, in this instance its intrusion into legspace is minimal.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 36.42 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: The Altima’s standard safety suite includes stability and traction control, ABS brakes with brakeforce distribution and brake assist, Active Understeer Control, plus front, side and full-length curtain airbags.
Front seatbelts feature height adjustment and load-limiting pretensioners while all seats have seatbelt reminders and adjustable head restraints. ISOFIX child seat anchorage points are fitted in the rear.
Additionally Ti and Ti-S models include blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and moving object detection (to sense objects that may cross your path when reversing) as well as a birds-eye view camera system.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years or 100,000km, whichever occurs first, plus three years roadside assist.
Service costs: Nissan’s capped price servicing program runs for six years or 120,000km with intervals set every six months or 20,000km. Pricing varies from $209.21up to $786.95 for the major 100,000km service.
Conditions and exclusions may apply, consult your Nissan dealer for more info.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Honda Accord V6L ($51,990) - Honda’s new top-shelf Accord carries premium pricing, but it's a car that deserves to succeed thanks to a very willing V6 and strong features list.
The safety suite is impressive, so too cabin refinement and comfort. Boot space though is smaller than the Altima, and the dual-screen infotainment system isn’t as easy to operate. (see Accord reviews)
Toyota Aurion Presara ($49,990) - Although it falls into the large car category, the Aurion’s dimensions are a close match to the Altima.
With a strong equipment list, a comfortable ride, generous space (and a bigger boot) and Lexus-like refinement the Presara is pretty good buying. (see Aurion reviews)
Mazda6 GT SkyActiv Diesel ($46,070) - The wildcard entry - powered by a diesel and one rung below top-spec. Would you pick the Mazda based on its price equity?
It does without some of the Altima’s electronic driving aids, but is well-equipped. The interior is plush, the refinement is top-notch and the fuel bills will be smaller, but the value proposition is a touch harder to justify. (see Mazda6 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
While space, safety and technology certainly meet expectations, for the price of this top-spec model, it falls short in on-road performance and refinement.
We could be more forgiving in, say, the range-opening and very sharply-priced ST, but in the flagship Ti-S model we expected more. At the price, it lacks a bit of polish.
There are also the more sharply-priced ST and ST-L four-cylinder versions of the Altima which make a stronger case for your hard-earned.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Altima ST - $29,990
- Altima ST-L - $35,890
- Altima Ti - $40,190
- Altima Ti-S - $45,390