This 2010 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2012.
Although much of our affinity and enthusiasm for Nissan is directed toward its extroverted — and very talented — 370Z sports car, the model that makes most of Nissan's U.S. endeavors possible is the popular Altima line. And after a brief first drive of the freshened 2010 Nissan Altima sedan, we can say that it doesn't quite take on the two-seater's hard-core character, but it does approach the latest Z's newfound levels of refinement inside and out.
Outwardly, Nissan's bread-butter-and-jam model gets a bevy of visual and equipment changes for 2010, starting with a new hood and sexier grille and front fascia, as well as new wheels and paint colors. The rest of the body, including the rear end, is mostly carried over from last year's car, which isn't a bad thing considering we've never complained about the styling of the current-generation Altima, which has been with us since 2007. Compared with the serious refreshes given to certain competitors, such as the 2010 Ford Fusion, these are token updates. Then again, the Altima didn't have as much to fix; indeed, the Altima as a whole has warranted so few complaints that it placed second out of seven in our last large-scale mid-size-sedan comparison test in 2008, behind the Honda Accord. The pre-refresh Fusion came in sixth.
Some things we have complained about, however, include substandard interior fabrics and materials, many of which have been upgraded for the new model year. Option packages have also been reconstituted, and every Altima now comes with standard stability control. In all, the interiors feel considerably more upscale than before, while retaining their relatively sporting flavor.
Compared with its more conservative competitors from Honda and Toyota, the Altima has appealed to many a techie, and for them, the new optional audio system should be welcome news, as it now bundles a 4.3-inch color display; iPod, Bluetooth, and XM satellite radio connectivity; and Nissan's rearview monitor. Equally appealing to them, as well as to anyone who can be described as perpetually hungry, directionally challenged, and/or a weather enthusiast, should be the revised-for-2010 6.5-inch touch-screen navigation system featuring Zagat restaurant ratings, XM traffic and weather information, Bluetooth connectivity, a DVD player, and a 9.3-gig Music Box hard drive for music storage.
Same on the Road and on the Sticker
Since nothing has changed under the skin, it's no surprise that driving dynamics appear to remain largely stet — which is to say, on the crisp side of comfortable. Whereas the sportier Altima coupe features the same smooth 175-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder and robust 270-hp, 3.5-liter V-6, along with the choice of a six-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission with six manually selectable ratios, the Altima sedan drops the available manual for 2010 and soldiers on armed only with the CVT. (Nissan cites a low-single-digit-percentage take rate for the decision, which we lament but understand in this economic climate.) Even with the CVT, however, the Altima is blessed with a willing chassis and taut ride and thus remains one of the better drivers within the mid-size-sedan class — certainly more fun than the Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata. We'll have to arrange another comparison, however, to see how the Altima stacks up against the refreshed Ford Fusion.
The miserly hybrid powertrain returns to the limited-availability Altima hybrid sedan with its own version of the CVT. The 2.5S and the hybrid, by the way, retain their nomenclature, but the 3.5SE trim has been renamed the 3.5SR. Not surprisingly, the hybrid is the least sporty of the range but feels the most luxurious as it wafts down the road in near silence.
Prices don't change much versus 2009 levels, with sedan figures holding fast and increasing just $130 for the hybrid. That means window stickers start at $20,620 for the base sedan and $27,500 for the hybrid. All 2010 Altima models are in showrooms now.
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 5.8-7.4 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 14.4-15.7 sec
EPA city/highway driving: 20-35/27-33 mpg
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