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MAYNARD'S GARAGE- Altima Attitude: Redesigned Sedan Retains Style, Adds Refinement and Fuel Economy PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Maynard   
Thursday, 28 February 2013 04:56

CREATIVE SYNDICATE

The new Altima ranges in price from about $23,000 to $31,000. Its re-engineered four-cylinder engine is rated for up to 38 mpg on the highway.

The new Nissan Altima has some big fenders to fill. It was, after all, the styling of the previous generation model that vaulted Altima into the top-selling midsize sedan segment.

And there will be no going back with the redesigned and re-engineered 2013 Altima.

The new sedan looks sculpted and lean, with some influences from the larger Maxima. But Nissan learned from past mistakes and also enriched the interior.

Warfare in this segment is ruthless, which includes the Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata and redesigns of the Honda Accord and Ford Fusion. And then there are other favorites in the Chevrolet Malibu, VW Passat, Mazda6 and even more choices to consider.

Nissan honed what made Altima popular. It is still a driver's car with a fitness for fun. It is about the same size as before but a little taller and lighter, which adds up to better aerodynamics, fuel economy and, as before, big interior space. This is a sedan for the big and tall with 40 inches of front headroom and 42 inches of legroom with a little more shoulder room. And all this without compromise to back seat space, which has 36.1 inches of legroom and about the same (large) trunk space at 15.4 cubic feet.

Starting prices are up $950 for a car that is quicker, lighter, quieter and roomier with better quality to interior materials and much-improved fuel economy for a cruising range of 600-plus miles. It is sold in seven trim levels with four-cylinder or V6 engines and a next-generation continuously variable transmission with a sport mode that simulates seven speeds.

Pricing ranges from $22,800 to almost $31,000 for the topline V-6. The 2.5 SV test car was third from the bottom and in the sweet spot of pricing, $25,155, which included mud flaps and floor mats. The major conveniences included Nissan's Intelligent keyless lock/unlock and push-button ignition, rearview camera, 17- inch alloy wheels with Continental touring tires, sixway power driver seat (fourway front passenger seat), sixspeaker audio system with iPod/USB connections and hands-free texting and (finally) three-blink to pass turn signals. First impressions on a test drive will be that this car is tight, solid and smooth rolling. It is better soundproofed than before but still with a handson feel for those who care to push hard through a corner. This isn't dumbed-down transportation.

The 2.5-liter four-cylinder was upgraded for efficiency and reduced friction. With 183-horspower, the 3,114- pound sedan gets 38 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg city.

That compares to 24/35 for the four-cylinder Sonata, which had been the segment leader for fuel economy. The acceleration is eager, but in standard mode the CVT moves to maximum-mileage mode. Engaging Sport mode, drops a gear (ratio) and adds some edge to performance.

The suspension is athletically firm for enthusiastic runs but not rough for daily commuting. Braking is sure and refined from 11.7-inch front-vented discs and 11.55-inch sold rear discs, which are common in this group of sedans. Safety features include six air bags, traction and stability controls and ABS with brake assist and brake-force distribution.

The interior is modern with refined plastics, a woven-fabric headliner, piano-black trim and a steering wheel with stitched glove leather. The front seats are full bodied and supportive (Nissan calls them Zero-Gravity) with good lower back support. The fabric feels durable but soft to the touch. There is no windshield glare, but the sun will wash out the rearview camera. Sightlines are open, even without the rear camera. A locking glove box is a nice detail.

The rear bench is raised with, perhaps, the most supportive seat bottoms in the segment. The wide door opening and raised seating allow comfortable entry and exit. There is good footroom and a low center tunnel to make the most of three-across seating. There are three head restraints and a fold-down center armrest. The seatback has a 60/40 fold.

The trunk has good, flat capacity at 15.4 cubic feet. A pair of grocery-bag hooks and a soundproofing mat under the floor are more helpful details.

Judging from the midrange test car, the production planners didn't cut corners where it mattered. The Altima still makes a style statement but it has more of what consumers want in a car: sophistication, features and fuel economy at a fair price.

Mark Maynard is driving in cyberspace at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2013 05:01