Nissan Altima Still Looks Fresh in Design Quality

By Sue Mead, February 18th, 2012

In our fast-paced age of the 24-hour news cycle, micro-blogging and text-message break-ups, the automotive seven-year design lifecycle is definitely slow. Yet, we find with the 2012 Nissan Altima (which has remained about the same for six years) looks that still feel current. A helpful facelift in 2010 enlivened Altima's front end, wheels and interior materials.

Manufacturer photo: Now in the sixth year of its refined fourth-generation design, the Nissan Altima sedan continues to provide an innovative combination of quality, exhilarating performance, sporty design and exceptional value in the midsize sedan class
Manufacturer photo: Now in the sixth year of its refined fourth-generation design, the Nissan Altima sedan continues to provide an innovative combination of quality, exhilarating performance, sporty design and exceptional value in the midsize sedan class

While not design-riveting, Altima's exterior is clean at the front end, well-proportioned at its side profile -- and most interesting are the headlights, taillamps and dual chrome-tipped exhaust finishers.

Nissan Altima sedan buyers have a choice between two engines. The standard motor is a 175-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder for the base model Altima 2.5 and Altima 2.5 S. A 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine comes with the Altima 3.5 SR, the highest-end model in the lineup. Sedans all come with a Continuously Variable Transmission.

This midsize sedan starts at $20,550 for the Altima 2.5 model four-cylinder with a Continuously Variable Transmission that gets 23 miles per gallon city and 32 mpg highway. The Altima sedan tops out at $25,570 for the 3.5 SR powered by a fairly potent 3.5-liter V-6.

We drove a four-cylinder 2012 Nissan Altima 2.5 S, with a base retail price of $22,570. Our version had a Sahara Stone exterior with a Blonde interior and a rich wood-tone trim. This front-wheel sedan was well-equipped with a wide array of standard features, including cruise control, speed-sensitive wipers, air conditioning, and intelligent key-push button start. It was also "fully-loaded" with options, bringing the as-tested price to $31,500.

Manufacturer photo: Now in the sixth year of its refined fourth-generation design, the Nissan Altima sedan continues to provide an innovative combination of quality, exhilarating performance, sporty design and exceptional value in the midsize sedan class

We took our 2.5 S Altima in town and on regional highways and found the drive responsive for a vehicle in this class and price-point, and appreciated the Altima's well-weighted steering, comfortable suspension and well-bolstered seats, as well as great brakes.

Although it's in the midsize segment the 2012 Nissan Altima sedan looks more compact than some competitors due to a well-proportioned design with short front and rear overhangs. The sporty exterior belies a roomy interior that seats five fairly comfortably and can carry a weekend away's worth of cargo in the hold. Altima's roofline provides good headroom for front riders and a bit less for back-seaters.

The inside is neat and straightforward. Our tester had leather with materials that luxed-up the cabin. Notable is Bluetooth capability for cellphones and several stowage compartments, plus a good-sized glovebox. The interior of the 2012 Altima is an attractive, cozy, driver-and-passenger-friendly cabin. Surfaces are soft to the touch and accented in chrome throughout, plus there's a convenient three-cupholder center console as well as a gaping glovebox that holds up to 0.46 cu.-ft. of stuff.

Standard 16-inch tires and wheels grace the base Altima and S version, with aluminum alloy 16-inchers available on the S; SR models with the 3.5-liter motor get 17-inch wheels.

All 2012 Nissan Altimas have standard four-wheel discs with ABS and brake assist, as well as Vehicle Dynamic Control and traction control and six airbags.

Manufacturer photo: Now in the sixth year of its refined fourth-generation design, the Nissan Altima sedan continues to provide an innovative combination of quality, exhilarating performance, sporty design and exceptional value in the midsize sedan class

Altima received a four-star safety rating overall in government tests that have a top rating of five; it was awarded four stars for front impacts and five for side impacts, while the Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave it the top rating of "Good."

Specifications

Base price $22,570 (as tested: $31,500)
Displacement 2.5-liter
Epa mileage rating 23 mpg city, 32 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 20.0 gal.
Horsepower (net) 175 at 5600 rpm
Motor type 16-valve DOHC f-cylinder w/SMPFI
Overall length 190.7 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 180 at 3900 rpm
Transmission CVT
Vehicle type 5-passenger FWD midsize sedan
Wheelbase 109.3 in.
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