Despite being well regarded in many countries as a maker of high-performance cars (think GT-R), Nissan in Australia is seen by most as only competing in the sensible everyday segment. To try lift its image the Japanese giant entered the world of V8 Supercars in 2012 with a hot Nissan Altima V8 sedan.
At the same time it introduced a road going version of the Altima which, to be honest, is a sensible everyday car and doesn’t have a V8. Which may sound like a bit of a putdown, but Altima is well worth considering if you don’t want to follow the motoring crowd. A crowd totally dominated by the Toyota Camry, with Ford Mondeo, Mazda6, Subaru Liberty and VW Passat filling in most of the minor spots.
Nissan Altima is a competent family four-door sedan that’s built to a high standard. It has seating four adults with good leg and headroom, five isn’t too much of a squeeze, but try for yourself if you have potential passengers who are on the bulky side. There’s 500 litres of boot space.
A fascinating feature of Nissan Altima is that the US space agency NASA helped to design its front seats. With a big emphasis on comfort the seats have what NASA calls a neutral posture, a relaxed position that the human body takes in a weightless environment. The seats help reduce muscular and spinal loads and improve blood flow.
Altima owners certainly tell us they are pleased with their seats and that they step out of their cars on long trips feeling relaxed and ready for more.
Styling is a strong point of the Altima and it takes its own route, with wide horizontal chrome dominating the grille and a large badge in the centre.
The Altima is available in four variants: ST, ST-L and Ti have a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine. The big surprise is the topline Altima Ti-S which has a smooth, powerful 3.5-litre V6 that puts you in control of 183 kW of power and 312 Nm of torque.
The four-cylinder Altima engine has 127 kW of power 230 Nm of torque.
All models, four and six cylinder, have a CVT continuously variable transmission driving the front wheels. This makes sure you get the exact amount of the engine’s torque to suits road conditions and your wishes. We are still not exactly rapt in the way CVT make the engine sound, but are well aware it’s the most efficient way to travel.
Should you disagree with the ratios selected by the CVT you can choose from different driving models. The V6 also has manual mode that can be operated by steering-wheel paddle shifters.
Nissan is well and truly established in Australia, dating back to the Datsun days of the early 1970s and having built cars here for many years. Consequently there are experienced dealers in many areas, there’s the usual concentration in the big metro areas, but the popularity of Nissan in the SUV field, with the rough, tough Patrol standing out means there’s no shortage of dealerships and mechanics in the bush.
Spare parts are generally available and prices about average, perhaps a little higher at times, for the class. Some of the more unusual bits may not be available back of Bullamakanka, but can often be shipped there in a couple of business days.
Altima is a complex model with a lot of high-tech features under the bonnet, in the suspension and the infotainment systems. Best that you leave just about everything to those who know what they are doing in the way of repairs and maintenance.
As the Nissan Altima hasn’t been a big seller in Australia insurance companies will have had varied experiences with them. Meaning there’s a larger than average spread in prices. Shop around, and be sure to do correct comparisons.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Altima is built to a good standard and has no routine problems. Nevertheless it should be subjected to a professional inspection after you have done an initial inspection to root out anything obviously wrong.
Our favourite starting point is the front-left wheel, it and/or the tyre can be damaged by poor parking. Which may also be a sign of crook driving.
Walk around to look for body damage, or signs of repairs such as ripples in the panels, tiny paint spatters on unpainted areas such as the glass.
Check that the engine fires up within a couple of seconds and idles smoothly. The four-cylinder should be good, the V6 exceptional in its balance.
Look over the complete interior, including the boot for signs of harsh treatment.
Using the owners’ handbook as a guide, make sure that everything operates correctly.
Expect to pay from $9000 to $14,000 for a 2013 Altima ST; $11,000 to $16,000 for a 2014 ST; $13,000 for a 2013 Ti; $15,000 to $22,000 for a 2014 Ti-S; $18,000 to $25,000 for a 2015 Ti; snd $22,000 to $31,000 for a 2016 Ti-L.
CAR BUYING TIP
Take any used car for a decent test drive before coming to a decision. A quick run around the block is just not good enough. Amateur Altima testers … call in a professional.