We’ve seen Nissan Altima on the racetrack. Now the road car has arrived

We’ve seen Nissan Altima on the racetrack. Now the road car has arrived.

Nissan has launched its new Altima sedan to compete against some of the big guns in the Australian mid-sized sedan market.

The name Altima has become familiar to Aussie motorsport enthusiasts with the entry of two teams into the 2013 V8 Supercars Championship. These cars are heavily modified versions of the road going Altima and – no doubt to the disappointment of its fans – buyers won’t get the option of the racecar’s V8 engine.

10471547363_2db998f3d1_oWith large passenger cars sales continuing to slide downwards Nissan feels there’s an opening for Altima in the medium car segment. The Altima is marginally longer than the discontinued Nissan Maxima and has the same choice of four and six-cylinder engines.

While the Nissan Maxima was up against the locally-produced Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon, Altima will take on fellow Japanese rivals such as Toyota Camry/Aurion, Mazda6 and Honda Accord, and perhaps steal some sales from the big Holdens and Fords as well.

Altima matches the stylish looks that made the Maxima such an eye-catching car. The front is dominated by the big, aggressive Nissan grille with the swooping rear profile giving Altima a sporty look.

Inside there’s a nicely laid out cabin and good leg and head room. Altima is slightly wider than Maxima and this brings it closer to a three-adult rear seat. Seats are comfortable and supportive with a luxury ambience that belies the sub-$30,000 starting price.

Four equipment grades are provided. In rising order they are ST, ST-L and Ti, all powered by the four-cylinder engine. The flagship Altima Ti-S has a V6 engine.

The four-cylinder Altima engine has marginally less power (127 kW) compared to the 134 kW of the Maxima, but slightly more torque (230 Nm against 228 Nm). It’s a similar story with the respective V6 models with the Altima (183 kW / 312 Nm) in the same ball park as the Maxima (185 kW / 326 Nm).

Both engines are mated to continually variable transmissions (CVT) with the Ti-S having a six-step manual override mode with paddle shifts.

ST-24Nissan was one of the pioneers of CVTs and that experience shows with the latest X-Tronic system much quieter, so less likely to annoy driving purists.

The Altima launch drive program combined a 250-kilometre road route to the east of Melbourne capped off with a special treat – a couple of quick laps around the Phillip Island racetrack led by Nissan Motorsport driver Todd Kelly as the two teams prepared their cars for this weekend’s V8 Supercars round.

Like Maxima before it Altima is a commuting car with no real sporting pretensions and it does this supremely well.

ALTIMA-62It will come as no surprise that the V6 has more punch and refinement than its four-cylinder sibling but the latter will provide more than enough performance for the city commuter who’s not keen on the price surcharge and higher fuel consumption.

Published fuel usage is 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres from the four and 9.3 L/100 km from the V6. The short legs in our drive program didn’t allow us to take reliable on-road readings but we’ll do so when we carry out our extended road test.

Where we were surprised was in the critical passing speeds of 80 km/h to 120 km/h where the CVT and engine combined beautifully for fast, safe overtaking with a minimum of fuss. Inside the cabin there’s little NVH to complain of.

The parking brake is of the push-on push-off pedal type – not one of our favourites.

Standard features in all Altima models include the comprehensive safety gear we expect: multiple airbags, stability and traction control, ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution.

Isofix child restraint anchorages are also standard as is Active Understeer Control which uses the stability and traction control systems to control braking and reduce the risk of understeer.

The top-specced Altima Ti and Ti-S models add an Intelligent Technology Suite (ITS) which, dare we say it, assists the careless driver by providing blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and moving object detection.

Standard across the Nissan Altima range are Bluetooth telephone; cruise control; tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment; dual zone air conditioning; push button engine start; rear seat centre armrest; rear cargo tie-down hooks; speed-sensitive windscreen wipers; headlight washers; automatic headlights; and LED taillights.

The ST-L adds a larger dashboard display (7-inch rather than 5-inch); satellite navigation; rear view camera; Bluetooth audio streaming; leather steering wheel and seat trim; powered front seats; and front and rear parking sensors.

All Nissan models come with a three year /100,000 kilometre warranty with 24-hour roadside assist and capped price servicing for the first 12 x 10,000 km service intervals.

The new Nissan Altima adds another serious alternative in the competitive Australian medium car market. It carries over the size, style and prestige feel of the outgoing Maxima but with a sub-$30,000 starting price.

The complete Nissan Altima range is:
ST 2.5-litre four-door sedan: $29,990 (automatic)
ST-L 2.5-litre four-door sedan: $35,890 (automatic)
Ti 2.5-litre four-door sedan: $40,190 (automatic)
Ti-S 3.5-litre four-door sedan: $45,390 automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Nissan dealer for driveaway prices.

About Alistair Kennedy

Alistair Kennedy is Automotive News Service and Marque Publishing's business manager and the company's jack-of-all-trades. An accountant by profession, he designs the Marque range of motoring book titles, operates the company's motoring bookshop on the NSW Central Coast and the associated web site, as well as its huge digital and hard copy database. Whenever we can escape from the office he does so to cover new vehicle releases and contributes news stories. Alistair's other interests include cricket and family history on which he has written three books.
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