By on May 25, 2012

Eleven years ago, Nissan’s Altima became a major player in the midsize sedan segment on the basis of three things: bold styling, a roomy rear seat, and a stonkin’ 3.5-liter V6 engine good for 240 horsepower (the competition used 3.0L V6s that topped out at 200 horses). The 2007 model year redesign tamed the exterior, compacted the interior, and replaced the conventional automatic with a CVT.  Nissan shifted even more of them. With the redesigned 2013 Altima, Nissan will be happy if potential buyers learn only one thing about the car, its EPA rating of 38 MPG highway. No one else’s midsize sedan comes close without burning oil or discharging batteries. But you don’t want me to stop here, do you?

It costs over a hundred million dollars to procure new sets of stamping dies for a high volume model like the Altima. What did Nissan get for its massive outlay? The metal fab folks are very proud of the depth of the stampings for the new Altima—the trunk lid sets a new company record! Passersby failed to notice the new trunk lid. Or the rest of the new metal, for that matter. Look closely, though, and the exterior styling includes some interesting details, such as the way the headlights stand proud of the fenders when viewed from the rear. A swage line that takes off from an oversized grille then undulates outward as it moves rearward will dominate the body sides of many upcoming Nissans, but it doesn’t quite manage to integrate the curvaceous front clip with the relatively square body that follows it. One fussy detail lifted from the Maxima: wake-like depressions around the door handles. The relationship between the arrowhead headlight clusters and the emphatically circular front wheel well opening is, shall we say, unresolved. Of course, typical midsize sedan buyers won’t look closely, and so won’t notice these details any more than they will the trunk lid stamping. In person, the new Altima looks less special than it does in many of these exterior photos (all of which are of the big-rimmed V6). Hyundai and Ford are fielding more immediately eye-catching designs.

The 2002 Altima had one big weakness: an egregiously cheap interior. A 2005 refresh and 2007 redesign brought welcome upgrades, but left the cabin well short of best-in-class. The 2013 redesign elevates the interior another notch or two, most notably through a wider console and upgraded controls. Just opt for black; the tan clashes with the motley assortment of silverish trim pieces. Regardless of interior color the chunky silver metallic trim that frames the center stack should have been left in the Toyota it was lifted from. But is the IP soft to the touch? Partially. The face is cushy, the top is hard. An intelligent, cost-effective solution, but not nearly as artfully executed as in the Buick Verano. On the other hand, ergonomics are better than the current average, with easy to reach knobs for major functions.

Open the door and drop into one of the things that make this “the most innovative Altima ever”: NASA-inspired “zero gravity” front seats. With one notable exception, I found them very comfortable, with a substantial feel and a fit like a baseball glove. (My co-driver’s impressions were less positive. With seats, opinions are bound to vary.) The one exception: the headrests jut so far forward that I removed them and reinserted them backwards (a safety-compromising trick I first employed in a then-new 2004 Malibu). Nissan apparently doesn’t belong to the pillbox school of automotive design, so visibility is pretty good all around.

Those troubled by the de rigueur high deck can opt for the SL’s Tech Package. This package includes an innovative rearview camera that handles blind zone warning, lane departure warning, and motion detection in addition to washing and drying itself. The lane departure system was a bit slow to sound the alarm in some cases, a bit too quick in others, but who would have thought they could provide all of these features via a single rear-facing camera? You no longer have to be rich to be beeped at every few seconds, just a touch sloppy behind the wheel.

Rear legroom and trunk volume aren’t best-in-segment, but they’re not too far off. As is often the case with sweeping coupe-ish rooflines, headroom is in shorter supply than legroom. People over 5-11 will become familiar with the headliner. Rear air vents are included with the SV and SL.

The 3.5-liter V6 is carried over, so its output remains 270 horsepower. The 2.5-liter four gets a modest bump from 175 to 182 horsepower. As with the exterior styling, Nissan has left costly turbocharging and direct injection to Ford and Hyundai. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) received much more attention. A thorough revamp reduced internal friction by 40 percent and widened the ratio spread (with the four) to 7:1, about even with an eight-speed automatic and enabling the engine to loaf at 1,450 rpm at 60 mph. Combine this with a 79-pound curb weight reduction (to a compact-like 3,108 pounds), and you get the highly touted 38 mpg EPA highway figure, and 27 in the city, way up from 32 and 23 with the 2012. The next-best Camry manages only 25 city / 35 highway. My right foot spent too much time near the floor to judge how achievable these figures will be in the real world.

Nissans claims that an independent tester got the four-cylinder Altima to sixty in 7.14 seconds. My butt-meter registered mid-to-high eights, and that with the all-too-typical big four commotion under the hood. If you want anything resembling pleasurable performance, you’ll fork over another two or three grand and take a fuel economy hit (to 22/31) to get the much more energetic V6. With the six you also get shift paddles through which you can force the CVT to mimic a quick-shifting seven-speed automatic. In general, though, I didn’t mind the operation of the mandatory CVT, especially not when paired with the V6. Floor the go pedal and the CVT gradually ramps the engine up its 6,000 rpm power peak, then holds it there. Very smooth, and with little if any of the dreaded “rubber band” effect that typified early CVTs.

Nissan claims that the 2013 Altima is “the most engaging product in the segment”. Perhaps, but then midsize sedans comprise a uniformly soporific segment. With this positioning (and perhaps cost) in mind, Nissan has fitted the 2013 car with electro-hydraulic rather than pure electric steering. The feel through the wheel is nevertheless light and well-insulated, and not as quick or as direct as that through the Maxima’s smaller diameter tiller. Last year the V6 was only available in sport-suspended SR trim. This year it’s offered as an S, SV, or SL, but not as an SR. There’s also no Sport Package. Perhaps Nissan felt the standard car behaved well enough without one? Throw the V6 sedan hard into a curve and it toes the line with moderate body roll and minimal plowing. The latter is allegedly curbed by brake-activated “active understeer control”, another of the features that (along with a uniquely jointed rear suspension lower H-arm) make this “the most innovative Altima ever”. This feature is intended to operate transparently. It did.

Suspension tuning is much the same with the four, but its higher profile tires quickly lapse into a mushy scrub. For cornering as much as straight line performance, the V6 with its 235/45VR18 performance tires is clearly the way to go. Yet, aware that the great majority of midsize sedan buyers care little for performance or handling, Nissan projects that only ten percent will go this way. The 2013 sedan’s ride is fairly smooth, well-damped, and quiet with either tire, a notable improvement over past Altimas and quite an achievement given the low curb weight. A 2013 Malibu is cushier and quieter, but it also weighs a quarter-ton more and handles like a parade float.

Eager to pass the Camry in sales, Nissan has trimmed the Altima’s price (when comparably equipped) by a couple hundred dollars. The base four starts at $22,280. An SL V6 with the $1,090 Tech Package lists for $31,950. I haven’t yet input the 2013 prices and features into TrueDelta’s price comparison tool, but a comparison of 2012s suggests that a Hyundai Sonata will continue to be about $1,500 less before adjusting for feature differences, and about $2,500 less afterwards. A Toyota Camry will continue to undercut the Altima by a few hundred dollars with the four and by over a thousand dollars with a loaded V6. This is comparing sticker prices; compare invoice prices and the Camry’s price advantage can grow to over $2,000.

The 2013 Nissan Altima isn’t cheap, and it doesn’t stand out from the crowd aside from offering the highest EPA numbers and (only on a fully loaded car) a multi-talented rearview camera. But even without these USPs and in its sixth year the current Altima has been outselling every other car except the recently redesigned Camry—and it hasn’t been far behind the Camry. If you were at Nissan, would you want to be the person whose “bold move” derailed the gravy train? If something has been working well, and especially if there’s no obvious reason why it has been working so well, you don’t futz with it. For the most part, Nissan hasn’t.

Nissan provided airfare to Nashville, a very nice hotel, regional cuisine, all we could drink (one writer for a major magazine missed the drive; when security entered his room at noon they found him passed out on the superlative bed still fully clothed), outstanding musical entertainment at the Loveless Cafe, a tour of the Jack Daniels distillery (skipped as I’d already seen too much alcohol, an error I won’t soon repeat), many friendly smiles, and insured, fueled automobiles.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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90 Comments on “Review: 2013 Nissan Altima...”


  • avatar
    supersleuth

    Once again we see how little DI really contributes to fuel economy. Nissan is wise to eschew it, and Honda should have stuck to its guns.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Direct injection compliments forced induction well as it helps cool the intake air. Most DI applications are for performance and not economy as Neither Nissan, Toyota, or Honda are steadily into DI and multiple speed transmissions.

      They can see mpg by just lowering the rpms close to my C5 Corvette with 1350 rpms @ 60 mph. It was 5.7 liters and got 35-36 mpg on the highway.

      • 0 avatar
        supersleuth

        No, actually most current GDI applications are in plain vanilla B through D segment cars (eg. Hyundai Accent and Sonata, Ford Focus) without forced induction. And Honda is about to start going there with its Earth Dreams powertrains. The question, as illustrated by this Altima which will make fine power and economy with port injection, is why?

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        i don’t know much about DI, but I agree with lowering RPMs for fuel economy. If I run my 3800 powered Pontiac in cruise, it runs roughly 1500 RPM and the computer claims its getting 35-39 MPG while on the highway… overall I can get 27mpg in 60 hwy / 40 city mixed driving if I don’t stomp on it.

      • 0 avatar
        dbcoop

        A 4200lb Dodge Charger will do the same with the V6/8sp auto combination. No V6/V8 powered sedan will do 27mpg in the city like the new Altima though. The prospect of getting ~33+mpg in real world mixed driving is pretty exciting for a mid-sized car like the Altima. Compact cars just got a lot less appealing IMO.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        DI allows higher compression ratios (due to the cooling effect and knock reduction), higher compression means higher efficiency. The ultimate example of this is the new Mazda Skyactiv gasoline engines running at up to 13:1.. also the higher power output allows a reduction in engine size, thus less friction and weight.

        If I had one of those I would use premium and perhaps spike it 10% with some E85 fuel to further boost the octane.. 13:1 in hot weather will be scary.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The last Altima seemed like an excellent, albeit (by the press and enthusiasts) wholly underappreciated car. While the Fusion, Sonata and Malibu all got props for being game-changers, the Altima is the one car that actually has challenged the leaders.

    This looks like a good car, too. It also looks like Nissan won’t be playing, nor benefitting from, the “OMG! I can’t believe it’s a Hyundai!” boosterism that (unfairly and unjustifiably) the Sonata enjoys.

    But it’s probably a better car. It’s certainly less obliquely overstyled and probably rides better, too.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, it’s amazing how few reviews of the Sonata (with the exception of TTAC’s) seem to point towards in generally more noisy interior and unrefined ride.

      The last gen always looked a bit droopy and fat to me. Usually seen in silver, with tiny looking alloys, it looked like it was dragging its fat rear around. This is better proportioned, and looks more upscale (even comparing it to the SE/SR variants of the last-gen), and seems to improve things in almost every metric. It should do very well. Still, not a car I would buy, but that’s more about the genre than it is the Altima specifically.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      The previous Altima (’07-’12) had a pretty bad interior. It would be hard for me to appreciate the car’s finer points while surrounded by all the hard black rubbery/plasticky crap.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I beg to differ. Many of the interior bits were of high quality. What wasn’t were the lower door panels, the center console, and the carpeting and door gaskets. The dash, the steering wheel and upper door panels and switchgear were all class competitive. Even so, the hard plastic parts were not that bad, certainly nowhere near a bad as old school Chrysler products.

      • 0 avatar

        I partially agree with both of you, golden and Secret. The last gen didn’t use bad materials, it just seemed that nissan tried REALLY hard to make it look as cheap as possible. Bland colours, round, cheap-looking vents. While the quality was better than the 2005-2006 update, it looked quite a bit cheaper.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        The rental Nissan Altima we had as a looked cheap on the inside. Less attractive than a high trim level Chevrolet Cruze rental. May be possible to buy an Altima that makes a better first impression, but the one I saw made me not want to buy one.

      • 0 avatar
        potatobreath

        I noticed the latest batch of outgoing Altimas have cheap, rough plastic on the steering wheel. Before, it was smooth.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    We gotta know which magazine it was, I guess we’ll just look for the review that is truly a press release.

    Looks like another nice sedan though, Nissan has always produced something solid but they look a bit worse for wear after a few years. I look forward to this one in the Hertz fleet. I have to say, my one pet peeve on several of these sedans is the goose-neck hinges on the trunklids…they rob valuable space and these same companies often put struts on the trunks of their compacts (Sentra, Focus)! Why not on the midsizers (Altima, 13 Fusion- but not 06-12)? Even Chevy went backwards on the Malibu.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      The 2012+ Focus sedan has conventional hinges; earlier Foci had struts.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      Yup. Typical of both Nissan and Ford. Their products look good in the showroom. Not so good in your driveway, and downright nasty in your garage.

    • 0 avatar
      FuzzyPlushroom

      Admittedly, this might be a Volvocentric viewpoint, but why not scissor hinges with springs? The four Volvos I’ve had have all been able to raise their hoods proudly without prop rods after better than 200k miles and, with one exception, more than two decades; both 240 sedans have had trunklids that stayed open if lifted past halfway. The springs don’t seem to wear out as easily as struts can, and they don’t get in the way.

      For reference: images.jaimekop.com/2001_03_03_Alvaro.jpg

  • avatar
    duffman13

    My parents are nissan people and we’ve had an altima in the stable in one form or another for the last 15 years.

    A 96 with the KA24 and 5 speed was my high school car handed down from my dad. I loved it and punished it with abuse, which it took handily.

    My mom now has an 06 SL with the 2.5, which seems to be a very competent car, though completely different in every way from the old 96. The leather and faux suede help give it some luxury feel too.

    I haven’t been encouraged by the newer Altima rentals I’ve had, something always seemed to be lacking in the driving dynamics and ergonomics. If this is as good as Michael says though, it looks promising for Nissan, especially given many people still have misgivings about buying the less expensive Koreans.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      My very first “nice” car was a brand new ’93 Altima, officially called the Altima Stanza! Great car–The only problems over 6 years of ownership were wheel covers that kept disappearing (stolen? fell off?), and a stuck A/C vent door.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    All this and lighter than the competition too! Good stuff. :)

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    It used to be that when an interesting new sedan came out, within a few months of the introduction, you could go down to your local Enterprise office and check one out for a few days as a rental. These days, rental companies keep their cars so long, that if you want to drive a 2013 Altima, you’ll end up with a 2008 Pontiac G6.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      Depends on who you rent from. With National, I’ve driven pretty much the entire crop of current new midsizers–Sonata, Optima, Camry, 200, Avenger, Passat. Haven’t seen the new Malibu on rental lots yet.

    • 0 avatar
      windnsea00

      This is not true for the big players, program cars are usually on a 6-12 month schedule depending on the manufacturer and terms. Risk (purchased) cars may be extended out longer, under 24 months in most cases.

  • avatar
    skotastic

    Wow – talk about a generic derrivitive styling effort. If this thing wore the badge of a Hyundai, Kia, Lexus, etc…I wouldn’t blink an eye.

    I’m not saying this is bad for Nissan, but unlike its 3rd Gen Altima, this one will not standout in any crowd.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Kia has been getting pretty adventurous lately when it comes to styling. The new Optima is distinctive and striking-looking compared to the Japanese mid-size cars.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        This is what happens when you hire a German to style your cars.

        Of the current mid-size generic cars, I like the Optima followed by the Passat best for looks, but if I was in that market I would buy a Passat TDi.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Nce looking car, and the interior is certainly an improvement – well ANYTHING is – over the Altima 2.5S I rented for a business trip last May. I hope the seats really are better, too, as I have a nagging problem with my right hamstring right now, so cruise control is vital for any lengthy highway driving under the right conditions.

    My rental netted me 35 mpg between Cincinnati and Novi, MI. I was pleasantly surprised, but I kept the speed at 63-64 mph all the way.

    I also like the look of the tail lights, as the tail lights a decade ago were one of the car’s main advertising points. The next edition – they were over-done and looked cartoonish. These look much better.

    How is the reliability of the CVT? I hear that simply for a belt, they cost $3,500 to fix! Simpler = not necessarily better?

    EDIT: I’ll take the tan interior, as I hate black interiors since I grew up.

    • 0 avatar
      Banger

      The Nissan CVTs have improved by leaps and bounds. The last problems I heard of were with the Cube, which we own. Something about the Jatco CVT unit not being suited to the higher-torque 1.8-liter engine they put in the Cube for North America. It had much smaller engines (a 1.5-liter was as big as they came, I think) in Japan and Southeast Asia.

      Regardless, our Cube, like all 2010 Cubes, had a 100,000-mile transmission warranty to put to bed any fears we might have. So far, it has been flawless (knock on wood) after 21,000 miles and a year and a half of ownership.

      The CVTs in the Altima and Maxima have been improving every year in terms of reliability and ratio spread. Impressive that the Altima can lope along barely above idle speed on the highway. Our Cube does the same thing despite its diminutive size and brick-like shape, so the better aerodynamic qualities of the Altima may combine with the CVT to produce even better mpg results in the real world. In fact, I would bet on that being the case for a lot of drivers in rural areas like mine. We get 36 mpg average out of our Cube, which is only rated at 31 mpg. Bet we’d see low 40s out of the Altima.

      • 0 avatar
        Banger

        Oh, and to your point about the high cost to fix the CVTs: That’s because, by my understanding, there’s not a lot the dealer service departments can do to fix them. Most CVT repair orders are actually “replace” orders. That’s what they’ve done on the Cubes that had CVT issues in 2009-2010.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        If you are a gentle driver these transmissions should last a long time.. I believe they have a fairly short fluid change interval.

      • 0 avatar
        Banger

        Herm, you’re right. The owner maintenance manual for our Cube doesn’t specifically say to do it every 30,000 miles, but it is noted as an option you may want to consider at 30,000-mile intervals. We plan on doing it, though it’ll probably set us back about $400 each time. Hey, I can feel just fine with spending that on our car every two to two-and-a-half years if it means the CVT will last a lifetime.

    • 0 avatar
      dbcoop

      Also, keep in mind that Nissan has stepped up and extended the CVT warranty to 10yrs/120k miles in applications that were prone to failure. There’s no reason to think that is going to change if newer CVT’s prove to be unreliable. That being said, a CVT equipped car would probably not be my first choice for a car I planned to keep for 150K+ miles.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Nice car, but look at those trunklid hinges, wow. Gotta wonder why if cars such as the Chrysler 200 have hingeless trunklids, some newer cars are still carrying them. They sure intrude into the trunk space…

  • avatar
    Banger

    I’m very interested in seeing these in the flesh (er, sheet metal) soon.

    My previous employer had a fleet of late-model Altimas, mostly 2004-2008 models. They were cushy enough and returned decent fuel economy if you used the cruise control. A road trip I took on I-40 got 34 mpg with the cruise set at 67 mph. The CVT was unobtrusive with the four-cylinder (which of course every fleet Altima had at our company) so I thought it was a good buy. Bonus that they were produced in Tennessee and my company was based in Tennessee.

    I think the styling effort is pretty conservative, but given how much it borrows from the flagship Maxima, especially the head and tail lights, it makes me wonder what the next Max is going to look like. Truth be told, if I were going to pony up the cash for a top-spec Alty, I’d probably just rather have a mid-level Maxima. Real-world, the Maxima is selling for ~$25,000-30,000 in my neck of the woods if you don’t load them up with too many options.

    • 0 avatar

      They seem to expect many people interested in the V6 to buy the Maxima instead. But the Maxima is about $4,000 more.

      My initial thought on hearing that the V6 would only be about ten percent of sales was, “Why bother?” Then I realized that ten percent of sales was still about 40,000 cars, a little over double Maxima sales. If the Altima V6 was a separate model it would still be the roughly tied with the Rogue as their second best seller.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Right NOW while 2012s are still on the lots I would buy a V6 model because it is a screaming deal. One of the reasons Altimas are so popular in my area of the Southwest is that dealers are “stackin’ them deep, and selling them cheap.” According to TrueCar I could get a 2012 V6 Altima for roughly the price of a mid level 2012 Impala (usually thought of as a “cheap” car.)

        I don’t know what will happen to sales when the 2013 Altimas are suddenly full price.

      • 0 avatar
        Banger

        Educator(of teachers)Dan:

        The regular old four-bangers are good deals too. Lots of dealers locally advertising base Altimas at $16,000-$18,000. That’s before negotiation. Might walk out the door with a base Altima for $15,000 if you play your cards right, which is a heck of a lot of car for that kind of money. It won’t overwhelm anybody in terms of performance or luxury, but dang, it’s a good deal compared to most midsizers out there if you’re just looking for a new midsize sedan to commute in.

  • avatar

    Great review Mike!

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    Does it really cost 100million to produce the metal dies? That’s a mind boggling figure!

    So how come the aftermarket manufacturers seem to be able to crank out fenders and hoods and sell them for dirt cheap prices?

    • 0 avatar

      I think it costs so much because it’s not just the dies, but also the stamping machines that need to be produced.

      As for the aftermarket, my guess is the parts are inferior to OEM.

      On a side note, don’t I know you from Dear Prudie on Slate? Small internet.

    • 0 avatar

      The stamping machines should still be around from the previous car, unless they’re outmoded.

      My understanding is that different metal is used depending on the volume. Softer metal is much cheaper to create dies from but wears out more quickly. (One called Kirksite is often used for prototype parts and parts with very low volumes.) You don’t want to have to buy additional sets down the road.

      When you hear that a new car costs $500m or more to develop, much of that (how much exactly I don’t know) is for the die sets. It’s possible to develop a low volume car for under $100m, and the amount of engineering involved isn’t substantially less. The big money’s in the tooling.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        Those 3rd party manufacturers are not stamping the whole car, just some panels. I imagine the unitbody dies are expensive since its a thicker gage of sheet metal.

  • avatar

    I wonder how many Altimas are sold to fleets compared to the Camry.

  • avatar
    racingmaniac

    Amazed by that curb weight figure….and really for the purpose of the family sedan CVT isn’t an issue as long as its refined and just let you hear the engine buzzing away….

    • 0 avatar
      supersleuth

      How much of a pig does the Dodge Dart look like now?

    • 0 avatar
      brokeguy

      If that figure is correct, it’s 1 lb less than the Sentra SE-R Spec V, and 23 lbs less than a Sentra SE-R with the CVT. It undercuts a lot of “compact” cars out there, it really is amazing.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Speaking of the next Sentra, given the downward pressure the Alti has put on it as far as weight/fuel economy, it had better be downright amazing in its next iteration as well. I am talking, 2600-2700lbs, real world low to mid 40s on the highway. Refinement be damned. People need cheap transportation. Maybe they’ll bring back the B13s they’re selling in Mexico, lol.

    • 0 avatar
      dbcoop

      It’s actually more impressive when you realize the 3108lb. curb weight is for the top range SL. Nissan doesn’t have the curb weights listed on their website yet. But if you get rid of the sunroof, power seats and some of the other goodies it’s not unreasonable to expect the base S model to tip the scales at just under 3000lbs.

  • avatar
    Wraith

    So how will this stack up against the Fusion 1.6L?

  • avatar
    smokingclutch

    “Nissan’s Altima became a major player in the midsize sedan segment on the basis of three things: bold styling, a roomy rear seat, and a stonkin’ 3.5-liter V6 engine good for 240 horsepower (the competition used 3.0L V6s that topped out at 200 horses).”

    The Mazda6, introduced within a few months of the Altima, had a 220 hp 3.0L V6.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    Another Japanese OEM with a conservative refresh, blah. My bias has always been anti-Altima. Just never liked the styling and never thought they were “as-good” as my Accord. Last year I got a loaded 3.5 Altima as a rental. It was better than Camry rentals, but I felt it wasn’t as fun to drive as the V6 Fusion.

    I’m skeptical of the MPG #’s in most new vehicles, ditto this one. Everyone I know that owns Nissan/Infinity complains about fuel economy, but then again they all drive SUV’s and luxobarges. Would be nice to have one for a weekend and really test those #’s before dropping over $20k. For comparison, 70 MPH or under in my ’99 Accord delivers about 32-33 MPG on a vehicle with 190,000 miles and 13 years of age. +5 MPG doesn’t impress me…and real world results always vary.

    Of all the new vehicles the Fusion gets the hype, but so far it seems like the only “game changer” out there. We’ll see if Honda has something in store for the accord (doubtful) but this one leaves me wanting. I’m sure I’ll get one as a rental soon enough as they are more common than Chrysler and GM on rental lots these days….and that has a lot to do with their production volume.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Consumer Reports got very good (real-world) mileage out of the last Altima. There’s no reason to suspect different this time.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I will give the current Altima credit for very good fuel mileage, at least the 2.5l four. I usually break 30mpg on my rentals, typically suburban noodling around. The hybrid does NOT do significantly better other than in actual stop and go traffic, and the V6 is not much worse.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        ….The hybrid does NOT do significantly better other than in actual stop and go traffic….

        Any hybrid loses much of its advantage if you drive mostly on the highway at steady state speeds, this is true. The hybrids’ trick is in part the regeneration that gives you the chance to “reuse” some energy. But you’d be surprised how well it does even when there is some variation in speeds and traffic. According to TrueDelta user ratings, the 4 cylinder cars are returning mid 20s to upper 20s depending on use and driving style. I drive about 50% heavy traffic and 50% highway speeds (50 to 78) for a 80 mile round trip. I average 34 to 35 mpg which puts it up to 10 mpg better. I’m not a fanboi; this car is part of my work compensation package so I’m not biased because I didn’t buy it. And I don’t pay for the gas either so I don’t hyper mile. I’ll be right there on the highway next to your 3 series…btw two of my friends own 330 manual convertibles. I helped one put Konis on his…what a great machine…I nearly made him crap in his pants on my favorite set of twisties and that was holding back a bit because it wasn’t my car…

  • avatar
    akitadog

    In that first profile-view photo, I thought I was looking at the new Azera. Is that good or bad?

  • avatar

    Hmmm.

    I still think we’d rather get an Optima SX.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I think the tan interior looks great. Might be a little too light and stain easier however. The black on black with silver accents is so over used. I just don’t understand why the Maxima is still around. They should just make a SR AWD “ultimate” Altima and be done. The sheetmetal changes make the Altima almost a dead ringer for the Maxima now so what’s the point? 4DSC? Really? With V6 Camrys, Accords and turbo Sonatas the Maxima has been out max-amized.

    • 0 avatar
      Banger

      If they’d hurry up and make the Maxima a RWD, Infiniti G-series be damned, this would be a non-issue. Bonus points if they make a Maxima SR AWD with stick shift.

      Sure, its MSRP would go up $5,000 at least, but it’d be worth it for the differentiation. There’s a lot of us Nissan fans out there in the interwebs who would love to see the Max return to RWD.

    • 0 avatar
      Alexdi

      There is no point. I say that and I’ve got a Maxima. I’ve no idea what they can do for the next one, Infiniti M-series styling wouldn’t be an improvement and it’s maxed out on power for a FWD car.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I learned so much about the Altima and its history in this story, and now understand why the DGF 2005 Altima is so much better than the 2010 and 2012 I’ve had to rent. I did not know the 2005 had a real transmission, I thought it was a CVT cleverly disguised. Also did not know that the interior got a refresh in 2005.

    As for the 2013. The 3.5L V6 HP is weak compared to everyone but Toyota. It looks like a Sonata and an Impala did the nasty and this is the offspring.

  • avatar
    johnsonc

    I have admired the last 2 generations of Altimas and now the third but one thing that is a deal breaker for me with any model is the dreaded 3-point steering wheel. I find during quiet times on the road I often move to a one-handed approach to steering and most of the time it’s easiest to let it fall to the 6 o’clock position and just rest there. This Altima steering wheel prevents that and you can’t let your hand rest at 5 or 7 o’clock since your have to flex your arm to steer straight.
    Once you’re over 50 , you get to be nitpicky and people understand.

  • avatar
    SV

    I like the new Altima, though the grille is too big and I prefer the old car’s interior, styling-wise anyway. I rented one recently and I thought it was competitive on fit and finish too.

    It’s the gas mileage that’s really impressive. 27/38 would be above average for a compact car, so for a midsize to achieve those numbers is quite impressive. The 1.6 Ecoboost Fusion, with all its turbo & direct-injection trickery, only manages to come close at 37 on the highway…I suspect because it’s more than 200lbs heavier than the Altima.

    Speaking of the Fusion, though, it’s really the new looker of this class, though the Altima’s a decent effort on Nissan’s part. I’m not expecting the Accord to light any fires, and the new Malibu will probably be nothing more than competitive, but still, this segment is getting very interesting.

  • avatar
    Wagen

    What is it with the wide consoles in mass market mid/full size FWD cars these days? First the Taurus, then the Camry, now this. Are they trying to make a FWD feel like a RWD on the interior by putting a big plastic box where mechanicals would be in a RWD/longitudinal AWD car?

  • avatar
    Ion

    Nissan always has the cheapest interiors. Its only a matter of time before all that gloss starts to flake off. I will say that its better looking than their old fisher price orange interiors though.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Nissan’s durability is generally suspect since Carlos “Le Cost Cutter” Ghosn’s Renault took over the company.

      Hate to say it as a former delighted Maxima owner, but I don’t trust Nissans as long-term propositions anymore. Wonder what went out the window to lose all that weight?

  • avatar
    carguy

    It’s interesting to see that Nissan managed to get fuel economy numbers from a mid-size normally only found in fuel sipping compacts without the use of expensive and exotic technologies. So much for all the doomsayers who keep pushing the “fuel efficient cars will be too expensive” theory.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    I read this review four times and the lack of details makes me think the author woke up about a half hour before magazine writer.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    #$#^#$^#@ if Nissan would only offer a conventional automatic alongside the dumb CVT no one likes, I would actually consider this car. Definitely looks a big like a previous gen M series from the side…

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    If I saw this on the streets I would be hard pressed to even know I was looking at an all new car. Aside from the swoopier front Maxima fenders and the cheapened de-contented exterior body side door moldings, it looks pretty similar other than a few nips and tucks to the rear end. In other words it will probably go un-noticed in the wild. The mileage estimates are interesting and one has to wonder what was sacrificed to achieve those lofty figures and that low curb weight. Kudos for not following the Ford/Chevy/Koreans herd in deleting the V6 entry but demerits on interior color choices. Come on guys why can’t we have something other than tan or black?

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      Which interior colours would you like to see? Bordello red? 1980′s Japanese pale blue? Cheap plastic grey? Or take a page from mid-1990′s Audi and bring in the trippy-patterned interiors?

      Ford had a pretty interesting green in their Taurus/Sable.

  • avatar
    Squares

    I kind of agree with both of you, on the interiors…

    Black and silver is a little common these days and there’s just simply too much tan in the car when the lower dash, steering wheel AND shift knob sport it.

    I think that Tan interiors look best when paired with black dashes, steering wheels, etc.

    Which I agree sounds a bit odd, since combining the two sort of splits the difference and doesn’t really get rid of either one…
    Which is also funny, since I remember my ’90 Accord doing the same thing, and so does my ’03 IS300 (which was designed in the 90s), but I think VW rescues me, here, since their Cornsilk interiors are paired with the black dash et al. Maybe I’m just biased.

    Maybe, just maybe, if you could manage allowing for a single dash color, maybe that cost savings would allow for one extra interior color to be allowed…

    I, for one, would love to see something of a Modena/Saddle/Pumpkin brown color.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I have a 2010 Altima as a lease and while it’s nothing special, it’s pretty good at being a run of the mill sedan. It has much less road noise than our 06 Accord did and the handling is just a bit more buttoned down. Interior fit and finish is nearly on pair with that Honda, but a bit too much hard plastic brings it down.

    The powertrain is a let-down in the Altima vs the Accord. The CVT/ 2.5 just do not function as well as the 5spd auto/ 2.4 in that older Accord. The 2.5 is slow to rev, rather coarse while doing it and the CVT is slow to respond. I also live with many hills and the CVT doesn’t do the best job of keeping up with minute adjustments to the throttle. I’ve had rental Altimas in flat areas of the US and it’s much less annoying, much easier to get what you want out of the car.

    Hopefully, all the improvements to the ’13 car will eliminate some of the squawks about the CVT. But I will not buy another one because of the CVT.

  • avatar
    depeche mode

    Michael: Great reviews of both this vehicle and the VW Passat TDI (I’m stuck between purchasing the 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL and the 2013 VW Passat TDI SEL Premium). I’ve driven the 2012′s of both for extended periods and although I prefer the comfort and features of the 2013 Altima (whereas VW doesn’t even come close to matching), I also love VW’s and the Passat would be my third VW purchase. Ok – my question: Without having to talk about what you’ve already said about these two vehicles, which one of these two vehicles would you choose and why? Thanks!!

  • avatar
    pacificpom2

    You guys should check out the NISSAN Altima being prepared in Australia
    “The 5.0-litre multivalve V8 engine to
    be used in the Nissan V8 Supercars is
    based on a production engine used in
    the new Patrol”
    http://www.goauto.com.au/mellor/mellor.nsf/story2/392B507239573498CA257A6F0019DBDF

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    I recently test-drove this car for about thirty miles. Here’s my impression relative to the current-gen Maxima:

    - Noticeable upgrades to the CVT. Much better coasting at highway speeds. Doesn’t lug in that 1200-1400 RPM area like the Max around town; usually at 2000 RPM. If you force it to lug, it still has extra vibration and resonance in that range relative to an automatic, but noticeably less than the Max. RPM at 60 MPH was 1700 (Maxima does 1900). Sport mode still has pretend-shifts.

    - Suspension is a little stiffer than the Max, a bit less travel. Corners flatter. Road feel through the wheel is about the same, though steering effort is lighter at high speed. Despite a similarly subtle centering reflex, the car doesn’t wander like the Maxima. Arrow-straight on the highway with hands off the wheel. Sales guy said it had something to do with more camber and the rear suspension design.

    - Brakes have better modulation and a firmer pedal that bites higher in the travel. I didn’t experience the subtle grabbing approaching a stop as I have with the Maxima and G37.

    - Wind noise is a bit higher. Sightlines are very similar. The old Altima felt very upright with tall pillars and a bigger greenhouse.

    - Interior build quality and materials are mostly equal or better than my Maxima S. Soft-touch dash material isn’t as soft. Build tolerances are excellent. The armrest/cupholder area has a better layout, as does the tach section. The driver’s seat is a different design than the Maxima (front cushion moves independently now), but equally comfortable. The back seat is significantly more comfortable.

    - Materials in non-key areas (e.g., the trunk) aren’t as good. Trunk has exposed speakers, no pull handle, and gooseneck hinges.

    - In terms of general feel, the Altima seems a little smaller, lighter and sharper. Acceleration is very similar flat-out, but the Altima is more willing to rev, so it feels more sprightly around town.

    So, very impressive work from Nissan. This is outright better car than the Sonata and the Optima in turbo guise. I’m curious to try the V6 Passat, the new Ford, and the new Honda. I doubt anything else in the class can keep up.

  • avatar
    imaginecjs

    It was very nice of Nissan to spring for the hotel room, airfare, drinks and all of the other nice perks that helped them get a nice review of the 2013 Altima. The truth about Nissan is that the company doesn’t stand by its automobiles and certainly doesn’t give it’s customers what it gave Michael Karesh et al. I have a 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid. I’ve just learned it needs a cylinder head replacement at a minimal cost of $4,500. I haven’t made the last payment for this car. Carbon buildup due to improper discharge is why the cylinder head needs to be replaced. This problem has been known to Nissan for years and they’ve acknowledged in an internal bulletin that it is occurring in at least one in four Nissan Altima Hybrids. My Altima is within the five-year warranty period, but has 64,000 miles on it so falls just outside of the 60,000 mile warranty period. I contacted Nissan and requested they make the repair under the warranty. They refused. They also have failed to order a recall despite acknowledging a widespread defect in the manufacture of the Nissan Altima Hybrids. I won’t buy another Nissan again or any automobile manufactured by a company that won’t stand by it’s cars and won’t do right by its customers.


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