By on June 13, 2014

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Photography by our very own Murilee Martin!

I gave up a Camry SE for this car. There was a silver one sitting in the “Gold Choice” lane at the Denver airport, just like the one I enjoyed so much last year. All I had to go was walk over and get in. But nooooooo, dear reader — my phone told me that I was supposed to receive a “2014 ALTIMA SDN GRY” so, thinking of you, I trudged down to spot 571 and prepared for a short high-altitude date with the third-most-popular car on the market.

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Our own sales specialist, Tim Cain, has the Altima gaining slightly last month in a very close struggle with the Accord for second place. (The Camry is a full 20% ahead of them.) Without so much as setting foot in the Altima, I found that puzzling. Okay, the Toyota is the default choice and is going to sell in big numbers to everybody from Hertz to your sixty-year-old mother who still shudders at the thought of her last domestic (a 1982 Skylark). The Honda is, frankly speaking, a brilliant car and has its own group of no-comparison-shopping captives. But the Altima? Who buys it? Isn’t all the momentum behind the Koreans nowadays? Apparently not; the Sonatoptima combined doesn’t match Nissan’s numbers.

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First impressions: the old Altima reeked of external cost-cutting, but this one has some nice trim details even in the “Pure Drive” 2.5 S model. The chrome is well-done and the flame surfacing looks expensive. As with pretty much every Nissan automobile in the past fifteen years, it looks like a first-generation G35 left to melt a bit in the oven. It’s frankly fascinating that Nissan has been able to do what Honda, Toyota, Ford, GM, and the aforementioned Koreans can’t, which is to build and maintain a visual brand identity. The minute I saw the first new-generation Altima in traffic, I knew immediately that it was an Altima and not something else. Even the current Malibu, which is a sort of caricature of the previous one, wasn’t immediately recognizable as a Malibu from any direction that didn’t show the grille.

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Alright, let’s hop in. This car is the slightly up-optioned 2.5 S that has keyless entry and cruise control, stickering for $22,690-plus-$810 instead of the $22,170 for the base-base variant. There’s some money on the hood beyond that, of course. Surely you could buy one for under twenty grand. If you can, spring for the $320 Display Package, which includes a rearview camera and USB port, you should. Hertz didn’t, so I spent a fair amount of time guessing at where the very high tail of this sedan might exactly be.

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The interior of every base-model family sedan on the market is a dark cave of brittle plastic, and the Altima is no exception. There is some relatively pleasant fake-bamboo-looking trim on the center console and passenger glovebox area. It’s tinted dark grey like the silver-flecked wood accoutrements in the recent Infiniti M56, but that is where the similarities to that wacky muscle-sedan end. The door cards bend when you lean on them. On the positive side, the touch points of steering wheel, shifter, and seat are all class-competitive and even mildly sporting-looking. Without that center console video screen, however, the main stack looks unforgivably cheap. There’s an LCD between the well-marked and well-lit twin instrument binnacles but it does very little in this model. Most of the time, it just shows an Altima from the back. In case you’d forgotten that you’d bought an Altima and thought you were in a GT-R or something.

I’ve been a fan of Nissan’s CVT implementation in the current Coupe, which is actually the old Altima, but right away I’m surprised at how much I dislike it here. There’s been a tremendous effort made to mimic a conventional automatic, to the point where I pulled off Pena Boulevard and started asking the Internet whether there was, in fact, some sort of entry-cheapie Altima with a four-speed auto. (No, there isn’t.) Under acceleration, the CVT permits big rev swings for no apparent reason before chopping into the next “gear” abruptly. Toyota and Honda are doing it better with a traditional automatic and CVT, respectively.

It wouldn’t be fair to talk about the Altima’s power too much because it was at a fifteen-percent disadvantage from the thousand-foot elevation of Columbus, Ohio, where I drove its competitors. Still, between the dopey CVT and the gasping big-inch four-cylinder I occasionally wondered if I’d make it up mild hills. When I decided to go to Mount Evans, which runs a paved road all the way to 14,100 feet, I promptly swapped it for something with a twin-turbocharged small-displacement V-8. (Plus doors that swing up — but more on that another time.) My friend Josh has this same powerplant in a better-equipped 2013 model and hasn’t complained, so I’ll chalk it up to the ‘tude.

You can’t blame elevation for dead-feeling steering and brakes, however. If the Altima has gained a bit in refinement from its predecessor — and it has, with both ride and noise levels that appear to be improved quite a bit and easily on par with the Accord, if not slightly superior — it has lost that much again in dynamic capabilities. Perhaps this is the price Nissan’s paid to sell big-boy numbers, but why buy an Altima over an Accord or Camry unless it’s the sporting, fun-loving choice? Regardless, there’s no G35 influence in the way the Altima drives. It’s pleasant and you really can feel the improvement over the old car on the freeway or a rough road, but it’s not very Nissan-ish.

The stereo’s a bit of a joke, as it is on the Accord LX but not necessarily the Camry LE. Subjectively speaking, rear-seat room trails both the Japanese-brand competitors but Malibu owners would find it positively delightful. They’d also like the relatively large amount of glass and very satisfactory visibility. It’s the equal of the Camry and superior to the Fusion in that regard, if not the Accord.

The “Pure Drive” badge on the back indicates that this is the most fuel-efficient Altima configuration available. I tested it in a very rough way by driving it 70 miles without seeing the fuel needle move. (Yes, I know that everybody does a “sticky” fuel needle now, but try driving a Kia Optima that distance and seeing what happens.) It’s clearly a huge improvement from the indifferent economy I saw in the previous generation. Perhaps all the CVT ridiculousness exists to make it Accord-competitive at the pump.

What else is there to say about this relatively basic, unassuming member of the blandest vehicle class know to man? The tilt-and-telescope wheel has a good range of adjustment. The trunk is subjectively less useful than the Accord or Camry trunk, more in line with what the Fusion offers. The odometer on my test example was in the thousand-mile range, which is too little to make the lack of obvious interior wear remarkable. The headlights were strong and usable but not exemplary.

If you’re a Nissan fan, you’ll want this because it’s a Nissan. The same will no doubt hold true if you live or work in Tennessee. One wonders, however, just how this unassuming vehicle is matching the surprise-and-delight Accord for sales. As previously discussed, there isn’t too much of that hot-ass, white-trash Nissan mojo that was so evident in the old, old Altima 3.5 SE-R. Maybe there’s none of it, in fact. It’s a little more visually interesting than the Accord or Camry, I suppose. It’s also a bit cheaper, offering an Accord EX level of equipment for the LX price even before you use the cash on the hood.

Against that, you have the major difference in reliability, real or perceived, between this and its name-brand competitors. Nor does it scream fast-fashion like the Koreans. It’s the Stringer Bell of mid-sized sedans: not smart enough to hang out with the Honda and Toyota, not brash and stylish enough to slum it with the Kia, Hyundai, and Ford. Breathes there the man with soul so dead that he thinks that the Altima is cooler than a Camry? If I see you driving one on the street, I won’t point and laugh. But when I see a Camry in Gold Choice, I’m going to choose that instead.
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127 Comments on “Rental Review: 2014 Nissan Altima S...”


  • avatar
    mjz

    Another boring midsize car in a boring color. Just what America loves. ZZZzzzzzzzzzzz.

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      Nissan is taking over for Chrysler as rental car champion as Mopar moves onto bigger and better things and Nissan increasingly builds budgetmobiles like this rental car du jour, the Versa, the Datsun and even bringing back the “Hardbody” truck.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Sales says this is … just what America loves.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      What car do you suggest my mom buys? A BRZ?

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      The brain dead driver’s car of choice in the Toledo area, even the right color! Most of the ones I see are the previous generation, but I’ve seen a couple of new ones doing the same dumb shit they do/did in the old ones. Stopping on entrance ramps because they are afraid to actually use the throttle pedal, sitting when the green arrow comes on, and getting pissed when they get honked at, going slow enough to enrage the drivers that get stuck behind them, and a lot more. I was behind one about an hour and a half ago, a last gen one in what appears to be the same grey/silver in the one at the top of the page, driving about 15-20 MPH on a 45/40 MPH road, and I was the lucky guy who was stuck behind them, with too much oncoming traffic to allow me to pass. They finally turned off, slowing to a crawl well before they started to turn. I wonder what it is about Altimas that attacts these bozos?

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Best part of my day is if I’m able to be at the front of the line at Washington and the Trail downtown, so I can actually be moving at 70mph entering SB I-75 on my evening drive home, instead of 50mph — merging into the LEFT lane!

        (Was nearly rear-ended by a semi years ago who wasn’t watching, and had locked all 18 up, and was starting to fishtail, at the same onramp — he was on 75, I was merging behind two idiots more concerned about some numbers on a sign!)

  • avatar
    Mike N.

    I rented one last year and drove it from Texas to Illinois and back. The steering wheel was the worst I’ve had used in a very long time. It was both too skinny and slippery, so that it required actively clenching your fist to maintain positive control of the steering wheel.

    My hands actually started to hurt, and I had to stop at a Walgreens and buy grippy first aid tape and wrap the wheel at the 9 and 3-ish positions.

    I’ve driven cars with skinny steering wheels before but it was the slippery nature of the material used that really made it unpleasant to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Is it made out of a single piece of slick rubber? The wheel in my M is thinner than the GS I had prior (probably due to the wood on the GS), but it’s nicely contoured, and in grippy leathers.

      • 0 avatar
        Mike N.

        Yeah, one piece slick rubber. I’ve driven an E350 with a fairly skinny wheel, and it was polished wood on the top and bottom, but where you put your hands it was leather, made all the difference in the world. One of my first cars was an 85 Accord, it also had a skinny plastic wheel but the texture and contour made it not a problem. Nissan put zero thought into the steering wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      I can vouch for this after renting one for a week. The wheel just felt awful, as did the awkwardly high and hard as a brick armrest on the door.

      I still miss the steering wheel on my old ZJ Grand Cherokee Limited.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        The steering wheels are also terribly ugly. I have internet shopped several Nissan and Infiniti vehicles and have abruptly halted every time I saw the cockpit photos because I couldn’t live with sitting behind their hideous-looking steering wheels day after day.

        • 0 avatar
          Car Ramrod

          In a way I guess it’s the price of progress. I’m barely old enough to remember when car accessory catalogs offered up dozens of aftermarket steering wheels. Given that the wheel is pretty much the only thing in the car we have to touch these days with all of the control integration they offer, one would think they could put a little more effort into the design of them.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            I’ve found cheaper Kias to have the worst, most slippery steering wheels with the leather option.

            The leather is so thin and stretched so tightly that a skinny 60’s plastic wheel without finger knurls would be grippier.

        • 0 avatar
          bkmurph

          @319583076: What, you don’t want your steering-wheel hub to resemble a pre-owned bicycle seat? ;-)

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          My pet peeve is some of the gorpy, “smiley” rearview mirrors in some cars (lookin’ at you Porsche, Mini, BMW, Benz, Acura TLX).

          I don’t need some clown-looking contraption “grinning” at me from the windshield every day! Give me a nice, big mirror like the standard one in the Camry or the electrochromic one in my Accord Touring! (The former was standard in the COBALT, for chrissakes!)

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I’ve never understood why some people berate a CVT for acting like a CVT should, which is to bring the engine to some appropriate speed for the load placed upon it and to more or less stay there. There’s no reason for a CVT to act like a multispeed transmission, and there’s nothing inherently superior in having an engine moving up and down the rev range while the car is accelerating. It’s unfortunate that Nissan has found it necessary to program their CVT to do so.

    It is important for the maker to get the NVH right, if you have a long stroke four cyinder engine held right in its buzzy zone while the car is getting up to speed you might very well wind up hating that car.

    • 0 avatar

      No, it’s genuinely unpleasant in the Altima, especially when you drive the Accord right after.

      Nissan’s transmission groans and wails, and it’s only benefit is really to cover up the fairly-course 4-cylinder. Honda’s is markedly different. Very little ‘groan’, very little intrusion. It just works, without complaints and without being noticeable.

      Nissan may use CVT technology the most, but they are not the best at it.

      • 0 avatar
        Brian P

        The transmission does match engine revs to the load – it’s not acting as a multi-speed transmission – BUT. It starts off from a stop with a torque converter just like a regular auto-box, so there’s a shift-bump from the torque converter locking. And, because a CVT on its own can’t match the range between 1st and top of the more modern geared transmissions, the newer Nissan CVT has a two-speed planetary ratio box to give it a high and low ratio overtop of what the CVT does. At a certain point it has to shift from low to high and simultaneously change the CVT ratio so that the overall drive ratio doesn’t change (much) – but a planetary gearset can swap ratios a lot quicker than the CVT can slide to a different ratio, so that transition is not perfect. In a Versa (my most recent Nissan CVT rental car) the planetary gearset goes from high to low every time the car starts going uphill and every time the driver demands acceleration.

        I’ve had an Altima rental and that Versa rental, and with the Versa’s gutless engine, the CVT is FAR more annoying! Fuel consumption was pretty good, though, I’ll give it that. Still wouldn’t buy one.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        The Accord’s is like a conventional slusher, minus upshifts. Smooth, linear application of power as revs rise. Giving it sudden two-thirds throttle “rubber-bands” things, and only briefly — not much difference from a regular kickdown.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Jack, maybe driving an Altima’s a bore, but isn’t that drive up Mount Evans great fun?

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I simply do not like CVTs. Even paired with a 3.5 in the Murano, it was dreadful. I want to have real shifts.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      I had a 2010 Altima with CVT that I had a love/hate relationship with. It was fine on the highway, at 80 it would keep the 2.5 at around 2000 rpm. But around town at home in the hills, it was miserable in so many ways. Also, the 2.5 is ancient and unrefined, anything north of 3000 rpm produced much buzz and boom. Held to the floor, engine at 5500 rpm, an awful racket ensued, but it would go.

      It was a lease and even though I could have gotten quite the deal on a Quest (we were looking for a van), two things stopped us: The styling of the Quest and the CVT. We leased an Odyssey and since it’s a lease, I don’t care about Honda and its “glass” transmission. I can appreciate the CVT, but I won’t get another one.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Hmm I would think they still offer a regular trans in the Quest. I also wonder if any parts are shared with the Espace. For a while there they looked pretty similar.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The problem with that, and other CVTs, is that they’re trying to mimic “real shifts” for no “real reason”.

      The whole point of a CVT, aside from mechanical simplicity, is to keep the engine at it’s most efficient state depending on what you’re trying to do. Having it fake shift points is silly.

      Nissan’s CVTs used to be pretty good for this; pity they’ve caved.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    I took a 2013 Altima on a 1,400mi trip to/from Montreal and found it s very good car for soaking up miles. The seats were excellent, the car tracked well, and I averaged in excess of 35mpg (including slogs through Toronto) for the trip.

    There may have been a change in CVT programming between 2013 and 2014 (same gen car otherwise) or the CVT’s learning feature may explain some of the spastic behavior, as I didn’t notice any of the issues Jack reported.

    The 2013 didn’t make any attempt to really mask its true nature and would hold revs while speed increased in most driving situations. When pushed (or in sport mode) the thing attempt to ‘shift,’ but these fake shift points had all the fidelity of a 9600 baud fax printed on thermal paper.

    @ Mike N >> The steering wheel was the worst I’ve had used in a very long time. It was both too skinny and slippery, so that it required actively clenching your fist to maintain positive control of the steering wheel.<<

    100% agree it was a cheapo wheel (like that resin-molded crap that ruined the otherwise excellent interior of a Mk4 Jetta). Fortunately I didn't have hand cramps.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    I liked the cvt on the last gen altima. It felt responsive and delivered linear responsive power without feeling rubber-bandy. That car had nice clean sporty styling without looking overly brash/ugly like the new mazda6. This one though looks too generic for my taste. The 07-2012 altima though felt tinny and cheap compared to it’s competitors, especially in the way it drove. The suspension was super tinny.

    THis new one looks like the interior is cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      “last gen altima… had nice clean sporty styling without looking overly brash/ugly like the new mazda6.”

      I don’t quite understand the neural processes that could possibly lead to this statement. Mind. Blown.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        De gustibus non est disputandum?

        I personally don’t like the looks of the Mazdas, but I’m also an outlier.

        A quick internet search makes me agree that the previous Altima had nice clean lines … I just don’t know about “Sporty”.

      • 0 avatar
        johnhowington

        try convincing me that the subaru ouback has made any styling forward progress since the year 2000 redesign to date.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          I’ve grown to love my ’13. It does have a face only a mother could love, but it grows on you.

          The 2005 Legacy and Outback were aberrations – good looking Subaru is not really in our lexicon. The new ’15 is pretty decent looking.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Sounds like we made a decent decision buying a nicely discounted 2-year old version of the last generation. I like the steering and brakes in that car and it is already as quiet on the freeway as a Camry, so whatever refinement gains Nissan supposedly achieved by stealing from the handling department wasn’t worth it. CVT doesn’t bug me either, it’s actually quite responsive and can hustle the car along pretty well despite the mushy takeoff from a stop.

    The Camry SE is a much better car if you care about anything other than hauling passengers around, but used prices are quite a bit steeper.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Jack, did they add any refinement to the engine of this thing? Our 2012 has one of the nastiest, thrashiest midsize fours I’ve ever heard. Always sounds bad, especially when cold.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      That’s not a bug, that’s a feature. My old 2.4 Altima behaved exactly as you describe the 2.5. Between the four and the plastic, the luxury touches like the start button look seriously out of place.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        I agree. If I hadn’t have driven a brand-new off-the-lot Altima prior, I would have thought something was wrong with ours. They all do this.

        The colorful VW 5-cylinder in our other car has a worse NVH reputation in the media, but I don’t mind it in reality because it sounds like it was designed to sound that way.

        The Nissan 2.5, on the other hand, sounds BROKEN.

  • avatar
    cdnsfan27

    Had one of these for three weeks when my wife’s car was in the bodyshop. She refused to drive it saying the brakes were horrible and that she did not feel safe. I didn’t find it unsafe, simply mediocre. It doesn’t do anything well other than fit four people relatively comfortably and get decent fuel economy. The car I was given had only 1700 miles on it but you could already tell that as cheaply made as it was it would not age well. There are many choices in this price range and the Altima would not make my list. I drove a Focus for three days last month and much prefered it over the Altima. It was solidly made and was fun to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      frozenman

      Totally agree, also had a 2013 rental for a month while the 2009 Accord was in for collision repair (not my fault). Mileage difference between the 2.4/5gear honda and 2.5/cvt nissan was minuscule at best with a huge gap in overall driving experience IMHO. The build quality seemed very cheap and flimsy (fuel filler door, interior, controls), can not understand the appeal of the altima at all. I try to buy vehicles from companies that have a decent bottom line balance sheet hoping their cost cutting is not overly zealous.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    Disclaimer: For reference, my daily drivers are a ’14 Sorento V6 AWD and an ’03 G35. Now, here’s my Altima impression: I rented a similar base Altima this year, and put about 1000 miles on it in 5 days. Driving included rush-hour traffic, curvy side streets, as well as 500 miles of wide open highway travel. Compared to my other recent rentals (Optima and Camry) the new Altima just “fits” me in every way: driving position, powertrain sounds, powertrain behavior, handling, ride. Sure, the low-end stereo was lousy, but I’d never buy a base model version of anything, so that’s a pointless attribute to pick apart. Geez, just add a subwoofer to the base model and the entire audio experience would be transformed. Anyhow, my impression of the Altima is favorable. Could I be aging prematurely, or am I just being too kind to this car?

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      Nah, if it just fits you, it just fits you, that’s why not every midsize sedan is exactly the same. I’ve never been able to get comfortable in a Honda other than the Odyssey, it’s just some quirk of how they build a car vis a vis my body proportions, so I’ve never owned one.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        “I’ve never been able to get comfortable in a Honda other than the Odyssey…”

        Uh-huh. I drove a 2010 Accord, a 2012 CR-V and a 2013 Civic on the same five-hour journey, and all were miserable. The 2010 Accord had a well-documented problem with an overly-stiff lumbar support, but the Accord and Civic both made my arms and legs feel very tired afterward.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    We have a 2013 Altima SV and a 2007 Altima S. In every way the 13 is a better car except for the CVT. At 7800 miles we had to have a belt and pulley replaced on the 13. While it is better, it still does not drive as well as the 07. The 07 just feels like it has more power and does a better job keeping the car in the sweet spot for power. The 13 acts like a manual that skips from 2nd to 4th. It is constantly trying to get to a higher ratio, for improved milage I suppose. Running 75-80 mph, I can still get 34+ mpg on the highway in the 13. But I would give up some milage to get rid of the that lugging feeling.

    The SV interior is much nicer, not nearly as cheap and plasticky as the 07. The SV has a leather steering wheel, which is nice. Seats in the 13 are fantastic. I may look for wrecked SV and make on of those front seats an office chair. Really comfortable.

    Having said that, my wife drives the car 99% of the time. I still think CVTs suck, and really would rather have had a Camry. Non direct injected engines and time proven 6 speed automatics may be bland/boring, but the reliability can’t be beat. Even with all the hate on the internet for the Camry, there is a reason is still out sells the competition. The upcoming changes this fall will only widen that gap.

  • avatar
    SteveMar

    Rented a 2013 Altima last year and came away thinking it was a big pile of meh. Inoffensive enough at carrying four of us plus luggage. It got us there and around and back with minimal hassles. The CVT annoyed me — made the engine sound buzzy. The seats were marginally comfortable and looking at the butt of the car in the dash display just seemed just plain silly. The stereo had bluetooth at least, so I could use my iPhone to play tunes. It was fine as rentals go, but I wouldn’t plunk my own money down to see it every day in my driveway. There are better choices out there, in this size class and elsewhere.

  • avatar
    SteveMar

    Rented a 2013 Altima last year and came away thinking it was a big pile of meh. Inoffensive enough at carrying four of us plus luggage. It got us there and around and back with minimal hassles. The CVT annoyed me — made the engine sound buzzy. The seats were marginally comfortable and looking at the butt of the car in the dash display just seemed plain silly. The stereo had bluetooth at least, so I could use my iPhone to play tunes. It was fine as rentals go, but I wouldn’t plunk my own money down to see it every day in my driveway. There are better choices out there, in this size class and elsewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      Yeah, with a CVT the maker has to get the NVH right, otherwise the car may spend much of its life in the vibration zone. With so many of these cars having a big four cylinder engine, that’s not always easy to do.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    My mommy told me a loooong time ago that CVT’s are not your friends.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The midsize class is now exactly like the full size class of the late 60s/early 70s. Point the hood at the horizon, set the cruise control, and see how many miles you can swallow in one day between gas, food, and tourist trap stops.

    Nissan – mission accomplished.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Didn’t notorious hip hop artist “T.I.” write a song about CVT’s called “Rubber Band ‘Tran”?

  • avatar
    tedward

    What a shame. I used to really like Nissan, but as GM and Toyota have improved the subjective feel of their (formerly class trailing) products it has left the brand with the least desirable mainstream offerings on the market. The Altima, Sentra, Rogue and Maxima are all “do not recommends” in my book. I should probably add the Versa to the list as it does nothing as well as say, the Honda Fit (perhaps an unfair comparison.) My two cents, Nisaan is leaning on their dealer network and current owner momentum to keep moving the volume they’ve got. As more customers reach out to cross shop and/or are exposed to reviews like this I would expect that to change. I hope it does, no one deserves the sales results they have with such mediocre product.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Thankfully, my new Optima Hybrid uses a proper 6-spd auto, and sips fuel like a Prius (almost). This Altima has no allure.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    So, I had this exact car, from Hertz no less, last week on a drive from Cleveland to Washington, DC and back.

    All in all, I thought it was an excellent car: VERY quiet, I actually liked the smoothness of the transmission, found the engine to be adequate to the task, the radio was above average.

    What killed it was two things: awful, awful steering. The dead-on-center feel drove me bonkers and had me drifting around, and the car really wallowed and plowed in the tight curves of the Appalachins when cutting through SW Pennsylvania. It’s been a number of years since I drove this route in my ’04 R32 or my ’06 A3, but both of those cars, while nowhere near as spacious or quiet, were lots of fun to drive through the mountains. The Altima made it more of a chore, especially that awful steering when driving through very narrow construction zones on the side of mountains. There were several white knuckle stretches thanks to that dead-on-center (lack of) feel.

    Otherwise, very roomy and comfortable for a road trip. Fix the God awful steering and I’d recommend one in a heartbeat.

    Oh – forgot to mention one important thing: we averaged 35mpg overall. Outstanding.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      If the worst thing (okay, apart from the steering) you can say about a base-level mid-size car is ‘it doesn’t take curves like my R32 or A3 did’, it’s not doing so bad, no.

      • 0 avatar
        Brian P

        Aye, but that steering is really, really bad. I think Nissan has forgotten what “steering feel” means. On-center didn’t bug me too much, but there is zeeeeero feedback through the steering wheel about what the front wheels are doing.

        • 0 avatar
          hreardon

          Brian is spot on. The steering was awful enough to where I thought that there was something wrong with it. I felt like I was driving like you see people drive in films from the 1950s, constantly juggling the wheel back and forth all the while continuing to go straight.

          No joke, it’s awful. Shame, because the rest of the package is very nice.

  • avatar
    gkbmini

    Last month in Calgary, I rented the Canadian version of the 2014 Altima with the display package. Have the following observation from the week of driving.

    • The car was plenty roomy enough for a 6’3’’, 315 pound driver. However, I really felt the side bolsters of the front seats. My Highlander at home has little to no side bolstering, so it took me a few days to get use to the seats.
    • I continually bumped the “sport” button on the gear selector with my knee. The car would be loafing along the Trans Canadian highway, I would bump the button, and the revs would increase to 3500 rpm. Totally annoying!
    • The lack momentum off the line caught me by surprise. While making a left hand turn, the wife and I thought we were going to be t-boned by on coming traffic.

    Compared to the previous generation Altima I rented in the past, the current generation left me with same impression. It was roomy and non-offensive.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    I actually prefer the styling of the previous generation. Especially around the C-pillar area, the previous car had a sort of BMW look to it whereas the current on has that up-kinked quarter window that looks like everything else on the market.

    I have one co-worker wiht an ’07 and another with a ’13 and to me the ’07 is still somewhat eye catching whereas the ’13 is just kind of blah.

  • avatar
    Eiriksmal

    The next time you guys are in Louisville, I need someone from TTAC to drive my ’05 Maxima 6MT and tell me how it compares to the new Altimas on the D platform. Surely there’s some kind of semi-substantial difference between the Altimas and the ginormous 6th generation Maxima… Right?

    At the very least, having 2+2 seating in a huge sedan replete with three pedals is enough to distinguish it from the 3.5 Altima sedan. I’m also wagering the Altima has insanely light, boosted steering like the Camry. The steering in both my ’05 and former ’02 Maxima seems nicely weighted, to me. (Meaning, you develop arm muscles quickly because a ~41 ft. turning radius + weighty steering = a chore in parking lots)

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    CVT aside I can’t believe this car is worse than the rental 2014.5 Camry SE we spent a weekend with. Ranging from mileage that never crested 32, even on the open road going 70, to sluggish highway passing power with the A/C on to a boring all black interior with fake silver that was already starting to wear off by the shift indicator to those magic center dash vents that came out in our lap going over railroad tracks(this is not a joke it actually happened twice)to seat material that felt like sand paper and brushed the back of our legs into red itchiness, to the hollow wafer thin headliner this Camry screamed economy car. The steering was also the numbest I have encountered, road and wind noise were several decibels higher than I ever remember these cars being but the outright handling was a tad better.

    The worst aspect of the 2014.5 Camry. It was a mid level SE trim but was missing so many features that had us questioning the rental agency if this was a special fleet delete special. It wasn’t. If you want a power seat, larger rims etc you have to move up to the SE Sport for about a grand more. For a mid level trim the lack of a power seat, XM radio, remote start, keyless start, retained power, automatic climate control or dual zone controls and lighted visor mirrors, to name several,was a real eye opener. The Bluetooth system in this car also had a habit of disconnecting our calls at the worst possible moment including a very important conference call with work.

    The Monday morning I needed to return it to the rental agency had a click click click sound when trying to start it up despite only 9K miles on the clock and nothing left turned on inside. She was as dead as a door nail! Thankfully my trusty battery charger was enough to bring the battery back up to start the car and bring it back. A word with the rental agency revealed that this car has been brought back to the dealer several times for the “no start” condition but no problems were found. Yikes!

    I will say that this car was pretty roomy, especially out back and it’s trunk was reasonably sized. It reminds be of the McDonalds burger. Billions sold but better burgers do exist. The Altima, at least in higher trim levels is IMO a better burger!

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Poncho’s Camry rental gets worse every time he tells the tale. How big was the fish you caught again? Bigger than the boat? You don’t say! Next time it will be airbags going off over speed bumps and antifreeze spraying through the AC vents and blinding the orphan children he was generously taking for a day at the local amusement park.

      If I did believe your ever-expanding story, I would have to remind you that you have a sample size of one and that repeating the story 100 times does not give you 100 sample points.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        It really does keep getting worse. He forgot to include the part where he took it back to the desk because of a lack of features, and complained to the worker so much they refunded him – because of lack of features.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      “…it screamed economy car.” Which, unless I’m mistaken, is exactly what it is – i.e. a rental economy car. o_O

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Shocking.

        I’m confused by the idea that a mid-trim mid-size ought to always have remote start and keyless entry (power seats, I’ll grant, for mid-trim).

        A spot check (and memory of looking at mid-size configurators idly) suggests those are *uncommon* features on mid-trims.

        (And ones I don’t want, myself, but I don’t live in a place with Extreme Climate that would really justify remote start.)

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          “A spot check (and memory of looking at mid-size configurators idly) suggests those are *uncommon* features on mid-trims.”

          Well…actually, it’s closer to half-and-half.

          The Altima has a smart-key system as standard equipment on the S model. The Accord EX, Optima EX, Sonata SE and 6 Touring are all “mid-level” trims that have a standard smart-key system.

          However, on the Camry, the smart-key is part of a package for 4-cylinder SE and XLE configurations, but standard for V6 SE and XLE configurations. On the Malibu 1LTZ and 2LTZ and the 2015 Legacy 2.5i and 3.6R Limited, it’s part of an expensive package. It’s standard on the Passat SEL and TDI SEL, as well as the Fusion Titanium, and not available in any lower trims for those cars.

          So yeah, you’re looking at about half of the mid-sized cars as having standard smart-key systems on mid-level trims. I didn’t, however, do any research on the hybrids. I’m pretty sure everyone’s hybrid includes a standard smart-key except the Fusion (where again, it’s only available/standard on the Titanium).

  • avatar
    carguy

    If I were looking for a midsize family sedan, the Altima would not even make the list. The new model has been suffering all kinds of reliability issues which is a deal killer in this class.

    http://www.truedelta.com/Nissan-Altima/reliability-222

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    What kind of mileage did you observe? Normal caveats apply of course.

    I get amused when I see the S badge on these. Why would anybody advertise that they bought the base trim?

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Well, no badge equally means “base trim”, if there are any trim badges, don’t it?

      To people who aren’t Car Guys, most onlookers probably don’t even know “S” means “base”…

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Nissan S-Klasse?

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Not necessarily with no badge = base trim. You can load a car up with all options, and still not have a badge.

        The M came in base M (all available options minus AWD) Mx (all + AWD) and S (all options, no AWD, alumium trim and special seats).

        Same with something like the DTS. There were Luxury Packages ranging I – III, no badging to differentiate. Just different wheels/colors.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Well, that’s true of luxury automakers, especially because their packages don’t have usable names (Acura, Cadillac), or they offer too many packages (BMW, Bentley, Rolls-Royce).

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        Or de-badged for aesthetics or whatever purpose. To most people, badges mean nothing and to some people, I don’t think they even see the badges.

        Exhibit A – morons with personalized tags that replicate badges already on their vehicle.

        Exhibit B – someone wrote yesterday that most people couldn’t name the make of a car even if they were standing next to the thing looking at the rear end.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        That’s often true. Most cars (such as the Passat S, Fusion S and Camry L) don’t feature a trim-badge at all. However the Accord doesn’t have badges on most of its trims. But you can identify an Accord Sedan’s trim by the features. “Sport” is obviously the most-identifiable, since it has special rims, and lower/accented side-skirts and bumper skirts. If it’s got 5-spoke rims, it’s most likely an LX. If it has 10-spoke rims, it’s an EX…unless it also has LED tail-lamps, in which case it’s an EX-L. If it’s got twin exhaust pipes, it’s a V6, and if you see LED headlamps and a Touring badge, it’s a Touring. Hybrids are always badged as such, and the only noticeable difference between the “Hybrid” and the “Hybrid EX-L” is a sunroof.

        Luxury automakers generally don’t badge anything except engine-trims and special packages (F-Sport, for example).

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The Fusion S is so sad. Especially when its next to a Fusion Titanium.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            I agree. And so is the base Escape (whatever that’s called). They even went so far as to take away the color-keyed door handles and wing mirrors (who *does* that anymore on a non-truck vehicle?!) and gave it ugly, orange-lensed turn indicators.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          The Accord Sport does have an extra “Sport” badge, and the V6 models have a “V6″ badge on the lower-right decklid.

          The one that threw me was the “Touring” that passed me last week..but where-TF was the “V6″..a-HA!! It was a Canadian four-cylinder Touring, which gets you the EX-L NAVI kit with the 18″ rims from the Sport (except with dark chrome) and the LED headlights, but no Adaptive Cruise Control.

    • 0 avatar
      turboprius

      The fact Nissan put an S badge on the Altima is surprising; if you look at their other models, they’ve done away with the S badge. Trim badges only start appearing on the SV models.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      2.5S is not the base model Altima. There is also a 2.5 which lacks cruise control, the full smart key system, and (I think) a pair of speakers.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        “2.5S is not the base model Altima. There is also a 2.5 which lacks cruise control, the full smart key system, and (I think) a pair of speakers.”

        …And it costs just $260 less than the S. I don’t usually buy the base model of anything, especially if that base model is equipped with steel wheels and covers instead of alloys, but you’d have to be downright cheap not to upgrade to the S. I’m surprised that dealers even stock this configuration; I don’t know anyone who’d buy it over the S.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    This, the Camry, and the Accord just show how little the average American cares about driving. All three are pretty cheap and nasty, but they are also cheap and reliable (for whatever that is worth today when all cars are reliable).

    I’ve had examples of all three as rentals in the past few weeks, they all pretty much suck in their own special ways. I find the CVT no worse than any other automatic though, and the Altima does get very good gas mileage. I’d never buy any of them though, if my budget only ran to $20k I’d buy something nice used instead. Life’s too short to drive boring cars.

    For me the only surprise about the new Accord was wondering what all the fuss is about. Still a steaming pile of meh. Better than a Camry but that is like saying syphilis is better than gonorohrea. And I passed up an upgrade to a Regal to try the Accord. Stupid.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “how little the average American cares about driving”

      We are a shallow and craven people.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Yes we are. The only question is when the wheels came off. My nephew thought it started with the popularity of Dynasty, his sister thought it started with Springer, and my sister thought either the Brady Bunch or the Partridge Family did us in. But mom thought it was the Beverly Hillbillies, while dad said it was the Untouchables. Then grampa reminded us that one of the TV pioneers, Milton Berle, appeared often in drag on his show. We’ve been going down the tubes for a looong time.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Well, yes. For my commuter car, I would pick something like a Camry or an Altima if they had better interiors and designs. I’m not worried so much about chassis-tuning and driving enjoyment, but I do want something that’s going to age-well design-wise (the Altima might, but the Camry won’t), and that will wear well. I don’t want to see smooth spots, cracked leather and scratched shiny black plastic at $60K miles. I also don’t want something that’s going to look ten years old by the time it’s paid off.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        It just makes zero sense to buy one of these turds new when you can get something so much nicer for the money a few years old CPO. Even if you don’t like the Germans, the Japanese near-lux cars are FAR nicer places to spend your commuting time.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          And, you know, I thought about that. Right now, the 2013 Volkswagen CC 2.0T Sport or Lux is at the forefront of my list. It’s a nice blend between something that’s upscale and continental, and something that I could reasonably afford to own once the warranty expires. They take such a huge first-year depreciation hit that it’ll be very easy to purchase one for well under the price of new mid-spec “turd,” to use your terminology. Plus I’m very comfortable with Volkswagen Group products. Other than that, I do like the current 328i.

          As far as a Japanese near-luxury sedan goes, the new Toyota Avalon has my name written all over it design-wise. It looks and feels far better than the Lexus ES, in my opinion.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Depends on how you take care of one of these. This past week, my dealer detailed my Accord again, and thought about asking my permission to borrow it for their showroom for a day to showcase the Touring bits! A year old, and my OCD hasn’t stopped!

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Check out some of the new Rogue reviews. Sounds pretty remarkable overall.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I couldn’t disagree more strongly. Many people are looking for a minimal impact transportation device with stronger reliability. There’s nothing wrong with that.

      Personally I love flogging 4 cylinder automatic sedans. As long as the seat is comfortable, the more base model the better. When they get the base model right, the decorated ones will be great as well.

      Just because everyone doesn’t crave a BMW doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate a competent car, whatever defines such for them.

  • avatar

    From all these midsize cars, I drove the above car for a week (Enterprise), a Camry SE from Hertz and since Jan of this year, my leased 2014 Accord Sport CVT.
    All these cars present cost cutting anywhere you look but it’s hard to see it from the outside, look at the brilliant 18″ wheels on the Accord, they even have a nice lip to protect the rim but the tires are GoodYear LS2 at $86 each!
    The center console is nicely finished but makes noise in every bump as well as the rear deck, the trunk closes with the cheapest sound ever and the back seat folds as one single piece!
    And…try to look for something in the glove compartment, no light!
    The Camry was no better with mismatching parts and the Altima’s steering was so unappealing, the ride felt like Corrola style and the CVT made the engine scream most of the time.
    The Accord price was 22,850, what can we really expect from such low price?
    I do not regret taking the Accord, from all these midsize cars it’s the one that drive the best, at least you don’t suffer at this department (:-)

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I ordered my Accord, and specified Michelins! You just have to look for one on the lot so-equipped!

      The trunk doesn’t sound cheap — it’s nice to be able to close it with a finger if need be.

      However — the lack of a glovebox light is something I’ve bitched about since forever!

  • avatar

    Timeline of 90% of 2.5Ss…

    Rental Lane –> (HERTZ/AVIS REMARKETING) –> CARMAX Inventory –> (SANTANDER/DRIVE RMARKETING) –> Luxury/Prestige/Import/Highline Auto Mall Inc. –> (WESTLAKE/UNITED AUTO CREDIT REMARKETING) –> Southside Buy-Here/Pay-Here –> (‘PORTFOILIO SERVICES’ REMARKETING) –> Our Lady of Ascension Motors & Export Inc. —> (POLICE IMPOUND/NEW CAR FRANCHISE BID SALE/TOTAL RESOURCE AUCTION) –> Tha’ Crusha’! = Parts for next-generation Altima.

    Add 27k miles per auction.

    I don’t usually have emotion for appliances, but you DO have to feel some sorrow for a car that has never seen the tender touch of an owner’s car wash or regularly-schedule oil change.

  • avatar
    doug-g

    “The Honda is, frankly speaking, a brilliant car and has its own group of no-comparison-shopping captives.”

    You were so close to me. You could have driven over to visit, I would have taken you to my local Honda dealership and you could see why people consider Nissans, Toyotas, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I just don’t get the Honda love. I’ve driven multiple examples of every generation of Accord, and I completely fail to see what the fuss is about. At best they rise to “OK” for me as far as the drive, but they are all just dull tin(ny) boxes.

  • avatar
    mars3941

    It amazes me just how bad the American car makers hurt themselves building the junk they did back in the 70’s and 80′ and some even into the 90’s. The top selling automobiles in the U.S. are all imports with Camry, Accord and Altima the top 3 followed by the Ford Fusion a distant 4th. Even though the Fusion has higher incentives and great reviews it can’t seem to overcome the sins of our past.

  • avatar
    GST

    Four day rental Boston, Hartford, Cape Cod, Boston. Agree steering is strange, not satisfying. Thought also that NVH low. Forgot the CVT after a short time. Mostly freeway driving, but did get on H 44 from Hartford to Fall City. Lights were notably good. No comparison with my Seattle ride, a GAAC (good all around car) the BMW 320i. In the latter, really love the real 37 mpg highway, easy to get.

  • avatar
    dtremit

    The one thing I will give these is that they’re bizarrely roomy, at least in the front seat. In one of my rentals, I had a 6’5″ friend as a passenger, and he found being so far from the dash almost unsettling.

    That, and the Camry rentals don’t have power driver seats. That is a deal killer for me; as someone at the end of the ergonomics curves, I can never get manual seats adjusted right. (Vintage German cars potentially excepted.)

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Rented a 2.5 S for a long drive. Roomy, refined enough, surprisingly powerful, amazing highway fuel economy, unimpressive steering, general feeling of cheap.

  • avatar

    This car holds a good rank among affordable midsized cars. This Nissan Altima looks like a practical family sedan that also provides some kicks behind the wheel, test drivers say.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      As a Japanese car, the Nissan Altima is not American. There are 5 seats, which will imply 5 seat belts are present. Having an engine in the front means it is not a carriage. You can have additional options on this Nissan Altima, but looks like there will be additional costs as well then.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    The Nissan Altima Coupe was one of my favorite cars to rent. About a month ago, I got the 2014 sedan as a rental in Chicago, and I hated it. I think Nissan did something to the throttle calibration because the throttle response was atrocious to the point where I thought I would crash many times. It looked better than the previous sedan, but nonetheless felt like this extremely cheap car. I doubt this is the kind of car one would keep for the long haul.


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