|2016 Nissan Altima SV (2.5)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$28,935|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.5L/182-hp/180-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,266 lb (60/40%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||191.9 x 72.0 x 57.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.0 sec @ 88.6 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||121 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.83 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.5 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||27/39/31 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||125/86 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.62 lb/mile|
The 2017 Nissan Altima offers something you can’t get on the Toyota Camry 2.5, Chevrolet Malibu 1.5, and especially the Ford Fusion 1.5: It’s a golden combination of acceleration and EPA-rated fuel economy at the top of its class. Although no one will hit EPA estimates while testing the Altima’s impressive 0–60-mph time, performing well on those two metrics is noteworthy in a very crowded class. We took the Altima on a road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco to determine how well-rounded the refreshed midsize sedan really is.
We’ve had mixed opinions about the Altima in the past—the car placed fifth of six cars in a Big Test comparison, although my experience with a 2013 Altima 2.5 SL was more positive. The Altima was refreshed for 2016 to address some of the issues with the 2013–2015 cars, starting with the CVT. Still a controversial choice for some drivers, the retuned transmission is one of the 2017 Altima’s best features. Aside from the restyled exterior, the Altima also gained available active safety tech and a much quieter interior.
That was really the biggest takeaway from our time on the highway; our sub-$30,000 tester was much quieter than I remember our long-term 2013 Altima. It’s really a great feature, and it helps drown out the way the CVT makes the engine drone. Yes, the Altima’s 179-hp 2.5-liter naturally aspirated I-4 still moans a bit, but it’s more subdued than the 2013–2015 Altima owners and rental-car drivers may have experienced. (Our test car was a 2016 with 182 hp; the 2017 model is identical except for a 50-state 179-hp rating.) The CVT is responsive, too—whether in town or on the highway, the car is always ready to respond, and the engine-braking button on the side of the transmission stalk remains just as helpful for when you want to slow down but avoid using the brakes or showing others your taillights as it was on our 2013 long-termer.
Were Motor Trend to ever organize a WGMSDR (World’s Greatest Midsize Sedan Drag Race), the 2017 Altima would be fighting for the lead. We clocked a 0–60 time on our moderately equipped tester of just 7.8 seconds, which may not sound all that great before you remember this is the base engine. Compared to others we’ve tested, that’s effectively tied with the 2016 Mazda6 (7.9 seconds), two-tenths quicker than a 2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T (8.0 seconds), and 0.6 second ahead of a 2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.4 (8.4 seconds). The Altima 2.5 is also quicker than the 2017 Toyota Camry I-4 (8.5 seconds) and the 1.5-liter turbo versions of the 2017 Ford Fusion and 2016 Chevrolet Malibu, which reach 60 in 9.1 and 8.5 seconds, respectively.
Before upgrading to V-6s and high-powered turbo-fours, one midsize sedan that’s quicker is the lower-volume Kia Optima with a 1.6-liter turbo-four and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. We tested a 2016 model finishing the 0–60 sprint in 7.5 seconds, and the car is also among the most efficient in the class, like the Altima. Although your mileage may vary depending on how often you take advantage of the Altima’s relative quickness, EPA ratings of 27/39 mpg city/highway for the non-SR four-cylinder model put it near the top of the class. The 2017 Kia Optima with the 1.6T powertrain is good for 28/37 mpg for the 2017 model year. The 2017 Accord I-4 in non-Sport trim is rated at 27/36 mpg, and the Toyota Camry I-4, not helped by the EPA’s more stringent ratings system for 2017, turns in 24/33 mpg.
The Altima’s steering has a decent weight to it, and there’s some road feel even if you don’t go with the sportier SR trim. With a time of 27.5 seconds at 0.63 g average around the figure-eight course, the Altima’s performance was more or less tied with everything in the segment. The real story is that although the Altima is no Mazda6 in terms of driving fun or agility, it’s still capable for a base-engine midsize sedan.
Most of the time, though, midsize sedan owners will be commuting, and although the 2017 Altima has no Eco mode for the transmission, here it shines. The CVT’s smoothness is a real plus, as are the wonderfully bright instrument cluster gauges that surround a modern color display screen, which is tilted back for improved visibility. It’s the type of feature you’ll use and appreciate every day. Such a shame, then, that the center-stack touchscreen is still mounted as low as it was on our long-termer and that the upgrade screen’s size is still just 7.0 inches. (A 5.0-inch screen is standard.) Also, even though the Siri Eyes Free Voice Recognition tech is useful, we’re looking forward to a full implementation of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
On our L.A. to S.F. road trip, the four of us found the cabin plenty spacious, and the trunk’s 15.4 cubic feet of space came in handy. Unfortunately, the mid-level 2.5 SV trim isn’t available with Nissan’s full suite of active safety tech, and we hope the features make it to the SV trim in the future. Although our car lacked active cruise control and an automatic emergency braking system, it did feature rear cross-traffic alert. That helpful technology can alert the driver when the car is in reverse and a passing car in a parking lot may be hard to spot. Subaru takes this tech a step further in the midsize class with the 2017 Legacy Sport by including an automatic braking feature if the driver continues reversing toward a moving car. The 2017 Altima gets good safety ratings, like most cars in its class. The car’s five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA is matched by a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS—but keep in mind the “+” applies to Altimas with the forward emergency braking system, which becomes available on the higher 2.5 SL trim.
The 2017 Nissan Altima gets most of the basics right. The car is as spacious as you’d expect, and it’s quicker than other midsizers from Hyundai, Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota. The updated front styling isn’t for everyone (I’m not a fan), but if the low-mounted 7.0-inch touchscreen doesn’t bother you and CVTs don’t scare you, add the 2017 Altima to your list.