Review: 2012 Nissan Altima
We drive the 2012 Nissan Altima
Web2Carz Senior Writer
Published: January 9th, 2012
When an automaker doesn’t have much new to add to an existing model—especially when said existing model is nearing the end of its lifecycle—the automaker often tries to find new ways to entice customers, particularly when it comes to option packages.
Which is how we found ourselves behind the wheel of a 2012 Nissan Altima 2.5 S with the new-for-2012 Value Package. Essentially, the Value Package is a $490 package that includes Bluetooth, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic on/off headlamps, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a Homelink system, a compass, and an auto up/down passenger window.
What's interesting is what this Altima didn't have that other Altimas do. No leather seats. No fog lamps. No navigation system. No satellite radio. No USB port. These are all options that can be had in other iterations of the Altima.
Features & Prices
Still, this particular tester did come standard with a tilt/telescope steering wheel, 16-inch wheels, cruise control, air conditioning, an auxiliary port, remote keyless entry, a push-button start, power windows and door locks, dual 12-volt DC outlets, and power mirrors, among other features. The exterior featured body-colored molding, mirrors, and bumpers. Standard safety items include ABS, traction control, and an anti-skid system.
Altimas are available with two engines--a 175-horse 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a 270-pony 3.5-liter V-6. Four-cylinder versions are available in base and S trim, while V-6s are dubbed SR. Only coupes can be had with a stick (a 6-speed), the rest get a continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT).
What becomes immediately apparent upon entering the Altima is that this is a big car. It feels big, the interior is roomy, the trunk has plenty of space--extra-large Americans and their extra-large appetite for stuff will not want for room.
Any reservations one has about the ability of a four-cylinder to move the Altima around need only step on the gas to be convinced--the Altima pulls nicely. The CVT's shifting behavior--CVTs do not upshift like conventional gearboxes--is a bit off-putting, but one gets used to it, and it seems well-matched to the engine.
It handles competently, although you never forget that you're driving a mid-size sedan. Don't bother with Laguna Seca, stick to the carpool lane. You want sport? Nissan will show you a nice Infiniti G at their luxury division's showroom down the street.
Keep the Altima in suburban-cruise mode, though, and you'll be fine. The ride is on the softer side, somewhere between Camryville and Accordtown, but it does take some pain out of the daily commute.
Really, it all circles back to that svelte four-banger under the hood. Not only does it get the Altima going, but it sounds good doing it, with the volume control remaining appropriately muted until the higher RPM levels are reached.
Family car buyers often care not about such things as performance, worrying more about space, fuel economy, safety, features, and utility. We've already noted the car's size, and safety and utility are par for the course. That leaves features--since other Altimas offer all of today's must-have coddling options, we suspect the Value Package will find its way into the hands of buyers who care more about their bank account than such things. Not to mention rental fleets, as much as Nissan might hate to hear the "R" word.
The exterior design remains handsome if familiar, but the interior is due for an update. Nothing lasts forever, and the Altima's interior design proves that mantra nicely.
Fuel economy? Well, the EPA rates it at a numerically palindromic 23 mpg city and 32 highway, and we averaged 18.8 mpg in plenty of commuting duty.
How much value does the Value Package bring? Well, our car started out at $22,570 and there were a few other options. Those were splash guards ($140), a floor and trunk mat set ($180), an under-floor trunk organizer with a first-aid/emergency kit ($140), and aluminum kick plates ($170). Add another $760 for destination and it totals out to $24,450.
The Altima has always presented itself as a sportier, swoopier alternative to the Camry, and for the most part it succeeds. We'd forego the Value Package and spend some more $$ for more luxury, but we can't argue with the four-cylinder's grunt.
Nor with the price. It's called the Value Package for reason.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2012 Nissan Altima, click here: 2012 Nissan Altima.