2014 Nissan Altima Review
Fuel economy and comfort make their mark with this mid-size.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: October 14th, 2013
Typically, when automakers introduce a redesign to an existing model, the second year of that generation brings with it a slew of small, easily-missed changes that are only noticeable to interested buyers and complete fanboys. Such is the case with the 2014 Nissan Altima.
Tech nerds will like the expansion of smartphone apps in Nissan's infotainment system. Dubbed Nissan Connect, the system integrates smartphone apps like Pandora and features like Google search into the system. Most of the rest of the changes for 2014 are minor updates to trim levels, exterior bits, and paint colors.
Nissan loves to tout the Altima's fuel economy (topping out at 38 mpg) in a hotly-contested segment in which mpg is one of the main metrics that automakers use to one-up each other. But mid-size sedans are about more than efficiency - they need to haul cargo and people aplenty in comfort and style, and hopefully provide some fun to the driver while they're at it. We spent five rainy days in the Pacific Northwest to test the Altima's chops.
On the Road
If you're expecting the Altima to match the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, or Mazda 6 in the grin-inducement department, you're going to be disappointed. The base engine, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, generates high mpgs but few gpms (grins per mile). It's got plenty of gusto for around-town driving - we had no trouble ducking in and out of traffic in Portland - but it lacks passing punch and hill-climbing oomph. Those who need more power will simply opt for the larger V-6, of course, but some of this falls not on the four-banger but on the continuously-variable automatic (CVT), which is reluctant to summon lower ratios.
Handling is also a step below top-of-class. We'd like sharper responses and steering feel, and perhaps a bit more weight in the steering, as well. Less body roll would be welcome, too. That said, the Altima isn't terrible, it's at least mid-pack. It's less soft than the pillowy Toyota Camry, and on par with Chevy's Malibu, if not a few ticks better.
It's never disappointing to drive, but it won't leave you satisfied the way the best-in-class cars do. We found it to more than competent on curvy mountain roads, but it didn't make us smile the way the Fusion/Accord/6 trio does.
Ride is a different matter - the Altima is comfortable without being soft. It's a pleasant companion in just about every situation, and longer drives don't lead to fatigue. We shuttled back and forth across curvy Interstate 84 a couple of times, and we hopped out of the Altima still feeling energized. The car felt composed on all surfaces we encountered, including some gravel roads in the shadow of Mt. Hood.
If you're looking for two-door fun in a four-door family car, you're best served by picking from the aforementioned Fusion/Accord/6 trio or staying in the Nissan family and spending some more coin on the larger and sportier Maxima. If versatility and competence in a car that passes gas pumps with ease while commuting inoffensively matter to you, the Altima's performance will suffice just fine.
With few exceptions, mid-size sedans tend to be drawn conservatively. That holds true with the Altima - it's not an exciting look, but it's curvy and handsome nonetheless. Few heads will turn, but you won't be ashamed to pull up to the valet, either. Nor will your friends argue over whether it's attractive or not. It's pretty plain, but it's still pretty.
That attractiveness carries over to the interior. Indeed, comfort isn't lacking in the cabin. Most materials look and feel upscale (granted, our test car came in top-line SL trim), and ease of use isn't an issue here - every dial, button, or knob you need is within easy reach and operated with little difficulty. Old-fashioned knobs exist as part of the audio and climate controls, and the nav system is a no-brainer to work, even if it's voice instructions sometimes cut in too loudly during a Bluetooth phone call (we're sure there's a way to lower the volume, but it probably involves digging into system menus, which can't be done quickly during a call), and even if the voice recognition occasionally didn't understand us.
Our only real beef was road noise. A little too much leaked in from the A-pillars at highway speeds, and rough pavement got real loud, real fast. Some of this was the road's fault - we rode shotgun in a late-model Hyundai Sonata on the same road and found it only slightly quieter. And the Altima did keep tire noise out well on better pavement. Part of this may have been due to a lack of sound-deadening material in the trunk, ostensibly to save weight and increase fuel economy.
Speaking of that trunk, it was spacious - we dumped plenty of clothing and luggage into it with ease, hampered only by a slightly narrow opening.
Defining "best in class" is always hard and always at least a little bit subjective. We have lead feet and enthusiast leanings around here, so we have a hard time not elevating members of the Accord/Fusion/6 trio to the front of the room.
But for those who care not about such things, for those who just want a car that does all things well, the Altima could fit the bill. It does have one great claim to fame - fuel efficiency. It's a better jack of all trades than the Malibu or even the ubiquitous Camry (Toyota has improved that car's driving dynamics, but the Altima slightly outshines it), and it ferries people and cargo comfortably.
It also does so without commandeering bank-account-breaking money. Our highly optioned SL registered just a tick over $30K out the door, and unless acceleration really, really matters to you, most drivers will be fine with the less-expensive four-pot under hood.
Lots of buyers are looking for value for the money, and since most mid-size buyers prioritize that (along with fuel efficiency, comfort, and space) over razor-sharp handling and blistering acceleration, the Altima will find a home in plenty of driveways, car parks, and garages.
Specs, Features, Prices
Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder
Torque: 180 lb-ft.
Transmission: Continuously-variable automatic (CVT)
Fuel Economy: 27 mpg city / 38 mpg highway
Base Price: $27,760
As-Tested Price: $50,485 (including $790 destination fee)
Available Features: Bluetooth, satellite radio, USB port, navigation system, blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, moving-object detection system, moonroof, fog lamps, heated outside mirrors, rearview camera, heated front seats, remote keyless entry, remote start, push-button start.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2014 Nissan Altima, click here: 2014 Nissan Altima.