The Altima is no stranger to these pages…in fact, it’s one of our most frequent sedan visitors. However, with a revised 2016 model that includes more than just a nip and tuck treatment, it’s a sedan worth revisiting.
The Altima, long straddling the middle ground between sporty and sedate in the midsized sedan world, received edgier looks as part of a 2016 mid-cycle refresh that brings it more in line with Nissan’s most recent design language. The 2015 Murano and this year’s new Maxima have clearly influenced the Altima’s facelift; while its flanks are not as chiseled as the Max, it’s still a fair sight more interesting that last year’s plain-Jane model.
Inside, things are more familiar, although there have been a couple of incremental improvements made. A modestly updated center console design complements upgraded door panel and upholstery finishes. The seats – those famous NASA-consulted “zero-G” jobs – have been reshaped, although we noticed little difference from the 2015 versions, which is a good thing. Equipment levels fall pretty much in line with last year’s car, although there’s a new SR trim level with paddle shifters, 18-inch wheels, smoked headlights, a rear spoiler and firmer suspension tuning that is meant to take the fight to the Accord Sports and Camry XSEs of the world. True to form, the SR trim will be available on both 4-cylinder and V6 Altimas.
Mechanically, it’s much the same story as before – 2.5-liter four and 3.5-liter six-cylinder powerplants both send power through an Xtronic CVT to the front wheels. New shift logic allows the CVT to mimic a stepped-gear automatic when you put the hammer down, which is a thoughtful touch, although this generation Altima has always been quiet enough to avoid the dreaded CVT drone present in many vehicles so-equipped. That slippery new front end, as well as flat flooring underneath and active grille shutters combine to lower the drag coefficient from 0.29 to 0.26, and helps our 2.5-liter model achieve a 39 MPG highway estimate and 31 MPG combined, which I mirrored in real-world driving.
The Altima remains what it’s always been – a sensible, not-so-left-field alternative to the Accord and Camry. The Fusion may lead the style front while the Mazda 6 carries the torch for enthusiasts with families, but for the driver who wants competency above all else (and doesn’t want to be just another pleb in an Accord or Camry), the Altima still hits its marks.
2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL
Base price: $29,395
Price as tested: $32,595
Options on test car: Technology Package w/ LED lighting ($2,190), Moonroof ($800), Floor mats ($210)
Powertrain: 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, CVT automatic transmission, front-wheel drive – 182 horsepower, 180 lb-ft torque
S:S:L-observed fuel economy: 31.5 MPG