ROAD TEST: 2016 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL

By Shari Prymak

Midsized mainstream sedans have never been quite as accomplished as they are now. The latest Toyota Camry, for example, represents everything a sensible person could really want in a car: build quality, refinement, and efficiency, all wrapped together in the dullest package imaginable. The Ford Fusion and Mazda6 shake that recipe up quite a bit by adding a heavy dose of Euro-inspired style and sportiness. And the Honda Accord strikes a balance between all those qualities, and in so doing, manages to be somehow perfect in every way. So where does that leave the Nissan Altima?

From a design standpoint, the Altima is a bit of a letdown. It certainly isn’t as attractive as a Fusion or Mazda6. The interior is a bit better. Aside from a few silly touches like the large steering wheel paddle shifters and glossy carbon fibre-look trim, the finishes are up to par with most others in this class. The standard equipment list is very generous, and you can still order all manner of equipment from a heated steering wheel, to blind sport and lane departure warning systems. Everything is quite intuitive and user-friendly to use as well.

The standard powertrain is a fuel efficient, 2.5L, 4-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). My test car, however, came with the optional, and largely irrelevant, 3.5L, V6 engine. I say irrelevant because, as powerful and refined as it is, the V6 is just too antiquated and fuel thirsty to be worth considering for most car buyers. Besides, the enormous power delivery can rarely be enjoyed anyways, thanks to a dull throttle response and heavy-hitting traction control. Trust me on this, stick with the 4-cylinder and all will be well.

Out on the road, the Altima tries to take on the Accord recipe of feeling comfortable and refined, yet still mildly sporty. Though the steering is certainly on the light-feeling side, the Altima can handle corners with little fuss from the chassis. And the ride quality, though not quite Camry compliant, manages to be plenty smooth over all but the worst of road surfaces which, at times, can send a few tremors and rattles into the cabin in a way that the Fusion and Accord are able to filter out. It may sound as though the Altima has a few issues in need of sorting; in reality, it’s just a tad outmatched by a few of its more finely polished rivals.

The Altima’s pricing starts at a competitive $23,998. Prices climb to a reasonable $32,298 for fully optioned 4-cylinder SL model complete with LED lighting, leather seats, navigation, and intelligent cruise control. The V6 engine commands a $3,200 premium on the SL model. Though perfectly in line with the pricing from its competitors, the Altima’s pricing does represent good value when you factor in an excellent track record for reliability combined with Nissan’s regular financing and price incentives. As long as the Altima stays ahead on that front, it should remain an attractive option for those looking for a well-rounded midsized sedan.

 

For more details, please visit the Nissan Canada website.