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2005 Nissan Altima 2.5S Extra

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Justin Pritchard
Affordable, useable, sensible fun.
Photo: Nissan Canada
I didn't think I would ever review a mid sized sedan for my student readers -- mainly because in the mid-sized sedan market there isn't a whole lot of excitement in terms of looks or performance that students can afford. I picture myself graduating and buying something with two doors, two seats, no roof and around eight cylinders. Maybe some of you can relate. Sadly, we do not fit the mould of the average graduate car buyer if this is the case. But that's fine: the 2005 Altima doesn't exactly fit the mould of an average sedan. So, if you feel like standing out, expressing your uniqueness, and don't want to spend a lot, you might just wind up liking the Altima as much as I did.

My tester came with the "Extra" package, which is loaded with great features and a steal at $500. It brings the sticker price to about $26,600 including PDI and environmental taxes. If you don't mind switching your own gears, you can save about $1,000 with the 5-speed manual gearbox. My tester came with a gated 4-speed automatic.

The Altima looks refreshing. The angles are daring, the fascia is aggressive, and the hood is sculpted with muscular lines raking from the windshield down to the grille. The trademark clear taillights with colored lenses inside have been the topic of controversy, but younger buyers will appreciate what they add to the Altima's ability to stand out in its crowd, and you'll get thumbs-up at traffic lights from Honda owners with clear-tails as well.

Photo: Nissan Canada
Interior space and refinement is surprising. The trunk, first off, is huge. It has 442 liters of space and you can fold down the seats to hold your skis or some furniture, if you're moving for instance. Friends who miss calling shotgun will appreciate the back doors opening 90 degrees, meaning less bending and twisting and more of a lateral butt-slide to get in. I found plenty of rear head and leg room. There are no dollar-store plasticky bits inside either. Every click, button and latch operates with precision: small details you will appreciate if you plan to keep your Altima for a while. The 100 watt, 6-speaker stereo sounds great and even seasoned audiophiles might consider keeping it. Metallic accents and storage compartments complete the package.

Having a four cylinder engine in your sedan means you smile when fueling next to a Hummer, but might get a little bored when you put your foot down. The base engine, however, powers the Spec V (a factory-built hot-rod Nissan Sentra) and I was excited to try it. It is a 2.5 liter unit with 175 horsepower and it uses a system called CVVT. To make a long story short, CVVT allows the engine to provide quiet and smooth operation when you are cruising along gently, like while driving your grandma to the hairdresser. It changes the engine's valve timing and ignition characteristics to make great mid-range snap when you put your boot into the throttle, for instance, when leaving the parking lot at cruise night. The transition between these two settings is seamless, so in effect
Photo: Nissan Canada
you get performance when you need it, and economy when you don't. Low-end torque is phenomenal for a four cylinder engine -- this is the only automatic four-cylinder car I know of that chirps the tires off the line if you aren't gentle with the throttle. It sets you nicely into your headrest when coming out of a light full jam as well. Anyone with a pulse will get a kick out of the exhaust note over 5,000 RPM, when a valve in the muffler bypasses most of the sound baffling material and brings the upper quarter of the tachometer to life.
Justin Pritchard
Justin Pritchard
Automotive expert
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