Have you looked at the midsize sedan segment lately? Man, talk about selection! While compacts are all the rage in Canada, these larger cars remain the clear favourites of our neighbours to the south.
As the best-selling midsize sedan in Canada, the Ford Fusion appeals to buyers with its European styling and wide array of powertrain options and technologies. The venerable Honda Accord and Toyota Camry complete the podium. Meanwhile, the Nissan Altima is about half as popular as the Fusion, landing in sixth place behind the new and more mature Chrysler 200. In the U.S., however, the Altima ranks third behind the Camry and Accord, respectively.
Why is that so?
While Ford, Mazda, and even Chrysler offer sleek, modern-looking sedans, the Nissan Altima barely evolved from the previous generation. Of course, styling takes a backseat to safety, reliability, and fuel economy in the minds of many customers, but you have to admit that some sedans are more attractive than others.
Clearly, Nissan is capable of both the worst and the best, as evidenced by the completely redesigned Murano and the upcoming, next-generation Maxima. Hopefully the Altima will draw lessons from these two when the time comes for a do-over. As it stands now, the Altima is more bland than grand.
No cheers inside
It's the same story inside, mind you. The dashboard seems to have lost a certain sportiness in favour of a more functional layout, alas drawing more attention to the average-quality plastics and somewhat disappointing fit and finish. There's no doubt Nissan can do better than this!
Like I said, though, the main controls are conveniently laid out for easy use. Serious tech fans may lament the infotainment display and the buttons on each side, but honestly I found the interface pretty driver-friendly.
Obviously, the luxurious amenities in my 2.5 SL tester made the experience sweeter, but don't be fooled: The Nissan Altima is no Infiniti. Heated front seats, leather upholstery, a back-up camera, satellite radio, and other extras are nice to have, but there's a je ne sais quoi that's missing in this car. On the bright side, lateral visibility is excellent, the seats are comfortable, and there's ample room for passengers and their luggage.
Good ol' 2.5L
The 2015 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL relies on the Japanese automaker's proven 2.5L inline 4-cylinder engine. Here, it produces 182 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque -- numbers that prove adequate for a midsize sedan. Unfortunately, the manual gearbox is no more, having been replaced exclusively by a CVT for the sake of maximum fuel economy.
As you can imagine, this engine-transmission combo can get noisy under acceleration, especially with a lead foot. Even though Nissan engineers improved the CVT over the years to make it feel and sound more like a regular automatic, they're still not there yet.
Is it fun to drive?
Long considered boring, uneventful means of transportation, midsize sedans are now much sportier and more exciting to drive -- at least in some cases. Sadly, the 2015 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL isn't one of them. Driving enthusiasts should look elsewhere.
Steering feels over-assisted and quite vague, the exhaust note is far from inspiring, and the suspension has a distinct comfort bias that results in significant body roll in corners. Adding insult to injury, there were many creaking noises and rattles inside the cabin of my marginally used press car (just over 9,000km on the clock); for anything other than a taxi cab that logs more than 100,000km a year, this is unacceptable.
Starting at $29,398, the 2015 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL is on the pricier side as the most generously equipped of all 4-cylinder Altimas. You can purchase a base model for nearly $6k less.
Let's be clear: This isn't a bad car. The Altima simply doesn't shine where driving dynamics and build quality are concerned, especially up against such strong competitors. For some people, however, it doesn't matter much.