- Satisfying acceleration and fuel economy from both engines
- Engaging handling
- Refined ride
- Comfortable front seats
- User-friendly electronics
- Solid interior quality
- Top crash test scores
- Not as much rear headroom as some other top sedans
- CVT can be overeager during moderate acceleration, resulting in excess noise from four-cylinder engine
Nissan is known as something of a risk taker among major car companies, but the 2014 Nissan Altima is all about staying the course. Following a redesign last year that brought it more in line with the larger Maxima's sense of style, the Altima sedan stands pat, save for a few equipment changes. There is good reason to be conservative: the Altima is Nissan's top-selling sedan, and one of the best choices available for a midsize family sedan.
One important ingredient in the Altima's formula is its smartly tuned ride and handling. The Altima feels more focused and responsive than many rivals do, yet it doesn't beat you up over bumps. That's the sort of thing that stands out on a test-drive, and the same goes for the Altima's continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is a factor in the car's excellent fuel economy (31 mpg combined with the four-cylinder engine) and strong, seamless acceleration.
The Altima is also known for its pleasant interior furnishings, which can be augmented for 2014 with NissanConnect Apps, a new smartphone integration system that brings services like Pandora into the mix. As usual, every Altima offers high-quality cabin materials and an attractive, sporty dashboard. The only negative here -- and it's pretty minor -- is the relative lack of rear headroom, which could be an issue if you ferry tall adults around on a regular basis.
Of course, the Nissan Altima isn't the only sedan that's vying for your attention. Other top models to consider include the stylish Ford Fusion, the rejuvenated Honda Accord, the well-rounded Kia Optima the sporty Mazda 6 and the Euro-influenced Volkswagen Passat. But even in this stellar group the 2014 Nissan Altima is easily a favorite. It's a must-drive if you're shopping in this segment.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2014
Nissan has discontinued the Altima coupe for 2014, but the remaining Altima sedan benefits from the introduction of NissanConnect Apps, a smartphone integration platform that includes Pandora and Facebook connectivity. Also, the 2.5 S trim gets a Sport Value package and a touchscreen-based Display Audio package as options, while the Technology package is now offered on both SV and SL trims.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2014 Nissan Altima is a midsize sedan available in seven trim levels: 2.5, 2.5 S, 3.5 S, 2.5 SV, 3.5 SV, 2.5 SL and 3.5 SL. The number denotes the selected engine (2.5-liter inline-4 or 3.5-liter V6).
The base 2.5 Altima sedan comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, keyless ignition/entry, a height-adjustable driver seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player.
Moving to the 2.5 S gets you automatic headlights, cruise control, a six-way power driver seat, more advanced functionality for the gauge-cluster LCD screen and a six-speaker sound system. The Sport Value package adds 16-inch alloy wheels, remote ignition and a trunk lid spoiler. The Display Audio package tacks on a 5.0-inch touchscreen display, a rearview camera, a USB port, satellite radio and smartphone app integration (NissanConnect Apps).
The V6-engined 3.5 S comes with all of those features (including the Display Audio package) plus 18-inch alloy wheels and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Upgrading to the SV trim nets 17-inch alloy wheels (2.5), dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, the contents of the Display Audio package and remote ignition. The Convenience package (optional on 2.5 SV) adds a sunroof, foglamps, rear air-conditioning vents and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The top-shelf Altima SL adds xenon headlights (3.5), LED taillights, the sunroof (3.5), leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar adjustment), heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and a nine-speaker premium Bose sound system with an auxiliary audio jack. The Moonroof package adds a sunroof separately for the 2.5.
The Technology package for SV and SL models includes a 7-inch touchscreen, voice controls, a navigation system and electronic safety features such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts and a lane-departure warning system.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The 2014 Altima's cabin has a markedly upscale look and feel, with visibly high-quality materials and tight construction. The gauge cluster is attractive, with a large, highly readable speedometer and tachometer on either side of the crisp-looking information screen. The newly available NissanConnect Apps system supports a handful of apps, such as Facebook and Pandora, with many more ownership-related apps projected to join the team at some point. If specified, the navigation system satisfies with its attractive graphics and straightforward user interface.
An ergonomic highlight is the specially engineered "zero gravity" front seats used in all Altimas. With help from NASA research, the seats were designed to relieve common pressure points and improve comfort for the long haul. It works, as the Altima's front seats are more comfortable and supportive than the norm from the moment you plop down.
While normal-sized adults will be comfortable in back as well, rear headroom is at a premium compared to other sedans in this class, and rear legroom is only average. Trunk space is similarly average at 15.4 cubic feet, although the opening is impressively wide.
The 2014 Nissan Altima comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera comes standard on everything, except the base and S trim levels. Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts and a lane-departure warning system are also optional.
In Edmunds testing, an Altima 2.5 SV sedan stopped from 60 mph in 130 feet, which is below average for midsize sedans. A 3.5 SL, however, stopped in a superb 114 feet, which is about 10 feet shorter than average.
In government crash testing, the Altima sedan received a perfect five stars for overall, frontal and side crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Altima its top "Good" rating in its moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests. In the new small-overlap front test, the Altima earned an "Acceptable" rating (second best).
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 sedan comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 182 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. A CVT sends power to the front wheels. In Edmunds performance testing, this engine took the Altima from zero to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, making the Altima one of the quickest four-cylinder family sedans. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 31 mpg combined (27 mpg city/38 mpg highway), an outstanding rating for a midsize sedan.
Altima 3.5 models have a 3.5-liter V6 good for 270 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. The CVT is again standard. In Edmunds testing, an Altima 3.5 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, which again puts it near the head of the pack. Fuel economy is strong for a V6 at 25 mpg combined (22 mpg city/31 mpg highway).
The Nissan Altima has a reputation for being one of the more rewarding family sedans to drive, and the 2014 Altima carries the torch with enthusiasm. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine offers above-average performance for this class. It revs willingly and generates more than enough acceleration for everyday driving. The CVT helps to deliver excellent fuel mileage, although it's sometimes almost too responsive to power demands, resulting in higher engine rpm and a bit more noise than we'd like.
As for the available 3.5-liter V6, it provides some of the quickest acceleration in this class. It's a great choice if you really like to drive, and its fuel economy is still quite respectable.
Around turns, the Altima boasts quick, accurate steering and capable handling. Yet ride comfort remains very good, while wind and road noise are pleasantly subdued. For a combination of agile responses and long-distance tranquility, the Altima is one of the best family sedans available.
Sophisticated driving dynamics, energetic engines and impressive fuel economy give the 2014 Nissan Altima a leg up on rival family sedans. It's an excellent choice in this segment.