The Nissan Altima has been a solid family sedan for years, yet it still gets overlooked. That's especially befuddling because the Altima has a history of innovation, being the first model to offer a decent continuously variable transmission (CVT) and serious V6 power in this segment. But with the debut of the redesigned 2013 Nissan Altima, everyone's sitting up and taking notice. Here are five reasons why you should to give this Nissan a chance.

1. Daring Styling

No one ever called the previous Altima a wallflower, but its looks weren't exactly distinctive. Suffice it to say that the new Altima's not going to have the same problem. From the in-your-face grille and curvaceous fenders to the zig-zag taillights and saucy dual mufflers, this is one family sedan that's not going to get lost in the parking lot.

2. Class-Leading Fuel Economy

Most cars gain weight with each redesign, but the four-cylinder 2013 Altima is over 100 lb lighter than its predecessor. That helps explain why it gets an estimated 38 mpg highway-which isn't just best-in-class, it's also better than some compact economy cars. Even in the city, the 4-cylinder Altima impresses, delivering 27 mpg. The gearless CVT deserves part of the credit here, providing smooth, efficient acceleration that no traditional automatic could match.

3. Unusually Fun to Drive

Less weight usually means more agility, too, and sure enough, the 2013 Altima likes to dance. Thanks to sharp steering response and a nimble chassis, the Altima was surprisingly entertaining on our favorite back roads. It's also one of the quickest 4-cylinder family sedans around, reaching 60 mph from rest in under 8 seconds, and there's even an available 270-hp V6 if you want some extra speed.

4. Sophisticated Interior

The previous Altima had an austere interior design, but the new one's gotten all fancy inside. Upscale touches abound, such as piano-black trim with available wood accents, higher-quality materials, and even ultra-supportive "zero gravity" front seats inspired by NASA. Just like the sleek exterior, the new Altima's interior is a cut above; in fact, it had some of us thinking it was more like Infiniti than Nissan.

5. Room for a Crowd

As Americans, we love wide-open spaces, and the Altima's generous seating made us feel right at home. The front seats are supportive for all body types, while the back seat has so much legroom that even passengers well over six feet tall had no complaints. The Altima might be technically a midsize sedan, but it has full-size passenger space, making it an intriguing lower-cost alternative to larger, less fuel-efficient sedans.

We'll reserve final judgment until we drive the Altima and its rivals back to back, but our initial experience suggests that Nissan's latest has the whole package. If you check out what the competition has to offer, we think you'll be highly impressed by the 2013 Nissan Altima.

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Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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