The 2014 Nissan Altima has been a top-notch family sedan for years, yet it still gets lost in the shuffle sometimes. That's a shame, because the Altima is actually one of the most distinctive cars in its class. It was the first family sedan to offer a decent continuously variable transmission (CVT), for one thing, and it also started the trend toward serious V6 power. These days, it's more innovative than ever. Here are five reasons why you should give this Nissan a chance.

Daring Styling

There are plenty of decent-looking sedans out there, but it's still hard to tell them apart in the parking lot. That's not something Altima drivers have to worry about. From its bold grille and muscular fenders to its rakish taillights and sporty dual mufflers, this is one family sedan that doesn't blend in with the crowd.

Class-Leading Fuel Economy

Many cars gain weight when they're redesigned, but the 4-cylinder Altima is more than 100 pounds lighter than its predecessor. That's partly why it gets an estimated 38 miles per gallon on the highway, which isn't just best-in-class -- it's also better than some compact economy cars. Even in urban driving the 4-cylinder Altima shines, returning 27 mpg. The gearless CVT deserves part of the credit here, as no traditional automatic can match its smooth, efficient acceleration.

Unusually Fun to Drive

Less weight usually translates into more athleticism, too, so it's not surprising that the latest Altima loves to run. Thanks to crisp steering and a responsive chassis, the Altima is a star on twisty roads, handling more like a sport sedan than a family hauler. It's also one of the swiftest midsize 4-cylinder models for the money, reaching 60 miles per hour from rest in under eight seconds, while the optional V6 pumps out 270 horses if you want a little extra.

Sophisticated Interior

This is where the Altima really shines. It has an intentionally more luxurious look and feel inside than cars like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The previous Altima had a somewhat uninspired cabin, but the current model takes an uptown turn. Premium flourishes are everywhere, including piano-black trim with available wood accents, abundant soft-touch materials and even ultra-comfortable, zero-gravity front seats with NASA bona fides. The Altima's interior is exceptionally nice for this segment -- it could almost pass for luxury grade.

Room for a Crowd

We love our wide-open spaces in the U.S., and the Altima's back seat is thoroughly American in this sense. The front seats pamper all body types, while the rear seat has so much legroom that even 6-footers can stretch out. It's like buying a full-size sedan at a midsize price.

AutoTrader Says:

There are lots of excellent family sedans to choose from, but the 2014 Nissan Altima ranks near the top. You have to take one for a test drive if you're shopping in this segment.

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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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