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2017 Nissan Altima: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader December 2016

Fresh from a complete overhaul last year, the 2017 Nissan Altima rejoins the battle for midsize-sedan supremacy, ready to challenge such stalwarts as the Honda Accord, the Kia Optima, the Ford Fusion and the Chevrolet Malibu. To help its affordable family sedan stand out, Nissan wraps the Altima in Maxima-like styling then fills it with innovative features, including NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats. The Altima also offers a substantial roster of safety and technology features demanded by today's tech-savvy consumer.

To compete in this rather competitive segment, Nissan attained maximum efficiency, producing the lightest car in the segment and using a continuously variable transmission to achieve an impressive 39 miles per gallon on the highway with the 4-cylinder engine. Those more impressed with performance than fuel economy can opt for a potent V6, an option that's increasingly rare in the family-sedan category.

What's New for 2017?

Other than the 2.5-liter engine's slight drop in horsepower, there are no major changes for the 2017 Nissan Altima.

What We Like

Handsome styling; comfortable front seats; easy-to-use and affordable navigation radio; advanced collision-avoidance technology on SL models

What We Don't

No all-wheel drive or manual transmission offered; no hybrid model; rear-seat headroom on the snug side; noise levels inside the cabin higher than most competitors

How Much?

$23,365-$35,500

Fuel Economy

The Nissan Altima offers a choice between a frugal 4-cylinder engine and a potent V6. The 2.5 models use a 179-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, while 3.5 versions employ a 270-hp 3.5-liter V6. The 4-cylinder's fuel economy ratings are 27 mpg in the city and 39 mpg hwy, while the SR trim gets 26 mpg city/37 mpg hwy, and the V6 scores 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Nissan Altima comes in five trims with two engine choices. The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder cars come in base, S, SV, SR and SL versions, while the V6-powered 3.5-liter comes in SR and SL trims.

The base 2.5 ($23,365) includes 16-inch steel wheels with covers, a 6-way manual driver's seat, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, keyless entry, push-button start, remote trunk and front-window control via the key fob, Bluetooth and steering-wheel audio controls.

The 2.5 S ($23,765) adds a 6-way power driver's seat, cruise control, Nissan's Intelligent Key system, auto-off headlights with wiper activation and a 6-speaker audio upgrade with a 5-in display, a USB port and speed-sensitive volume. Also standard is NissanConnect with mobile apps, a fill-tire pressure alert system, Siri Eyes Free and a rearview monitor.

The 2.5 SR ($25,335) adds a sport-tuned suspension, 18-in alloy wheels, fog lights, a rear spoiler, seven simulated gears in manumatic mode, paddle shifters, cloth-covered sport seats, an 8-way power driver's seat with power lumbar control and unique interior sport accents.

The 2.5 SV ($26,325) brings 17-in alloy wheels, an 8-way power driver's seat with 2-way power lumbar, fog lights, USB and iPod integration, SiriusXM radio, a hands-free text-message assistant, NissanConnect apps, a rearview monitor, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote starting, rear cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitoring system.

The 2.5 SL ($29,435) includes a heated steering wheel, 9-speaker Bose audio, a 4-way power passenger seat, integrated mirror turn signals, leather seating, rear heating and cooling vents, LED taillights, heated front seats, heated folding side mirrors and an auto up/down front passenger window.

The 3.5 SR ($28,855) adds the 2.5 SR equipment, plus a V6 engine, LED headlights and a power glass moonroof.

The 3.5 SL ($33,555) includes all the 2.5 SL features, plus the V6 engine, 18-in alloy wheels, a 7-in VGA color monitor, navigation, Sirius XM Traffic and Travel Link, Google Send-to-Car and front and rear sonar parking sensors.

There are eight options packages, varying by trim. Most notable is the Convenience package on the 2.5 SV, which adds a power moonroof, rear air-conditioning vents, integrated side-mirror turn signals, HomeLink and more. The Tech package (2.5 SL and 3.5 SL) adds predictive forward-collision warning, forward emergency braking, intelligent cruise control, navigation with NissanConnect mobile apps and a 7-in color display.

The 2.5 S can be equipped with a power driver's seat, while the 2.5 SV can be outfitted with Navigation and Cold Weather packages. The SL offers a stand-alone power moonroof option.

Safety

In crash tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2017 Altima an overall rating of five (its highest score), with five stars in the front- and side-impact tests and four stars in the roof-strength test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the Altima a Top Safety Pick, giving it top marks in all tests, including crash avoidance and mitigation.

Nissan offers lots of accident-avoidance technology on the Altima, including lane-departure warning, a blind spot monitoring system and moving-object warning. SL trims can also be equipped with a series of collision-warning and avoidance systems. The Easy-Fill Tire Alert system simplifies pumping up the tires by chirping the Altima's horn when you've put in enough air.

To supplement the usual new stability-control technologies, the Altima features Active Understeer Control. This automatically brakes the inside front wheel when the car is going too quickly into a turn, reducing the understeer effect common in front-wheel-drive cars. Understeer is when a car doesn't turn as much as the driver intends because the front tires are sliding.

Behind the Wheel

The Altima's styling, comfort and efficiency make it an excellent contender against the top-selling family sedans. Unfortunately, despite revisions to the car's steering and suspension, the Altima's performance credentials still lag behind its competitors. In turns, the revised steering provides a somewhat vague feel for the road, although we do appreciate the added feedback and weight. We're hoping the new SR trim resolves this issue, but we have yet to test it.

The Altima also suffers from torque steer while accelerating. It isn't the seriously bad kind of torque steer in which the engine wrenches the front wheels to the side and tries to change lanes when the driver intended to go straight. This is the more subtle sort, when the car resists the driver's attempt to turn the steering wheel -- for instance, when unwinding the wheel while accelerating from a turn.

On the plus side, standard Active Understeer Control and a revised suspension keep the Altima on track in tight cornering. The driving dynamics are not as precise as in a Mazda6, a Ford Fusion or a Chevrolet Malibu, but most families will find the soft ride an appealing attribute.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Chevrolet Malibu -- The Malibu is a smaller, tauter, 4-cylinder-only car.

2017 Ford Fusion -- The Fusion combines winning style with a huge variety of power sources, including a standard 4-cylinder, a turbo, a hybrid electric and a plug-in hybrid.

2017 Honda Accord -- The old standby is still solid, efficient and responsive, though the styling isn't as dramatic.

2017 Hyundai Sonata -- The exciting-looking Sonata isn't that exciting to drive, but it is a great car, delivering the combination of price, efficiency and quality, plus an outstanding warranty.

Used Nissan Maxima -- A 2012-2015 Nissan Maxima delivers better performance, more features and superior interior appointments, and it can comfortably seat four adults.

Autotrader's Advice

Loading the Altima with options quickly runs the price of the V6 version into the mid-$30,000s, which could scare away family drivers. At that price, Nissan's own Maxima might be the better choice.

The cost-conscious family shopper can choose the 2.5 SV trim level for around $26,000 and get goodies such as remote starting, Pandora Radio integration, hands-free text reading, 17-in aluminum wheels, a rearview camera, rear cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitoring system -- all in a car rated at 39 mpg hwy.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Nissan Altima: New Car Review - Autotrader