Fourth Place: 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV

2013 NISSAN ALTIMA 2.5 SV. Click image to enlarge

This is another mainstream family sedan that has been reinvented for 2013. The Altima adopts the swoopy body curves of its big-brother Maxima, and while this 2013 model is larger than the one it replaces, it is actually lighter thanks to a structure with more high-strength steel and the inclusion of an aluminum trunk, roof, and hood. Indeed, it checks in at 111 kg (245 lb.) less than the Honda Accord in this test.

That’s like hauling one less Argo linebacker around.

This sedan, with an as-tested price of $29,828 ($1,695 freight and A/C tax in), goes down the road quite swiftly thanks to its 2.5L inline-four that puts out 182 hp and 180 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm and, according to Senior Editor Jonathan Yarkony sounding quite like a baby brother to Nissan VQ V6 with its signature raspy howl. Like the Honda, it has a CVT (continuously variable transmission), but unlike Honda, Nissan has been in the CVT business for a long time. That’s not to say this unit is any better than Honda’s, but it does work well, largely avoiding the engine drone (unless you’re really hammering it) and bestowing this sedan with brisk acceleration. The Altima felt the most enthusiastic here when it came to throttle response. It was also the second thirstiest in the test at 9.6 L/100 km, next to the Fusion. Official estimates claim it should do 7.4 in the city and 5.0 on the highway. Ummmm…

Anyhow, settle your butt into the front seats and it feels like you’re sitting in a La-Z-Boy, but not some newfangled leather one. These are soft and squishy, featuring a new memory foam that Nissan says reduces pressure points on the body and covered in a velour that will take you back to the 80s. Having driven this car for a week previously, I can say comfort is not an issue, but I much prefer the support offered by the excellent firm yet contoured Fusion chairs.

This tester’s cabin certainly looked bright and airy thanks to its all-beige treatment but the fuzzy seat and door fabric would surely pick up the dirt in no time. While back-seat legroom is not quite as generous as the Honda’s or Fusion’s, you won’t be getting any complaints from two normal sized adults.

2013 NISSAN ALTIMA 2.5 SV. Click image to enlarge

The Altima’s dash and “clear vision” instrument cluster get full marks for visibility, functionality, and ease of operation. It’s a handsome and clean design bereft of gimmicks that appears well constructed.

We didn’t like the Altima’s steering, however. It has a disconnected and wooden feel, and is not particularly linear off centre. Combine that with a chassis that doesn’t feel very buttoned down and the fun factor diminishes rapidly. The Altima’s ride is plenty compliant, but so is the Honda’s, and that car has a dynamic flow that eludes the Nissan.

Will most buyers even notice? Likely not. In isolation, the Nissan is a fine, conservative family sedan that offers a serene and comfortable driving experience, suitably upscale digs and good value. As mentioned earlier, I had it for a week and my wife loved it.

This 2013 Altima is measurably better than the outgoing model. It’s just not measurably better than its competition. –PB

Pricing: 2013 Nissan Altima SV

Base price: $28,033
Options: Navigation – $1,035
Freight: $1,695
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $29,828

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