Front-wheel drive will never unseat rear- or all-wheel either, but the Altima does pretty well for powering the front rubber alone, with good steering feel and tight obedience around corners. The ride isn’t overly harsh and the car is quiet, with only the nastiest bumps coming through the suspension. The official fuel figures are 10.2 L/100 km (28 mpg Imp) in the city and 7.3 on the highway. In combined driving, I split the difference at 8.8 (32).
2012 Nissan Altima 3.5 SR coupe. Click image to enlarge
Nissan’s interiors have improved considerably over the last few years, and the Altima Coupe uses decent-quality materials that are put together well, but I thought it a bit plain for a car that’s almost $40,000. Part of that is the heavy use of beige plastic – no company can make beige plastic that doesn’t look cheap – and the available charcoal interior is much more attractive. The controls are simple and easy to use, including the automatic climate control, which shows the temperature in red numbers within each dial. I find it more sensible than putting the dials at the bottom and the numbers up near the top of the dash in the information screen as many manufacturers do. If you prefer to control the climate manually it’s a very simple operation, with buttons for each mode clustered around a larger central dial that turns everything off if desired.
A “smart key” with pushbutton start is standard. The optional navigation system, which includes Bluetooth streaming audio and voice recognition, is touch-screen and is very easy to figure out even without delving into the owner’s manual. About the only complaint I have with the dash is the little red information screen illuminated in the instrument cluster under the speedometer. It’s distracting, since every time I glanced down, I thought there was a warning light on.
The front seats are comfortable, although the cabin is a little tight, and the low roofline will probably present some issues for very tall drivers. The rear seat is a washout for all but children or very small adults, since there’s almost no legroom and the sharply-sloped roofline eliminates what little head space there is up front. The rear seats fold to increase the cargo space, but it isn’t an easy task, since it’s difficult to reach them either through the trunk or from inside the cabin.
These are all inherent issues with a two-door coupe that are undoubtedly much of the reason why so few of them are on the market. Too big to be a sports car, too limiting to be a family car, more halo than high-volume for their companies, they’re destined to appeal to just a few. That’s even more so with the Altima, which is a lovely car to drive, but just too expensive for its market. It was a fine car to borrow, but way too much to buy.
Pricing: 2012 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5 SR
Crash test results