Test Drive: 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV car test drives nissan
Test Drive: 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV car test drives nissan
2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Simon Hill

If you’re in the market for a mid-size family car, the sheer number of worthy contenders can seem downright overwhelming. Leading the popularity sweepstakes are the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, with Hyundai’s Sonata and Kia’s Optima not far behind. Chrysler’s new 200 is making its own splash, as are the Volkswagen Passat, Chevrolet Malibu, Mazda6, and several smaller niche players. Somewhere in the middle of all this is the Nissan Altima, a well-rounded and easy-to-live-with car that covers all the important bases – comfort, practicality, fuel economy, and value – with a splash of style and a hint of family-friendly performance.

The Altima was thoroughly redesigned for the 2013 model year, and it cruises into 2014 with only a few relatively minor content changes. These changes include improved sound deadening, revised seat cloth, chrome exhaust tips on all models, and the introduction of NissanConnect Apps smartphone integration platform. There are also some new packages available according to Nissan, chief amongst them a Technology Package with navigation, blind-spot warning system, moving object detection, lane departure warning and Sirius Travel Link, available on SV and SL trim Altimas.

Stylistically, last year’s redesign brought the Altima in line with the appearance of the bigger Maxima (and not coincidentally the new, smaller Sentra as well). It’s a good looking family car in my opinion, with the “Coke bottle” beltline giving it a graceful overall profile, and the sculpted headlights and taillights adding a slight – and welcome – touch of menace (Haney Louka disagrees and calls the styling “lumpy and overdone” in his review of the Altima 3.5, proving firstly that style is indeed a subjective thing, and secondly that he is wrong).

Test Drive: 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV car test drives nissan Test Drive: 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV car test drives nissan
2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV dashboard, navigation. Click image to enlarge

Inside, the Altima uses a mix of rigid plastics and soft-surfaced materials to create an ambience several notches above what one might expect for a car with a $25,273 base price (that’s including the $1,575 destination fee). There are soft surfaces wherever you’re likely to contact the interior, including front and rear door uppers, the instrument binnacle, and the passenger’s side dash face (although the top dash pad is rigid plastic, and a bit shiny at that). The door inserts and console top are keyed to match the seat upholstery, and there’s silver-painted plastic trim to add a splash of visual interest. Even in base trim, the Altima gets push-button start, Bluetooth telephone connectivity, air conditioning, cruise control, tilt and telescoping steering, and remote keyless entry.

Things I particularly liked about the Altima’s interior are the good outward visibility compared to many of its competitors, the convenient closable cubby at the bottom of the centre stack (letting you hide your electronic devices next to the auxiliary input, USB input and 12V plug), and the “Zero Gravity” seats that are designed for maximum comfort based on NASA research into astronaut posture. In addition to driving the test car for a week, I rented a 2014 Altima for 10 days in Hawaii (they are understandably popular in rental fleets) and took it for an extended road trip around the Big Island during which both my wife and I commented on just how surprisingly comfortable the seats remained after long hours on the road. My two tall teenagers were equally happy thanks to the plentiful rear legroom and headroom. Trunk space is also good at 436 L, though you need to pay a bit of attention when loading things in order to keep items clear of the unprotected hockey-stick hinges.

Test Drive: 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV car test drives nissan Test Drive: 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV car test drives nissan Test Drive: 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV car test drives nissan
2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV front seats, rear seats, trunk. Click image to enlarge
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