WASHINGTON -- Nissan has taken a nice car and turned the latest generation of the Altima into a very serious mid-sized sedan class contender ready to go head-to-head with any car in its class. With that many choices and prices, there should be a 2014 Nissan Altima in most people's budgets.
The Nissan Altima was redesigned in 2013; it's bigger inside and out and better equipped to take on the competition. It's now in the top three in mid-size sedan sales.
It's Nissan's best seller and for 2014 they didn't mess around with success much.
They just added the cool Nissan Connect which helps integrate your smartphone with Pandora, and even Facebook.
It has a starting price of $22,000, an available powerful V6 and, if I counted correctly, seven different trim levels.
The Altima is large inside, with upscale materials in my top-of-the-line, $30,625 Altima 2.5 SL. The heated leather front seats are comfortable. And get this -- Nissan used NASA research to help design a better seat.
I found the seats comfortable on a trip to Altoona and back. I was pretty impressed that after six hours, I was not in need of a chiropractor. So the seat design work paid off.
A heads-up for those over 6 feet tall: You might find the headroom in the back seat lacking for long trips. Rear-seat passengers will appreciate the leg room and the rear AC vents, will leave you cool and comfortable -- no more hoping you get some air from the front-seat vents.
Nissan has given the Altima some nice safety features, including the optional technology package that includes blind spot and lane departure warning and moving object detection. You also get NAV with a larger 7-inch screen. The rear-view monitor is a welcome feature, because the trunk is high and it can be hard to see the front of the car behind you when parallel parking.
This Altima was a pleasant drive with a very composed ride for daily commutes or long-distance hauls. The car is very quiet on the road, but I did hear other cars as they passed by on the highway sometimes.
This Altima is more grown up, and not quite as fun in the turns as past Altimas, but it's still one of the more fun cars to drive in its class.
The gas mileage is a big bonus. The 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine has enough power, and the CVT transmission really helps deliver it, while getting 38 mpg on the highway. I averaged 36.1 mpg over my 517 miles of mostly highway driving -- that was one tank of regular fuel. I was at 32 mpg with a day or two of city driving.
The CVT transmission can cause the engine to drone loudly when quickly accelerating, but it's a smooth one during cruise.
Editor's Note: Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI ,FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.
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