The Bottom Line
When the current version of the Nissan Altima made its debut in 2007, it quickly became my favorite mid-size family car. But over the last few years, the Altima fell from grace as more and more of its competitors began including electronic stability control (ESC) as standard, while Nissan refused to offer it in the four-cylinder Altima. So here we are in 2010, and the Altima has gotten what is known in the biz as a mid-cycle refresh -- including standard ESC. Is the Altima back on my list of faves? Read on.
- Spacious and comfortable
- CVT transmission delivers good power and fuel economy
- Electronic stability control is now standard
- No more manual transmission
- Nissan's mid-size family sedan, facelifted and updated for 2010
- Trim levels: 2.5, 2.5 S, 2.5 SL, 3.5 SR
- Price range (including options): $20,620 - $33,845
- Powertrain: 175 hp 2.5 liter 4-cylinder/270 hp 3.5 liter V6, continuously-variable automatic transmission, front-wheel-drive
- EPA MPG estimates: 23 MPG city/32 MPG highway (4-cyl), 20/27 (V6)
- Best rivals: Mazda6, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry
Guide Review - 2010 Nissan Altima
So what exactly has Nissan changed for 2010? There are subtle styling updates -- so subtle you might not notice them, but take my word for it that the grille (link goes to photo), hood, and front bumper have been reshaped. Inside, the Altima gets upgraded fabrics and a new gauge cluster, although, sadly, it still has the world's worst steering column adjuster. Cars without navigation get a 4.3" color display, while cars with navigation can now display live traffic, weather and Zagat restaurant reviews. The 270 hp V6 engine now only comes in a single model, the 3.5 SR. But most important improvement, as far as I'm concerned, is that electronic stability control (Nissan calls it Vehicle Dynamic Control, or VDC) is finally standard in all Altimas.
The 6-speed manual transmission is gone, but I'm okay with that; I love the Altima's continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT), although I'm one of the few. Sure, the CVT sounds a bit weird -- the engine revs don't rise and fall as they do with a conventional transmission -- but the CVT does a great job of squeezing the best possible acceleration and fuel economy from both of the Altima's engines.
So does this mean the Altima is back at the top of my list? Not quite -- I still prefer the Mazda6, which has a jazzier interior and is more fun to drive (although if you prefer a V6, the Altima's CVT does a better job of laying down the power than the Mazda's traditional automatic). The Chevy Malibu still has a better interior, and the Honda Accord is still better to drive. But if you're looking for a great all-rounder, I'd say the Altima is a close second to the Mazda. It's an outstanding package that combines good space, good looks, good driving dynamics and a good ride. And now that all Altima models include standard ESC, I can finally recommend it without feeling guilty. -- Aaron Gold