Review: 2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid

Although Nissan has promised to offer battery/electric vehicles by next year, it's still found time to occasionally tinker with gasoline/electric hybrids. That's a good thing, as the 2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid is one of the most enjoyable hybrid sedans on the market.

This isn't, of course, because the Altima Hybrid is at the cutting edge of hybrid technology. No, we enjoy Nissan's entry in this segment simply because it doesn't smack of being a hybrid first and foremost.

You won't find a dozen giant hybrid emblems splattered across the exterior, nor will you see any blue-tinted headlamps, custom wheels, or splashy graphics. Apart from three small "Hybrid" emblems, Nissan has made this hybrid a dead ringer for the stock Altima.

The same is true for the Altima Hybrid's suspension. We've long found this iteration of the Altima to be one of the better front-wheel-drive mid-size sedans, and the Altima Hybrid is no exception. Although it carries an extra 300 pounds versus a base Altima, the Hybrid feels no less sporty. We're not fans of the nonexistent feedback offered by the electric power steering, but the Altima Hybrid feels taut, nimble, and planted in most switchbacks. It's no four-door GT-R, but it feels downright exciting compared with the dowdy Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Nissan licensed most (if not all) of the Altima's hybrid powertrain from Toyota, but the Altima Hybrid responds to throttle input in a manner most unlike a Camry. Goose the gas in the Camry, and you'll hear its engine frantically rev while the CVT slowly winds the car up to speed. Do the same in the Altima, and you're presented with a substantial wall of torque, courtesy of the 2.5-liter I-4 and a 105-kW (141-hp) electric motor working in combination.

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