Such a punch may suggest that the Altima Hybrid is tuned more for performance than ecology, but that's not the case. Slow, fluid starts and a gentle application of the accelerator pedal can keep the Altima running off electricity at speeds up to 40 mph. It's easy enough to kick the car into EV mode in parking garages and the like, but with some practice, the Altima can also silently cruise around congested downtown areas with ease.
Sadly, the ease of kicking the Altima Hybrid into EV mode doesn't translate into impressive fuel economy numbers. Certainly, the 35/33 mpg city/highway EPA ratings are nothing to sneeze at, but they're less than those posted by the new Ford Fusion Hybrid and the revised 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid. At times, we didn't even see that - one staffer who piloted the car barely averaged 26 mpg on his weekend trip. We imagine, though, that both the long stretches of highway, coupled with the frigid Michigan winter, played a part in these lower-than-expected figures.
As much as we'd like to see Nissan work on increasing fuel economy even more, its engineers might better focus on a few other areas that deserve refinement. Although the suspension is decidedly sporty for this class, it also crashes over potholes, expansion joints, and broken surfaces in general. We also think some work could be done on the Altima Hybrid's transition between gasoline and electric modes. You'll feel the I-4 fire up in quite an abrupt manner, which isn't the case on either the Camry or the Fusion.
Although this could be a near-perfect hybrid with just a bit of polishing, we doubt that Nissan will take the time to devote much more development work to the Altima Hybrid. As it stands, the car is sold in only eight states (California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont), and the company's already expressed its interest in developing electric vehicles, not hybrids.