Various staff members wrench on Mazda Miatas, race hulking Mercedes-Benz SUVs on ice (it was a long winter, we got cabin fever), and wake up very early on Sundays to watch Formula 1 races live. We are, after all, a staff of auto enthusiasts.
So there was little competition for the keys of the mild-mannered 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL when it passed through our short-term fleet this spring. An enthusiast car it is not. But we can say it drove well, it’s comfortable, and in top-of-the-range SL trim, it’s a premium car. Most would say it’s decent looking, with some design flourishes and nothing really offensive, inside or out.
And that’s exactly what it should be. Nissan isn’t trying to sell cars to writers at car magazines; it’s trying to sell cars to regular, hard-working Americans who want as much car as possible for their money. The Altima delivers, and that’s why it’s the third-best-selling car in its segment, after the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord.
For this stint, we tested a well-equipped Altima with the 182-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine powering the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. After conducting a Four Seasons test of a V-6-powered Altima (six-cylinder mid-size sedans are quickly going the way of disposable cameras), which also has the CVT as its only transmission choice, we wanted to spend some time with the four-cylinder model. Options on this car were a moonroof ($800) and the Technology Package ($1090), which lifted the sticker to $30,625. This Altima had an attractive black and cream interior with some leather trim and tasteful use of faux wood accents. “It feels a lot more plush than other mid-size sedans,” associate web editor Eric Weiner says. “A fairly loaded Altima feels legitimately premium. Compared to other entries, the Altima is the most finished.”
The Altima’s curvy styling is more distinctive than the previous generation’s, punctuated by shiny, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, lots of chrome trim, and wraparound headlights. There’s nothing to be ashamed of when you pull up to the valet. Plus, you can put tons of stuff in an Altima. One of our staffers loaded two huge suitcases for a five-day trip to Florida, which this midsize car handled easily. For simple, normal, family-oriented chores, the Altima is a winner, though to hot shoes, it’s boring. “It out-Camrys the Camry,” associate web editor Joseph Capparella says. So it’s also a solid, well-rounded sedan, which is what matters in this segment.
2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL
- Base Price $28,550
- Price as tested $30,625
- Engine 2.5-liter in-line four-cylinder
- Power 182 hp @ 6000 rpm
- Torque 180 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
- Transmission Continuously variable
- Drive Front wheel
- Fuel economy 27/38 mpg (city/highway)