The Altima Hybrid is not exactly an auto enthusiast's dream machine but I decided on it for the weekend because I knew I would be driving close to 200 miles in the course of those couple of days and I wanted to see just what kind of mileage this hybrid would achieve in the real world. After driving about 175 miles-eighty percent of which was highway-I averaged about 33 mpg, which is the Altima Hybrid's city mpg rating. I was surprised that it wasn't a bit better since my cruise was set at 75 mph or less for most of the trip. For a large portion of the drive, I was carrying over a hundred pounds in the trunk from a Costco run so it's possible that this extra weight brought the number down. Luckily, I skipped the thirty-six-roll paper towel and the 100-pound dog food because the trunk is surprisingly small for such a big car.
The ride is good although the car bucked and jumped sideways while taking a pothole-laden highway entrance ramp at speed. The car feels quite heavy but the engine has no problem getting it all moving quickly. Once you get inside, the Altima is much bigger than the exterior would suggest, especially in the back seat, where I discovered that each foot well could hold nearly three upright paper grocery bags.
The only thing that was truly disappointing is the transition between the electric motor and the gas engine. The engine shuts off when the car is at rest and the car runs solely off the electric motor like all full hybrids. When the engine restarts, it's not only loud but the vibration shakes the entire car until it gets moving, which actually takes a couple seconds. I became a little more conservative when pulling out into traffic because of this noticeable pause between when the gas pedal is depressed and when the car starts moving.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor