Yes, the latest Volkswagen GTI is indeed a good benchmark for budget performance cars, but each time I look at the Altima Coupe -- and its $30,000-something price tag -- I'm prompted to cross-shop Nissan's own portfolio. For virtually the same amount of money, I can pick up a 2011 370Z -- a car that looks just as good, provides just as much power, handles delectably, and still manages to excite the boy racer inside. This looks like a no-brainer, right?
Perhaps so -- unless you have a need for more than two seats. There are buyers who would like a sporty GT that still offers a usable back seat for kids, groceries, and other cargo. In this regards, the Altima Coupe and Honda's two-door Accord are the only true contenders (unless you lump the V-6-powered muscle cars from Ford, Dodge, and Chevy into the mix).
Of those two, the Nissan appeals to the driver with a little more power, sharper handling, and grabby brakes, but the Honda wins the family-friendly title with a bigger trunk, a larger rear seat, and thanks to a less rakish roofline, much more headroom for those relegated to the second row of seats.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer