2013 Nissan Altima Review

Altima doubles down on value proposition
by Imthishan Giado

After years of dull interchangeable sedans, the midsize segment is suddenly one of the hottest areas of the automotive market.  Updated cars are all over the place, from the much sportier new Camry to the increasingly conservative Accord. Now Nissan’s 2013 Altima has arrived on the scene, and we’ve driven it.

For this car, Nissan’s focused on the car’s value appeal rather than outright revolution. So while the styling is all new, the big story is the bags of standard kit and most importantly, massively improved fuel economy that could well be best-in class, thanks to a massaged CVT transmission.

The styling has certainly been influenced by big brother Maxima, with a softer version of the same arrow shape headlights flanking a trapezoidal grille. There’s a strong character curve running from the top of the slightly engorged fender which terminates in the even more strongly Maxima-influenced tail, which also features a cheekily upturned boot tail. It’s an striking aggressive design, but not a particularly cohesive one and like Camry, feels like the car has been overdesigned. On the other hand, the Korean SonOptima twins feel like strong individualistic sketches, where the designer was chasing his own vision rather than anyone else’s ideas.

The interior is another solid effort, if slightly reminiscent of recent Infiniti efforts. I like the very clear driver-focused gauges and the high res colour screen between them that displays trip and navigation information, while the wheel itself is good to hold. But there’s too many buttons on the top-spec steering wheel and frequently used ones like the volume and Bluetooth switches are placed at the bottom of the spoke, an unintuitive and awkward thumb stretch away. On the plus side, the front seats are comfortable and supportive, while there’s loads of leg and headroom in the back, although the rear seat squab could do with being a little bit higher.

Did I mention that there are lots of toys? The base S trim is a real taxi special so don’t bother with that one. Above that, the gizmos just keep coming: Bluetooth telephony as well as audio streaming, cruise control, parking sensors and a five-inch colour display for the centre console, not to mention a rear view camera for the SV model which retails at AED86,500.

The top-spec SL model (AED95,000) gets an autodimming rear view mirror, six-way power adjustment for the driver, dual zone climate control and a remote engine start, which Nissan claims is a first in the segment. Want a V6 car? That comes in two trims, SV and SL. Again, don’t bother with the base SV – you want the SL which gets all the tops from the top four-banger, plus a host of active safety kit such as LDW (Lane Departure Warning), (MOD) which is not a ‘60s fashion option but Moving Object Detection and Blind Spot Warning – something that should really be standard on all the trims. V6 cars top out at AED 114,000.

On our brief launch drive I only got the opportunity to drive the range-topping SL four-cylinder which now returns 182bhp – telling, four more bhp than the new Camry. The evergreen 3.5-litre V6 is also back, still putting out 270bhp and still gruff as ever. Fewer and fewer buyers are opting for big V6s and it’s a sub-segment that will not be around forever – for instance, the Koreans don’t even offer a V6 Sonata.

Now, the Altima was always the sportiest midsize sedan, trading somewhat harsh ride quality for stiffness through the bends and good steering feel. While it never felt as plush as the CamCord, it was undeniably a great steer and felt pretty punchy off the line. How does the new car fare?

Well, say goodbye to that steering feel, for starters. New electric steering in place of hydraulic rack is accurate enough but feels numb on centre, too light at parking speeds and slow to react at fast ones. It’s competent for sure and the equal of the Koreans, but not as good as the Camry – something which feels utterly bizarre to even say. The suspension is also softer than the Camry, and frankly better for it – this car rides well and has acceptable handling behaviour, if not the sparkling feel of the old car.

Nissan’s spokespeople rammed home the message that the company has years and years of CVT experience and that this new box provides 15% better fuel economy, with more than 70% of internal parts being redesigned. It no longer drives with the rubber band effect of a CVT, moving through stepped simulated ‘gear ratios’ which Nissan works out to about seven speeds (although the smart among you will know CVTs have an infinite number of ratios).

Be that as it may, it’s still not very fun to drive and doesn’t feel like it’s having much fun either. Jam your foot down and power builds in a smooth if completely unexciting surge. For the ‘keen driver’ there’s a Ds mode which keeps the revs high and the engine in the meat of the midrange power band, but don’t be fooled; this is no high-performance dual-clutch box, but a fuel-economy special that wants to cruise the highways, not carve the mountains.

Verdict

Is the Altima a dud or a dazzler? You know, even after driving it, it’s kind of hard to decide. At least with rivals you know where you stand. The Camry has decided it wants to be a pseudo-sports sedan (which it almost succeeds at), the Accord is for conservative non-risk takers and the Optima/Sonata twins take careful and considered aim at the first two.

Where does the Altima fit into this? It’s cheaper than most rivals and has plenty of standard options, but then, so did the old car which never really managed to carve out a space in this crowded segment. The new Altima also offers purportedly great economy, but let’s be honest – if you really care about petrol consumption, you’ll buy a Tiida or a Micra instead. Either that, or you own a taxi company.

So once again, the Altima exists in its own little niche – a well built, well specced, OK-driving if anonymous rival to the cars that define the segment. Perhaps that’s good enough for America, where Nissan sells loads of Altimas on the basis of its excellent value. But out here, value isn’t such a factor; buyers, especially now in a newly resurgent UAE, are looking for something with a little pizzazz, something to wow the neighbours. With the Altima, you get a solid (and solidly built) automobile – but your neighbours won’t be stealing glances through the curtains.

2013 Nissan Altima

Specs
Price:Sub-AED80,000  S
2.5-litre SV – AED 86,500
2.5-litre SV – AED 95,000
3.5-litre SV – AED 114,000
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder, 182bhp @ 6000rpm, 180lb ft @ 400rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 7.1s (claimed)
Transmission: continuously variable transmission, front-wheel drive
Weight: 1409kg

You can buy and sell Nissan cars in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt at dubizzle.com.

6 responses to “2013 Nissan Altima Review”

  1. Rahul says:

    Its a beautiful car..and so was its predecessor..and with the way the author speaks of fuel efficiency, it simply speaks of the callous way how we perceive energy in this region.If a car can offer comfort,luxury and good fuel efficiency ,i’d say its perfectly balanced and meets today’s customer needs and pleaseeeeee..the new CAMRY is not a ‘Sport Sedan’..its a TAXI and they are the only ones on the road..Toyota has shown the best way of ruining a good looking family car by launching the new ‘Am I Korean or Japanese or Chinese?’ designed Camry. Nissan along with Hyundai has given this segment a breath of fresh air in terms of design and value. I think its time even the editors accept it.

  2. Ash says:

    Exactly how much money is Toyota paying you guys over there?
    The full options Camry has always had almost no options in comparison to the full options Altima. The Altima has also always been less expensive to buy than the Camry for the previous years.

    The Camry is also extremely boring to drive as compared to the CVT. Now no one is saying the CVT is perfect but it will gun down any Camry at any speed signal to signal.

    If you want a car that will be great to grow old and wither in then the Camry is your best bet, its reliable and smooth and not got any flair what so ever.

  3. Syed says:

    For the record Altima is a leader in retail (not fleet/taxi) sales. Its overall market share is more than 20 %, ranking # 2. that too in a very crowded and competitive segment. Surely this due to style and substance and not accident.

  4. Syed says:

    Gotta agree with the comments,Camry is a rip-off with that orice and no features!
    If back in 08′ i would have got an Altima i would’ve bern way happier thanks to the features
    For eg a 08′ Altima base model has
    -Cruise Control
    -Bose Audio system with AUX input as well
    -Fog lights
    -Steering controls
    -A way better looking cabin,and silent too!

    And my 08′ Camry
    -Toy like plastic
    -Decent CD player , but no AUX ! (i still burn CD’s!),and had i got the camry from AL futtaim i would’ve got a freaking Cassete player instead of a Cd player.
    -Super noisy engine!
    And nothing to be proud if as well!
    Damn these 5 years have been bad!

  5. Vijay says:

    i m planning to buy new altima 2013 2.5 full option but it dont have sunroof & leather seats and which costing around 99,000/- dhs & for toyota camry 2013 which has got everything cost around 105,000/- dhs……so guys can anyone help me which car should i go for…..

    according to gadgets altima has got more gadgets than camry which includes remote engine start…..

    vijay

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