Introduced for 2007, the Altima Hybrid is Nissan's first gas/electric hybrid, using technology borrowed from Toyota. The 2008 Altima Hybrid is essentially unchanged; it comes stocked with an electronic stability system, traction control, antilock brakes, electric power steering and 16-inch wheels. Competitors include other hybrids, such as the Honda Civic and Toyota Camry.
At low speeds, an electric motor powers the car; a 158-horsepower four-cylinder gasoline engine steps in to provide acceleration at higher speeds. The hybrid power plant is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission that's shared with many other Nissan models, but programmed differently for the hybrid. Nissan estimates mileage figures of 35/33 mpg city/highway using the Environmental Protection Agency's 2008 rating system, which is designed to provide more realistic estimates compared to previous years.
For 2007, the conventional Altima received a mild restyling with updates to the front and rear, including a notched grille, swanky taillight capsules and dual exhaust. The hybrid receives those updates as well, along with hybrid emblems on the side doors and rear trunklid.
Standard features include power windows and door locks, as well as a power-adjustable driver's seat. Also standard is Nissan's Intelligent Key feature, which allows the engine to start as long as the key fob is inside the vehicle. The 60/40-split rear seat folds to accommodate large objects. Dual-zone climate control is standard.
A Convenience Package adds key-fob controlled power windows in the front seat, wood trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a rear spoiler and other do-dads. The Connection Package includes satellite radio, a sunroof, hands-free phone connectivity and a Bose sound system.
For technology enthusiasts, there's a Technology Package that includes all the features of the Convenience and Connection packages, plus a navigation system with voice recognition, DVD and a 6.5-inch touch-screen monitor. The screen can also be used to observe how much work is being shared between the gas engine and electric motor.
Under the Hood
The Altima's 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine shuts off when the vehicle comes to a stop, to save gas. The electric motor provides initial acceleration, then the engine kicks back to life when necessary. When needed, the electric motor can assist the gasoline engine, providing an extra 40 hp.
Altima Hybrids use an electric air-conditioning compressor (in place of a belt-driven compressor), so the air conditioning will still blow cold air when the engine shuts off at stops.
Antilock brakes, an electronic stability system and traction control are standard. Six airbags are standard, including side airbags for both front passengers and side curtain airbags for front and rear occupants.