By Mike Hanley on April 3, 2012
Sometimes one signature design cue can define a car, and that's what the redesigned Nissan Altima's full-length character line does for the family sedan. Running from the wraparound headlights to the clear-lens taillights, the flowing sheet-metal crease provides a lot of definition to the sedan's shoulder. It also sets off the greenhouse, which is narrower than the lower half of the car.
The front end is pretty stylish, and it's fitted with Nissan's new corporate grille and bordered by more aggressive headlights. The front end's cohesive design carries through to the rest of the car and brings a healthy dose of Maxima styling to the sedan.
The cabin loses some of the distinctive design cues of the current-generation sedan, like the trio of air vents in the middle of the dash, but materials quality is competitive for the segment.
Backseat passengers enjoy an elevated seating position with more room than you'll find in the new Chevrolet Malibu. The Altima's rear bench provides good thigh support for adult passengers, which isn't the norm in this segment. Combined with good legroom and foot space as well as lots of side glass to fend off claustrophobia, the backseat is a comfortable space.
The already competitive midsize-sedan segment is heating up with the launch of redesigned models like the Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry and the upcoming Honda Accord, so the new Altima has its work cut out for it if Nissan hopes to maintain the car's sales momentum. Impressive fuel efficiency — Nissan projects 38 mpg on the highway with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder — along with the design updates should help sustain its appeal.
Senior Editor Mike Hanley is a father of three boys; he reviews new cars, admires classic cars and has embraced the minivan lifestyle. Email Mike