Those who place a high value on "sportiness" in a family sedan will likely find the 2012 Nissan Altima to be a solid choice. Also available as a coupe, the new Altima once again offers impressive driving dynamics, a quiet ride and loads of available high tech goodies.
Indeed, even those Altimas outfitted with the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine demonstrate a capable driving demeanor that easily surpasses the usual for this segment. And by opting for the 3.5 SR model with its V6 engine, output is boosted to a healthy 270-horsepower. This, combined with its firmer suspension, transforms the Altima into something much closer to a "sport sedan".
Tack on its attractive design, nice looking interior and generous feature availability, and the new Altima has quite a bit going for it.
There are some negatives, however. The rear quarters is on the tight side when it comes to headroom in both body styles. While manageable on short trips, it can be an issue for taller passengers on longer treks. In addition, the Altima's optional feature availability is on the complicated side and are grouped together into packages, resulting in consumers sometimes having to buy features they don't want in order to get those that they do.
Even so,the Altima remains one of the top choices in the midsize segment. As it's always a good idea to consider the competition to help make a more informed final buying decision, other strong rivals worth a look would include the Ford Fusion, the Honda Accord, the Hyundai Sonata and the Mazda6.
Trims, Standard Features And Options:
The 2012 Nissan Altima comes in coupe and sedan forms and is available in three trims: 2.5, 2.5 S and 3.5 SR.
The base Altima 2.5 is sedan-only with standard features which include a push-button ignition, power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, 16-inch steel wheels, dual exhaust chrome tips, air-conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a vehicle immobilizer system, a vehicle security system, a rear window defroster w/timer, a trip computer, chrome interior door handles, halogen headlights and a full array of safety features (see below).
It should be noted that although wired for four speakers, this model does not come with a stereo. There are also no options available for the base 2.5.
Standard features on the 2.5 S sedan and coupe add keyless entry/ignition, a 6-speaker audio system, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and 17-inch alloy wheels on the coupe.
Optional packages for the 2.5 S include the Value package which adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, Bluetooth, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and automatic headlights. The Special Edition package includes foglights, alloy wheels on the sedan, a rear spoiler, automatic headlights and the leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.
Some packages are required in order to then add on more upscale packages. The Convenience package is only offered on the sedan and adds a power driver seat to the Value package. Also sedan-only, the Convenience Plus package includes dual-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof and mirror-mounted turn-signal repeaters, while the Premium Audio package (again sedan-only) features a rearview camera and a 9-speaker Bose audio system with an iPod interface and satellite radio. The Premium package is available only on the coupe and includes all of the previous packages.
There's also a 2.5 SL package for the sedan that includes leather upholstery, heated front seats, rear air-conditioning vents and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, while on the coupe this package is called the Leather package and also adds xenon headlights, but drops the rear A/C vents.
Moving up to the Altima 3.5 SR adds the V6 engine, a sport-tuned suspension, heated side mirrors, 17-inch alloy wheels on the sedan, 18-inch alloys on the coupe and and everything in the 2.5 S Convenience package.
The sedan-only 3.5 SR Sport package includes dual-zone climate control, a sunroof, foglights and xenon headlights, while the 3.5 SR Premium package, available on both the sedan and coupe, adds all features from the S coupe's Premium package, the Premium Audio package as well as the SL package.
Finally, there's a Technology package available for both the coupe and sedan which adds a navigation system, Bluetooth streaming audio capability and digital music storage.
Engines, Powertrain And Gas Mileage:
A choice of two engines power the front-wheel-drive 2012 Altima. Under the hood of all 2.5 models is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 175 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. Standard on the sedan is a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), while the coupe comes with a 6-speed manual or an optional CVT. The EPA-estimated gas mileage for this engine is is 23 mpg city and 32 mpg on the highway with the CVT. Fuel economy for the manual comes in at a near identical 23 mpg city and 31 highway.
The more sport-oriented 3.5 SR is outfitted with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that's good for a robust 270 horsepower and 258 pound-feet. The 3.5 comes with the same transmission choices as the 2.5. The EPA-estimated gas mileage for this engine stands at 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway with the CVT, while the manual is rated at 18 and 27, respectively.
In performance tests, an Altima 3.5 sedan was timed from a standstill to 60 mph in a very quick 7 seconds. The 3.5 coupe did it in just 6.7 seconds with the CVT and an even quicker 6.5 seconds with the manual. In comparison, the 2.5 S sedan covers the same sprint in a still respectable 8.5 seconds.
Standard safety features across all 2012 Altimas include traction control, stability control, antilock brakes (ABS), front seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags that extend to both rows.
In government crash testing, the Altima sedan was given an overall rating of four out of five stars, consisting of four stars for frontal impact protection and five stars for side impact protection.
The Altima's cabin is attractive, solidly constructed with high-quality materials and user-friendly. The seating is supportive and comfortable both front and rear (the coupe comes with very well-bolstered front sport seats as opposed to the sedan's front bucket seats), however, both body styles are somewhat tight when it comes to rear headroom and legroom. This is more of an issue in the coupe where adult passengers might find the going uncomfortable on longer trips.
The cargo capacity in the sedan's trunk is a quite ample 15.3 cubic feet, while that of the coupe is a much smaller 8.2 cubes.
The 2012 Altima is a capable performer on the road. Even the four-cylinder models provide enough liveliness to satisfy most drivers. The performance of the CVT is also smooth and seamless and the vehicle's overall handling is confident and secure. And all the while, the Altima's suspension maintains a comfortable ride quality while also limiting road and wind noise in the cabin.
For buyers who place a higher value on driving dynamics, the Altima's V6-powered 3.5 SR is particularly impressive, especially for a "family sedan". It's certainly not boring with its sport-tuned suspension, responsive steering and smooth CVT combined with plenty of gusto under the hood.
How To Get The Lowest Price:
Best Negotiating Tactic: Well, there's definitely a 'best way' when it comes to new car buying. If you want to get the best bottomline, out-the-door price you need to know exactly who to talk to at the dealership, how to make the contact and how to make this person eager to quickly drop prices as low as possible to get your sale.