2014 Nissan Altima Sedan

The latest iteration of Nissan's popular Altima midsize sedan provides a quiet, refined interior, high-tech options and a relatively sporty driving experience. What really makes the Altima stand out from its competitors, however, is its fuel economy - the volume-selling four-cylinder model is rated at 38 mpg on the highway, an impressive figure previously reserved for compact cars.

Recent Changes
The Altima's coupe body style won't return for the new model year.

Updates to the sedan, which was all-new last year, include the addition of a new NissanConnect smartphone integration platform, new seat cloth, enhanced noise isolation and chrome exhaust tips on all models. Several new options packages have also been added.

Overview
The last-generation Altima was consistently one of the best-selling cars in its class, so Nissan chose to evolve the current model with subtle, incremental improvements instead of completely starting from scratch. The wheelbase carried over unchanged, while overall length grew by an inch and width increased by 1.3 inches. The suspension features struts in front and a multi-link setup at the rear.

Despite the dearth of dimensional changes, the Altima is lighter than the last-gen model by about 80 pounds thanks to the increased use of high strength steel.

That lighter curb weight, in addition to a retuned 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, helps the new Altima to achieve best-in-class fuel economy of 27 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. Output is rated at 182 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. Also aiding on the efficiency front is a next-generation continuously variable transmission (CVT) that was re-engineered for reduced internal friction and also features new control logic and expanded gear ratio coverage.

The optional engine is a carryover 3.5-liter V6 that produces a healthy 270 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Like the four, the six-cylinder pairs exclusively with the CVT, and mileage is rated at 22/30 mpg.

Premium Look Inside and Out
With recent midsize sedans such as the Hyundai Sonata and Ford Fusion bringing a heightened degree of style to the formerly staid midsize sedan segment, Nissan worked hard to make the exterior of the Altima stand out from the competition. The car features what Nissan calls a premium look that mimics the organic, flowing design language seen on many recent Infiniti models.

The cabin packs so-called "zero-gravity" seats that provide optimal support and help reduce muscular and spinal loads. Noise levels are kept to a minimum thanks to new sound-deadening materials.

A standard, customizable "Advanced Drive-Assist" display consists of a four-inch color screen mounted in the instrument panel that displays a variety of data from the trip computer, audio system or navigation system. Nissan says that the system helps drivers keep their eyes on the road longer than a traditional center-stack information monitor.

For the latest model year, all Altima models gain NissanConnect, a new platform for Bluetooth-based smartphone integration that offers a range of apps like Facebook, Pandora radio, iHeartRadio and Online Search powered by Google.

Other available tech features include Hands-Free Text Messaging Assistant and a navigation system with SiriusXM Travel Link and real-time weather info, fuel prices, movie times and stock updates.

Trim Level Breakdown
The Altima Sedan will be available in no less than seven trim levels: four for the four-cylinder model (2.5, 2.5 S, 2.5 SV and 2.5 SL) and three for the V6 model (3.5 S, 3.5 SV and 3.5 SL).

The bottom rung of the Altima ladder is the 2.5, which is equipped as standard with A/C, full power accessories, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD player with an AUX input, Bluetooth connectivity with streaming audio capability, Advanced Drive-Assist Display, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, keyless entry, push button start and 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps. Chrome exhaust tips are a new addition to the 2.5's features list for the new model year.

The Altima 2.5 S model adds a six-way power-adjustable driver's seat, cruise control, Nissan Intelligent Key, two extra speakers for the audio system, auto on/off headlights and an in-cabin microfilter. Altima 3.5 S adds 18-inch wheels and tires, plus paddle shifters with manual mode. For the latest model year, S models gain sun visor illumination and extension.

Altima SV models include Dual Zone Automatic Temperature Control, Remote Engine Start System, leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum-alloy wheels (17-inch on 2.5 SV, 18-inch on 3.5 SV), RearView Monitor, NissanConnectSM with Pandora radio capability, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, 5.0-inch color audio display, USB port with iPod connectivity, Hands-Free Messaging Assistant and more. The 3.5 SV also adds a moonroof, fog lights and HomeLink Universal Transceiver.

Altima SL models include leather-appointed seating, Bose Premium Audio System with nine speakers (including woofers), eight-way power driver's seat, heated front seats and steering wheel, heated outside mirrors, LED taillights, LED outside mirror turn signals, premium interior trim, power sliding moonroof, auto dimming rearview mirror and HomeLink Universal Transceiver.

Just four options packages are available: a Sport Value Package (2.5 S), a Display Audio Package (2.5 S), a Convenience Package (2.5 SV) and a Technology Package (SV, SL).

The Sport Value Package brings 16-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and remote start. The Display Audio Package yields a 5.0-inch color display audio system and a rearview camera. The Convenience Package nets a moonroof, folding exterior mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators, fog lights, an auto-dimming interior rearview mirror with integrated compass, a ceiling-mounted "mood lamp" and rear-seat HVAC vents. The Technology Package includes a navigation system, a blind spot monitor, a lane departure warning system and a moving object detection system.

Occupant Safety
All Altima models come standard with dual front, side and full-length side-curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.

Bundled with the aforementioned Technology Package is a trio of high-tech safety systems: blind sport warning, lane departure warning and moving object detection. As its name suggests the moving object detection system (a segment first) detects moving objects such as other vehicles when the Altima is backing up and warns the driver with visual cues

Key Competitors
Buyers interested in the Altima should also check out the sporty Mazda Mazda6 and the stylish Chevrolet Malibu, while the feature-laden Kia Optima is also worth a look. Stalwarts of the mid-size sedan segment such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord also merit consideration.