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Nissan Altima Review

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2006 Nissan Altima
2006 Nissan Altima SE-R

The fourth best-selling car in North America, the Nissan Altima is the sport competitor to the other better-selling midsize sedans in its class, the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. Descended from the Nissan Bluebird and Nissan Stanza, the Altima is postioned between the smaller Nissan Sentra and the more powerful Nissan Maxima.

An all new generation of the Nissan Altima will be introduced for the model 2007 in the Fall of 2006. When the third generation of the Altima was introduced for the 2002 model year, it was named the "North American Car of the Year" by a jury of 49 independent journalists organized by New Car Test Drive.

See also the main factsheet page for the Nissan Altima.

High Points

  • Great handling and acceleration
  • Roomy rear cabin
  • Large storage capacity
  • High resale value

Low Points

  • Common safety features not standard
  • Noisy at high speeds
  • Interior not the best
  • Turning radius is poor

Performance and Handling

Nissan Altima 2.5 V4 engine

When equipped with the V6, the Altima is arguably the best performer among mid-sized sedans, and among the most fun to drive. Slam the throttle down, either from a stop or at 40 mph, and the Altima will take off like a rocket. There's so much power that you'll notice some torque steer, even with the automatic, though it's not an issue. Nissan's 3.5-liter V6 features the latest in high-output, variable-valve technology, producing 250 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 249 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. Though certainly not raucous, Nissan's V6 isn't quite as smooth as those from Honda and Toyota, but you may have so much fun driving the Altima that you'll neither notice nor care.

The 2.5-liter four cylinder engine is strong, too. It's more powerful than the four-cylinder engines used in the Accord and Camry, and it works well with the four-speed automatic transmission. With the automatic, the four-cylinder Altima still pulls strongly from a standing start, and the transmission shifts promptly between 40 and 60 mph for quick passing maneuvers. Four-cylinder engines of this heft tend to run on the rough side, and Nissan has addressed this inherent vibration with a compact balance system and silent-chain cam drive that smoothes operation nicely. However, the big four-cylinder engine is still a bit louder, more raucous, than those from Honda and Toyota. Nissan's 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is sophisticated, with 16 valves, dual overhead camshafts and fully variable valve timing. It produces 175 horsepower at 6000 rpm, and 180 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. The PZEV version of this engine used in California and several Northeast states is rated at 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. The V6 is EPA-rated 21/27 with the five-speed manual, 20/30 mpg with the five-speed automatic.

This is a stable car at speed, and the suspension and brakes are tuned appropriately for the job. The Altima feels larger than the Honda Accord and other mid-size sedans. The four-wheel disc brakes are easy to modulate for smooth handling and deliver plenty of stopping power.

Overall handling is exemplary. The rack-and-pinion steering gives precise directional control, with good feedback. The multi-link rear suspension, a sophisticated design that uses aluminum components to reduce weight, enhances the stability of the rear end, even on bumpy roads. When it comes to chassis dynamics, the Altima is a class-leading performer. Enthusiasist drivers will love it, but it may not be for everyone.

While it rides well in most circumstances, the Altima feels stiffer than some of its competitors, particularly when it's crossing a rhythmic series of bumps or pavement joints. It's not as smooth as the Camry or Accord, especially the former, and the driver and passengers will feel a bit more vibration through the pedals, steering wheel or armrests. Overall NVH (noise, vibration and harshness control) isn't the best in the class, a trait at least partly to the Altima's emphasis on handling and performance. With every car, designers have to make choices. Nissan emphasized performance and handling over smoothness and ride quality.

Gas Mileage

According to EPA estimates on Autos.com, the 4-cylinder Altima is in the top third of 2006 mid-size sedans at 24/31 MPG in the city/highway. The top-of-the-line 250 hp V-6 gets 20/28.

Safety

The 2006 Altima ranks last for safety features among the 34 mid-size sedans ranked on Autos.com, however this reflects that some safety features that are standard on most models are available, but not standard, on the Altima. Such features include Anti-Lock Brakes, side airbags and overhead/curtain air bags.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration give the following test crash ratings (1-5, 5 is the best):

  • Front impact: 5
  • Side impact: 5
  • Rollover resistance: 4

Reliability and Maintenance

Automotive Information Systems (AIS) gives the Altima a 5 out of 5 on reliability. AIS flags moderate to significant problems with the engines in the 2002-2003 Altimas (same generation as the 2006 Altima). The Mass AirFlow Sensor, Crankshaft Position Sensor and Camshaft Position Sensor occasionally fail, which can result in drivability problems. The respective cost of replacement is roughly $500, $100 and $50. AIS otherwise reports infrequent problems with low repair costs for the Altima.

Interior and Comforts

Interior of Nissan Altima

The Nissan Altima feels spacious inside and that's no illusion. It ranks at or near the top of the class in interior roominess. There's more front legroom here than in all but the largest vehicles on the road. The front seats are quite comfortable and large enough for larger bodies. Getting in and out of the Altima is easy, thanks to wide doors and a slightly higher-than-average front seating position.

Nissan redesigned the interior in 2005, addressing the biggest complaints with this car. Changes included a new instrument panel, a new center stack and a new center console. Seat materials, trim finishes and the headliner were upgraded and new chrome accents were added. Overall it's a vast improvement over earlier models and closer to Toyota and Honda levels, but still not quite there. The cloth upholstery is decent and the material used on the dash are nice, but the lids on the front of the center console are flimsy.

The Altima is a comfortable car and driver visibility is excellent. The dashboard is set relatively low, with a binnacle directly in front of the driver containing speedometer, tachometer, and water temperature and fuel gauges. The instruments glow orange in the dark, offering less interference to night vision. The three-spoke steering wheel tilts and telescopes to help optimize driving position. The shifter on models with manual transmissions is somewhat long, with long throws. The available navigation display is located at the top of the center stack and it works well. Audio controls are mounted high on the center stack for easy access. At the top are two rows of buttons, used to control audio, trip computer, and navigation functions, with a small joy stick in the center. Heating/air conditioning control knobs lie directly below and are easy to locate with minimal distraction.

Air conditioning vents are flush-mounted on the dash. Seams for the passenger-side airbag are invisible, cleverly hidden in a large expanse of unembellished dashboard surface. The center console has cupholders large enough for one-liter bottles. A power port inside the center console storage area is useful for cell phones. There's an adjustable elbow rest. The parking brake is a proper handbrake, located front and center. The windows can be opened with the remote key fob (by holding down the Unlock button), a nice feature on hot summer days.

The rear seats are supportive and comfortable, with good legroom and sufficient headroom. Rear-center passengers get a three-point seat belt with shoulder harness; when the center spot is empty, an armrest drops and presents cupholders. Getting in and out of the rear seats is easier than it is in many mid-size sedans. The long wheelbase and large doors make it less likely that a rear passenger will get dirty by dragging their clothes across the fender well.

Trunk space ranks among the best in the mid-size class with 15.6 cubic feet of cargo space. It's a convenient trunk, with a large opening and low lift-over height. The trunk lid pops up when the button on the remote key fob is used, a nice feature when you're running through the rain with an armload of groceries and a feature few cars seem to have lately. The gooseneck hinges intrude minimally into the usable trunk space. The rear seat of the Altima folds down for increased cargo space and the seat is split so you can carry a passenger and longer cargoes.

Exterior

The Nissan Altima is a big car by mid-size standards, bigger than the current Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Its wheels are pushed to the far corners, giving it a long wheelbase and wide track for stability at high speeds. The long wheelbase leaves plenty of room for passengers, and for large doors to let them in and out.

Cast in the style of a European sedan, the Altima looks more like something from Volkswagen or Audi than Honda or Toyota. Yet the Altima also has more exterior design detail than the Camry or Accord, with creased mirrors, integrated foglamps and other subtle cues. Altima's sloping roofline is reminiscent of a coupe. Its high trunk lid is set off by bold round taillights, turn signals and backup lights set in a triangular-shaped cover.

Nissan subtly restyled the Altima for 2005 for a more aggressive look. The new hood looks more athletic, with a muscular bulge suggesting a powerful engine. A smoother front fascia and smoked headlamps add to the bold impression, and tooth-like ridges molded into the horizontal grille bars tighten Altima's kinship with the more exotic Maxima. The Altima's previously clear taillamp covers have been smoked slightly.

The grille and front bumper are set off nicely by aggressive-looking multi-parabola projector-type headlights with four bulbs set behind large covers. Altima's grille is large by contemporary standards, but not the least bit awkward.

Styles and Options

The Nissan Altima is available in 6 trims: 2.5, 2.5 S, 2.5 SL, 3.5 SL, 3.5 SE, and SE-R.

2.5

2006 Nissan Altima 2.5
2006 Altima interior w/ Leather Sport package
2006 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE

The 2.5 is your base model coming standard with:

  • 2.5-liter four cylinder engine
  • Power windows
  • Tinted windshield
  • Tilt and telescoping steering wheel
  • Power steering
  • Fold down center armrests front and rear
  • 60/40 split folding rear seat
  • In-glass antenna
  • Five-speed manual transmission.

2.5 S

Adds to the 2.5 standard items:

  • Air conditioning
  • Power mirrors
  • Remote keyless entry
  • Remote trunk lock
  • Eight-way adjustable driver's seat
  • Cruise control
  • Six-speaker audio system
  • Seatback pockets
  • Split rear seat lock
  • Five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic


There are also a few option packages available with this trim:

The Convenience Package:

  • Alloy wheels
  • Eight-way power driver's seat w/ lumbar support
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • Steering wheel-mounted audio controls
  • Trip computer
  • Dual illuminated vanity mirrors
  • Speed-sensitive volume control
  • Automatic headlights
  • Vehicle security system

The Convenience Plus Package:

  • Power glass sunroof with sunshade

Premium Convenience Package:

  • Bose audio system

2.5 SL

The top of the line 2.5 includes:

  • Most of the features offered in the 2.5 S convenience packages
  • Four-speed automatic transmission
  • Heated leather seats
  • Power driver's seat
  • Simulated wood trim

The only convenience option for the 2.5 SL is a sunroof

3.5 S

This base trim V6 Altima comes standard with:

  • Most of the features offered in the 2.5 S convenience packages
  • 250-horsepower V6 and five-speed automatic
  • Heated leather seats
  • Power driver's seat
  • simulated wood trim

3.5 SE

The sport trim comes standard with:

  • 250-horsepower V6 and five-speed manual
  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Wider, speed-rated tires
  • Performance-tuned suspension
  • Fog lights
  • Dual chrome exhaust tips


There are also a few option packages available with this trim:

The Leather Package

  • Leather upholstery
  • Bose audio
  • Sunroof
  • Heated front seats and mirrors

The Sport Package Plus

  • Sunroof
  • Spoiler
  • Bose premium audio
  • Xenon headlights

The Leather Sport Package

-Adds to the Leather Package-

  • Spoiler
  • Xenon headlights

SE-R

The high performance trim comes standard with:

  • 260-horsepower version of the 3.5-liter V6
  • Performance-tuned front struts and rear shocks
  • Stiffer front and rear springs
  • Thicker front and rear stabilizer bars
  • Speed-rated 225/45WR18 tires
  • 18-inch forged aluminum-alloy wheels
  • Anti-lock brakes (ABS)
  • Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD)
  • Brake Assist
  • Unique front and rear fascias and rear spoiler
  • Compact fog lights
  • Side-sill spoilers
  • Large dual exhaust finishers
  • Sport leather seats
  • Dark chrome trim
  • Three-pod center-mounted gauges
  • Six-speed manual transmission

Main Competitors

External Links

WikiCars Contributor Favorites

Nissan Manufacturer Sites

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