The 2016 Nissan Altima brings a set of skills and features that has strong appeal to the mid-sized sedan buyer.
What is it?
The Altima ranks with Camry and Accord as a go-to choice for buyers shopping for a mid-sized sedan. For 2016, the Altima got a freshening inside and out, though it shares the ’15’s wheelbase and other key dimensions. It stays much the same for 2017.
Pricing and trims
There are seven Altima trims from which to choose – five with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and two with the 3.5-liter V6. The 2.5 starts at $22,500 and then proceeds upward through S, SV, SR and SL variants. The sporty SR and luxurious SL are the two earmarked for the V6, and the most expensive 3.5 SL comes in at $32.090, before options are added.
The tested Altima 2.5 SV sits in the middle of the lineup, with standard features like Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), NissanConnect with mobile apps and a five-inch screen, push button ignition, and more.
The test car added options like the $1,350 Convenience Package (power moonroof, auto-dimming rear view mirror, external mirror LED turn indicators, etc.). The $580 Navigation Package ups the screen size to seven inches…
…and the $500 Cold Weather Package included heated seats…
…and a heated steering wheel. These and other options brought the total on this Altima 2.5 SV to $28,935.
The Altima’s big safety news is that when it’s equipped with Forward Emergency Braking, it scores a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS).
Unfortunately, the tested 2.5 SV trim isn’t available with active braking. You’d have to step up to the $28,570 2.5 SL and then add the $1,700 Technology Package to get it. So you’re up over $30K to get this desirable safety feature in an Altima. We’d love to see Nissan send it further downstream, as Subaru and Honda have, for instance.
The Altima’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is the same as last year’s, with the same 182 horsepower. It does manage to eke out one extra mile per gallon on the EPA highway test – the Altima now posts a best-in-class 39 mpg, which is tantalizingly close to the magic 40-mpg rating that gets ad copywriters so excited.
The four-cylinder is well-behaved, with a pleasing exhaust note and plenty of scoot, once the Altima gets rolling. The CVT transmission that helps pull those mileage numbers seems to put a firm bubble between you and the engine at low revs, and getting the Altima off the line can result in a gelatinous response.
Shifting into Ds seems to help reduce the bubble’s size, and the car felt more responsive as the Ds setting kept the engine revving higher. Though those extra revs will chip away at gas mileage.
Ride and handing
The suspension development Nissan has invested in the Altima has yielded a mid-sized sedan that’s uncommonly well-mannered.
The Altima is clear and direct in following your orders; the electric steering is nicely weighted, and it returns to center more quickly than the units in some of its competitors – the Chevy Malibu, for instance.
It’s smooth, too – the Altima absorbed the city’s more rutted streets with aplomb, and it was a relaxed highway cruiser.
The Altima’s front seats are standouts in comfort and support. The Zero Gravity technology Nissan notes is more than a gimmick; there is a feeling of orbiting above a typical seat’s pressure points, all while being held gently in place by the side bolsters.
Additionally, the bottom cushions tip up in front for a true buckety feel. Few vehicles at any price have seats as comfortable as the Altima’s.
The SV’s seat fabric is new for 2016. It felt soft and resisted trapping heat against one’s back.
The rear seat has a bit less legroom than its competitors – its 36.1-inch measurement is more compact than mid-sized – but it was accomodating for six-footers all the same.
The 2016 Altima’s 15.4-cubic-foot trunk matches the measurement of the ’15’s, and it’s well-finished. The side net was a handy slot for a shopping bag, with just enough tension to avoid cracking your tortilla chips.
Nissan thoughtfully includes a slot from which to pull down the lid from the inside panel.
Infotainment and controls
The Altima joins Nissan’s Murano in incorporating a “Gliding Wing” interior style, with the lines stretching from the center stack out to the door handles. It’s well-integrated and friendly to behold.
One odd flaw was the way the upholstered portion of driver’s door panel distinctly flexed when you pressed against it to ease open the door after unlatching it. Not a dealbreaker, but it’s an oversight we encountered pretty much every time we drove the Altima.
The test car’s Advanced Drive-Assist Display is a four-inch screen between the gauges for vehicle and travel information, and it’s standard on all Altimas.
The front console bin has a power point, a charging USB and an AUX plug, and it’s roomy enough for a 5.5-inch smartphone.
The armrest has another power point but no more USBs.
There’s a handy tray above the bin for smaller items.
Reshaped for 2016, the Altima keeps getting better.
Nissan’s mid-sizer is a pleasure to drive, and the Altima’s middle-of-the-road SV trim has the satisfying road manners you’d find in an upscale version of itself. The front seats are terrific, and the interior is welcoming.
The Altima’s dislikes center on the CVT transmission’s pregnant initial response. The door panels that notably flexes when you push open the front doors is an easier fix, and we’d like to see Nissan offer its primo safety gear on the Altima’s middle and lower trims.
Our kingdom for a manual-transmissioned Altima that would allow a bypass of the CVT. Otherwise, the Altima satisfies.
2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV
Base price: $25,460
Price as tested, including the $835 destination charge: $28,935
Convenience Package: $1,350
Power Sliding Moonroof with Tilt
Front Passenger’s Window with One-Touch Auto Up/Down
Rear A/C vents
Auto-Dimming Inside Mirror
Homelink Universal Transceiver
Manual Folding Outside Mirrors with LED Turn Indicators
Carpeted Floor Mats and Trunk Mat: $210
Navigation Package: $580
NissanConnect with Navigation and Mobile Apps
7″ Touch-Screen Color Display
Cold Weather Package: $500
Heated Front Seats
Heated Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel
Heated Outside Mirrors
- Confident handling, supple ride
- Exceptionally comfortable front seats
- Intuitive controls and displays
- Bubble-like CVT transmission response
- Driver’s door panel flexes against pressure
- Only one USB port at this price point