Three years might not be a long period of time, especially in relation to the average human lifespan. However, it is a pretty extensive period in a motorcar’s life cycle. With most of the major carmakers replacing their model generations every five to six years, a lot can change in the industry in three years. So, although it’s been only three years since the Nissan Altima received a generational update and a full redesign, most of its rivals including the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima and Volkswagen Passat upped their game in that time, leaving the Japanese saloon looking and feeling jaded.
So while an all-new model is a few years away, the 2016 Altima, with its styling update and a handful of new features, is Nissan’s attempt at keeping the saloon refreshed and relevant.
Most of the changes are to the exterior, with the new V-motion grille up front, along with the redesigned headlights and tail lights, bringing the Altima in line with other models such as the bigger Maxima and the Murano crossover in terms of design. The sheet metal has also been tweaked around the bonnet, fenders and the boot lid. The styling overhaul has definitely brought the Altima more in line with competition, but it’s still not significant enough to give it an edge in a segment that has some great-looking cars such as the Mazda 6.
Interior updates aren’t as substantial though, with changes limited to a streamlined centre stack and new patterned plastic trim options, which in our test car had leaf motifs. I prefer a solid, dark finish for trims and accents over light-hued, shiny and decorative ones, but these are matters of personal preference, and I’m sure these changes must have been made after considering customer feedback.
Nissan says the new vehicle’s front seats are ‘zero-gravity’ and are Nasa-inspired. Well, the front buckets in my test car are definitely not floating around, but they are very comfortable and supportive. In addition, the rear seats also provide ample head- and legroom for average-sized adults, and offer great forward visibility thanks to the relatively raised seating position. Road, wind and engine noise don’t creep in much thanks to better sound insulation, making for an overall pleasant, comfortable ride.
There are no changes to the powertrain line-up with the 2.5-litre four-pot and the 3.5-litre V6 carried over. My top-spec Altima tester has the smooth and sprightly 3.5 V6 under its bonnet, which is good for a healthy 270bhp and 350Nm of torque. And as with most of Nissan’s models it’s also mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), but with steering-mounted paddle shifters with a manual mode that mimics the ratios of a conventional automatic transmission.
Although I have trashed CVTs in Nissans, Renaults and Hondas before, I must admit that the so-called X-Tronic D-Step CVT in the 2016 Altima, which gets tweaked programming, does not drone away distressingly at high revs as it did in earlier models. Nissan also claims that the electrohydraulic steering set-up has been reprogrammed for better feedback and feel; however, during my week-long test drive, I couldn’t sense much of a difference in the steering’s weight or response. In fact, I felt it could have benefited from a bit more weight at highway speeds.
While driving dynamics aren’t any worse than those in a Toyota Camry or a Kia Optima, it’s certainly not as lithe or agile as a Mazda 6 or a Volkswagen Passat.
Apart from now common features such as keyless entry, push-button ignition, Bluetooth connectivity etc, the 2016 Altima also boasts a host of new features – rear-view monitor, the NissanConnect suite of mobile apps, a power sunroof, a sat-nav system with 7.0in touchscreen, and so on. Over and above these, the new model adds adaptive cruise control with blind-spot monitoring, predictive forward collision warning, and automatic braking, bolstering the car’s already good safety credentials.
While the Altima has always been a solid, reliable offering in the midsize family saloon segment, it had lately lagged its rivals when it comes to technology and safety features. But the latest model remedies this to a great extent with its extensive suite of added features, bringing it up to date with competition.
If you are on the market for a spacious, comfy family saloon with decent looks, and a raft of safety and convenience features, the 2016 Nissan Altima checks all the right boxes.