When describing a person, a movie, or a book, “predictable” isn’t necessarily high praise. But with the 2010 Nissan Altima, it’s adulation. The Altima is the grunt of the Nissan lineup. It isn’t as flashy as it’s big brother, the Maxima, and it certainly doesn’t have the performance of the brand’s sporty 370Z or GT-R. But, it performs the heaviest lifting of the group, being the brand’s best selling model and comprising a fair portion of Nissan’s profits. And, it’s a great sedan that does exactly what you want it to.
The mid-size sedan segment is a pretty competitive niche in the auto market. The competition for the Altima is the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and others, all of which feature impressive sales numbers. So, in order to stay towards the front of the pack, constant upgrades are necessary. The 2010 Altima redesign features a few such upgrades, but these are generally cosmetic changes or optional extras. For example, the hood and front grille lines have been revised to give the car a bit more of an aggressive stance. Also, the 15-inch wheels are gone in favor of standard 16′s with optional 17′s (the coupe comes stock with 17′s).
Interior upgrades largely pertain to technology. There’s a 6.5-inch navigation interface system that connects to the XM Nav/Weather system, and there’s Bluetooth streaming so the car can connect to your handheld gadgets. There’s also an advanced audio package that will connect to your iPod, XM Satellite Radio, USB devices, and plays all sorts of various CD media formats. The audio package has a 4.3-inch display screen that doubles as a RearView camera, and, despite the small size, it works rather well, with good color contrast to avoid the blurring that sometimes happens on smaller screens.
Under the hood, the base models will features Nissan’s dependable 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine, which puts out 175 horsepower. Nissan offers a hybrid model that alters the tuning of this engine and mates it to a 40 horsepower electric motor that is sandwiched between the motor and the automatic CVT (continuously variable transmission). The CVT is the only transmission option for all sedan models, but the coupe does offer a six speed manual. For those who want a bit more power, Nissan offers their Altima SR, which is essentially the SE model from previous years, only with a different letter. SR models get a 3.5-liter V6 from the Maxima which puts out 270 horsepower. But, the 2.5-liter engine is a solid choice, despite the lower horsepower numbers, and will likely make up the vast majority of Altima sales (though an Altima SR coupe with a six speed manual is one of the most fun cars to drive in the price range).
The ride quality is pretty much what you’d expect. The Altima’s weight distribution is favored towards the front, 60/40, so don’t expect to have any incredible performance from this front-wheel drive sedan. The steering is steady and dependable, though, and despite a suspension designed for ride comfort, the steering wheel telegraphs road conditions rather well, particularly helpful for those who live in Northern climates with bad winter weather.
Basically, there’s nothing bad at all about the 2010 Nissan Altima. There will be other cars in the same segment that may have better power, better handling, or a better price tag, but for an overall package, the Altima is one heck of a car. When it comes to a dependable, predictable sedan starting at $20,000, you can’t do much better.