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Sporty Coupe, Comfy Sedan: 2010 Nissan Altima

The Nissan Altima continues to be a mid-sized sedan with nice-to-have features at a price that won’t break the bank, writes Sally Miller Wyatt.

(Above): Exterior view of 2010 Nissan Altima Coupe

Those shopping for a mid-sized sedan have their work cut out for them. It’s a crowded field with a lot of offerings. Sometimes, during the decision process, it helps to see what others are saying about how a car holds up under safety and quality scrutiny.

J.D. Power and Associates’ Initial Quality Study gave the Nissan Altima a top ranking for 2009, and the government gives the car top ratings in its rollover, frontal and side impact crash tests. I’ve been able to test drive Altimas for years, and I’ve always given this car a thumbs up. Altimas have consistently been family-friendly, fun-to-drive vehicles, and the 2010 model we test drove recently didn’t disappoint.

The Nissan Altima is available in three models: a sedan, a coupe and a hybrid. Our test car was the Altima 2.5 Coupe. Coupes are appealing for their sporty look, but may not be the best choice for families – especially young ones with rear-facing car seats – because having only two doors makes it really back-wrenching to get into and out of the rear seat. So, it helps if you have front seats that fold and slide forward easily, as the Altima Coupe does, because that makes it much easier to move about. If you don’t want to deal with the potential inconvenience, however, an Altima sedan is available.

(Above): Interior view of 2010 Nissan Altima Coupe

Altimas are in their fourth generation, and more than three million models have been sold, which makes them Nissan’s bestselling car. For 2010, several changes are apparent, starting with a restyled front hood and grille, front bumper, new wheel designs, the inclusion of standard Vehicle Dynamic Control on all models, revised interior fabric, new colors and a revised option package.

Nissan has also upgraded the Altima’s audio package to include a Bose AM/FM audio system with nine speakers, a USB port with iPod connectivity, Bluetooth Hands-Free Phone System, MP3/WMA CD-ROM playback, XM Satellite Radio and a RearView Monitor. Also available is a Hard Drive Navigation System with a 6.5-inch color touch screen display. With these available enhancements, the Altima acquires on some of the niceties found on luxury-level sedans.

As for safety features, the Altima has a good list. It includes an advanced air bag system, side impact supplemental air bags, a roof-mounted side curtain, anti-lock brakes, Traction Control, a security system and that previously mentioned Vehicle Dynamic Control.

Comfort features include durable cloth seats that are firm and supportive, a tilting and telescoping steering wheel for the driver’s convenience, trip computer with outside temperature gauge, push-button start, and power mirrors and power windows with one-touch down feature.

(Above): Exterior view of 2010 Nissan Altima Coupe

Our test car came with a Premium Package that included power sliding moon roof, manual folding side mirrors with integrated turn signals, and the previously mentioned audio package. This option was an additional $2,070, and might be considered if you’re on the road a lot. The navigation system and XM Satellite Radio will make your journeys that much more pleasant. The base sticker on our test model was $22,940, and once all options were added up, the car was priced at $26,975.

On the road, you will find the Nissan Altima offers a comfortable ride, good visibility and a very performance-oriented 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine. Gas mileage is noteworthy, at 23 mpg for city driving and 32 for highway driving.

The rear cargo area is wide, but not too deep, because of the sloped tailgate. A Costco-sized package of paper towels just barely fit.

Overall, the Nissan Altima continues to be a well-mannered mid-sized sedan that has plenty of nice-to-have features at a price that won’t break the bank. You just have to decide if you want it in a four-door sedan, a two-door coupe, or with hybrid technology.

Sally Miller Wyatt is a freelance writer who writes family-oriented auto reviews for newspapers, magazines and the Web.


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