While the Altima grows a little bit, it keeps its choice of four and six-cylinder engines, something growing increasingly rare in the midsize class as rivals shift to turbocharged engines to boost fuel economy. Nissan eliminated the option of a manual transmission the sedan, instead going with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) across the board. This allows Altimas with the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder to make 182 horsepower and still achieve 38 MPG on the highway, a class best for gasoline-only powertrains. A 3.5-liter V6 remains an option, producing 270 horsepower and promising up to 31 MPG on the highway. Unlike the previous Altima sedan, a hybrid is not offered, nor is a clean diesel option.
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Overall, the Altima remains one of the more conservative options for midsize sedan customers, but aims to attract customers with the available, and gutsy, V6 engine and the leading fuel-efficiency of the four-cylinder. It also offers many attractive features as standard equipment for its competitive starting price.
The Camry was redesigned for 2012 and Toyota addressed major criticisms of the old car, such as a cheap interior and the overall blandness of the design. While still hugely conservative, the new Camry looks sharper inside and out. It comes with a higher level of technology with Toyota's competent Entune system for streaming audio and pairing mobile devices. But the Camry's standard four-cylinder doesn't offer as good economy as the Altima. The Sonata has a far more striking design than most midsize competitors, even if it isn't to everyone's tastes. But the Sonata doesn't have quite the same fuel economy rating as the Altima, nor is its turbocharged four-cylinder as powerful or refined as the Nissan V6.
Like the Hyundai, the Kia Optima has a lot of features for the price, along with a look removed from the conservative lines of the Altima. The Optima packs the option of a potent turbo four-cylinder. On the flip side, Kia's in-car tech isn't as sophisticated as Nissan's. The Altima also ekes out a few more MPG than the Optima with their respective base engines. Volkswagen's Passat offers vast amounts of interior space and amenities like dual-zone automatic climate control. It too offers a V6 option, but also gives customers the chance to buy a TDI clean diesel engine, a unique proposition in the class. Where the Passat falls down is in fuel economy with the gas engines and some popular features are only available on top models.
Overall, the new Altima is a solid choice in a category loaded with strong competitors. The leading fuel economy rating on the four-cylinder and the wide availability of technology features, including one of the lowest priced navigation systems on the market, are just some of the reasons why it should remain high on midsize sedan buyer's shopping lists.
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