The 2017 Nissan Altima, with its roomy and comfortable interior and excellent fuel economy, remains a perfectly acceptable mainstream midsize sedan choice. But don't expect a package that's head and shoulders above the rest of the segment.

Pricing and Equipment

The base 2017 Altima is pretty sparse, but for $400 more buyers can upgrade to the Altima S – it's worth the money. Starting at $23,765 (including an $865 destination and handling fee), the Altima S comes with a:

  • Color display for the audio system
  • 5.0-inch LCD (non-touch) screen
  • Proximity key
  • Rearview camera
  • USB port

Next up in the lineup is the SR trim, which is meant to be the sporty Altima. It builds on the S and adds 18-inch alloy wheels, special suspension tuning, a power driver's seat, and multiple interior and exterior styling updates. The SR starts at $25,335.

At the top of the lineup are the SV and SL grades, which start at $26,325 and $29,435, respectively. The SV builds off the S, not the SR, and comes with more premium features such as remote engine start, a blind spot monitor and rear-cross traffic alerts. Buyers can access a trio of packages on the SV trim. Convenience, Cold Weather, and Navigation packages add, unsurprisingly, convenience features like a sunroof, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, and navigation.

The range-topping SL nets buyers leather trim and seats, a power passenger seat, and Bose speakers. It's also the only Altima where the Technology package is offered, which includes the aforementioned navigation system and a host of safety features.

Nissan offers two engines for the Altima. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder delivers 182 horsepower and excellent fuel economy. The SR and SL models, meanwhile, are also available with a 3.5-liter V6 that's rated at 270 ponies and 258 pound-feet of torque. Both are mated to a continuously variable transmission.

Performance Pros

Nissan Altima
  • The base engine is plenty capable and adequately refined.
  • Continuously variable transmissions are polarizing, but Nissan's unit is one of the best on the market, delivering responsive, but invisible, behavior.
  • The brakes provide good communication through the pedal and bring things to a halt as needed.

Performance Cons

  • The 2017 Altima doesn't deliver the genuinely sporty driving dynamics that stood out on past models.
  • The CVT is the only transmission available, even on the base Altima.

Interior Pros

  • The interior is roomy thanks to its long wheelbase, delivering plenty of rear seat space.
  • Nissan's Zero Gravity seats are still some of the most comfortable around.
  • The dashboard is clean and symmetrically arranged.
  • The Altima delivers a quiet ride, due in large part to its use of acoustic glass and additional sound deadening techniques.

Interior Cons

Nissan Altima
  • The interior borders on bland, with its lack of exciting or upmarket touches.
  • The ride can be jittery on poor or uneven pavement.
  • The Altima is light on infotainment features unless you opt for the Navigation system, and that is only optional on SV and SL grades. Without that, the standard display audio system's screen is notably small and it's not even a touch display.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

The 2017 Nissan Altima delivers excellent fuel economy. The EPA rates the base engine at 27 city/39 highway/31 combined mpg, except on the sportier SR trim. That's tops among all midsize sedans that don't feature a hybrid powertrain or regenerative braking technology.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

Access to available safety and technology features is far too restrictive. The 2017 Altima was rated by the IIHS as a Top Safety Pick+, but only when equipped with the Tech Package. The only problem is that the package is only available on the range-topping SL trim, and even then, buyers must pay for the pricey package and add the optional moonroof in order to access it.

The Bottom Line

The Nissan Altima has kept up with the times well enough, but the only things that truly stand out are its comfortable front seats and superb fuel economy. The Altima's lack of pizzazz and technology give its rivals plenty of advantages over it.

The Kia Optima supplies the look of a far more expensive sedan, but for a price well within the budget of a midsize sedan buyer. Although it's hard for us to wrap our minds and wallets around a $37,000 SX Limited, the EX with standard leather seats is about $11,000 less. Choose one or both EX packages and you'll come away with one of the best-equipped models in this class for about $32,500.