The Theme From “Salazar’s Hatstand”

Why not wander over to the US market to inspect activities thereover? Well, why not?

2019 Nissan Altima: source

Even as the death of the saloon car is debated (Ford and FCA are giving up in the US), Nissan has flung piles of succulent, cold cash at a new entrant in the medium-sized saloon sector, offering us its new Altima. The engine changes are baffling in that displacement and output relations are upside down. The 2.5 has been utterly (95%) overhauled and the 3.5 V6 is now out, replaced by a 2.0 compression in-line four that uses less fuel and can go faster.

So, where there were before a 2.5 litre L4 and a 3.5 litre V6, there is a “comprehensively revised” 2.5 litre four-pot good for 188 bhp and a 2.0 quad-cylinder replacing the V6 which produces 248 bhp. That seems a bit backwards to me: the bigger displacement utterly reworked engine gets less bang for its fuel than the 2.0 litre turbo. Hmmm. Call in the engineers.

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Enough combustion. We shall slam the hood and walk around the car.  This slide show puts the Altima up against its bigger sister, the Maxima. As you can see the Altima has a slightly more angular look to it though it’s not as simple as that these days, what with the mixing of round forms and sharp creases.

2019 Nissan Altima interior:

The Maxima has a rather bloated appearance in comparison – much of that impression of inflation is to do with the angle of the bonnet and windscreen (the angular difference is not that great) and the vestigial nature of the boot which is lost among the partying antics of the rear lamp and the heavily styled C-pillar. The DLO is very shallow in comparison with the Altima.  In some ways the Altima is a more formal-looking car than its senior relative.

Ford’s Focus also has a less steeply inclined front screen. Mercedes C-class is another eschewing a raked front screen. The sloping front had reached its limits.

2019 Nissan Altima: Nissan USA

The marked-up side view shows how fussy small details trip up what is a nicely proportioned sports saloon. They are not enough to spoil the car though I really would like to know what the motivator in the studio is for these. The most egregious failing is the crease colliding with the bonnet shutline. The C-pillar has three things going on: a spar of chrome, a fin-effect reminiscent of the current Astra and an ill-considered black-out strip that wanders backwards and then downwards. That’s too much styling.

2019 Nissan Altima: source

While the car is overall a touch busier than I want, the front end graphics are among the most succesful of recent years. Dear BMW: please look at this. Nissan have one straightforward articulation around the fog lamps which is clearly an addition to the main surface emerging from the wing to the large but clearly-realised grille. From this view the Opel-esque lower door sculpting is even more apparent than on the side view.

2019 Nissan Altima: source

At the rear we find a little less to please our critical palates. Airflow management foils the attempt to get a smooth blending from the side to the rear, hence that crease jagging down from the bootlid: it does distract from the lamps. And one can see the rather applied character of the C-pillar.

Follow the black area from the back to the door frame. It does resemble little more than a thick layer of black paint. The number plate recess generates noise, with two diagonals which I expect are supposed to parallel or echo the air-flow management creases. The metal-effect plate between the exhaust pipes is at odds with the outline of the black plastic next to it.

All in all, the Altima is one of the less annoying entrants in the sport saloon market. It is, like the others, plagued by a few too many details. I ask, is there anything left of Japanese design. Pleasant as the car is, it’s not especially Japanese or American or European. Would it sell in the EU?

((Slide show credit: MaximaAltima.))

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

13 thoughts on “The Theme From “Salazar’s Hatstand””

  1. It will be interesting to see how the new Toyota Camry fares in Europe (including its return to the UK). I expect that sales expectations are quite modest. The ‘mid size’ sedan market is dying, though, so Toyota no doubt reasoned they needed to try a different approach.

    I wish Honda would bring the new Accord over to Europe. Apart from having a face with an excessively heavy brow, it seems like a great car.

    Finally, it is not at all unusual for US models to have higher capacity engines at the bottom of the range, and smaller capacity turbos at the top. Clearly, some American customers still prefer a relatively unstressed, naturally-aspirated engine.

    1. I suspect the real reason is that larger capacity non-turbo engines are cheaper to make than lower capacity turbos…
      Higher capacity in itself just means more metal… turbos mean more sensors, actuators, more complex ECU…

    2. I read this as a transitional arrangement. Smaller displacement engines boosted by turbos are becoming the norm everywhere, so it’s not entirely surprising to see this kind of overlap – particularly in the US. I personally quite like the idea of being able to choose between two fundamentally different power plants.

    3. Hi, Jacomo. Agreed about the choice, and I know which I’d go for secondhand after, say, eight years and 100k miles. I wonder how a 1.0L Mondeo would fare after such use?

      Moreover, many of those small capacity turbo engines are nothing as fuel efficient in real world use as they appear in official testing. The Fiat twin-air is one of the more notorious in this regard.

    4. These small ‘downsized’ engines are not meant to be any more fuel efficient in real world conditions. They’re only meant to give better fuel consumption/CO2 emission under synthetic WLTP laboratory conditions so the EU commission can boast about saving the Earth by reducing CO2. If somebody dared to define test conditions that give real world consumption figures this nonsense would be gone in no time as well as all kinds of plug-in hybrids and other gimmicks that exist only for unrealistic consumption figures under unrealistic test conditions.

  2. When, oh when, will we reach peak C/D-pillar fiddling? I struggle to think of a single example where the addition of black paint/shiny plastic/chrome/stainless steel highlights in an attempt somehow to connect the DLO around the back of the car improves its appearance. (I’m excluding cars such as the MINI hatch and Range Rover, where the whole pillar is covered to create a floating roof. These I generally like.)

    Doubtless, the collective knowledge of the DTW tribe will soon disabuse me of my prejudices in this regard.

    1. Of the ones that are just black trim and not glazing, the Suzuki Swift and Opel Astra get away with it. Some of the others are a lot less satisfying. This car didn´t need it.

    2. @Dave…
      I fail to see the logic of your comments against plug in hybrids where it depends on how they are used, ie if mostly charged and run on electric they can produce phenomenal figures and it could even be possible to never use any petrol. The current record is 6200 mpg on a Volt which obviously has been used primarily as an electric. Conventional non-plug hybrids always favour petrol and thus can never compete in this arena but still win over non hybrids and like any car using carbon based fuels depends on drive cycles and the human factor.

  3. @Daniel O Callaghan..
    ” Moreover, many of those small capacity turbo engines are nothing as fuel efficient in real world use as they appear in official testing” I often wonder if this isn’t due to aggressive use trying to prove a point that they are capable of performance beyond their size. This theory also springs to mind with electrics where acceleration potential seems to be exploited by most over conserving the battery for range.

  4. I really cannot see what the confusion over the new Altima’s engines is. It’s completely straightforward.

    Nissan have a dog-eared 2.5 four cylinder normally aspirated engine they’ve used for well over a decade in the Altima. This year they ditched the port injection and went Direct Injection on it. Horsepower went up by a few.

    Nissan has a 3.5 l normally aspirated V6 used in its larger vehicles. It was an option in the Altima up till now.

    Ford uses a 2.5 l normally aspirated four in the Fusion. They had a 3.5 V6 as an optional engine. In 2012 when the new model arrived the V6 was dropped and the 2.0t Ecoboost turbo substituted as the optional engine.

    Honda had a 2.4l normally aspirated four in the Accord, with a 3.5 V6 as optional. For 2017, they dumped the V6 and made a new 2.0l turbo the optional engine.

    Hyundai has a 2.4 l normally aspirated four as base engine in the Sonata. The V6 was dropped in 2011 for a 2.0l turbo four

    Which is to say, Nissan this year are merely copying Ford, Honda and Hyundai from times past. Their upmarket optional engine is the new variable compression ratio 2.0l turbo.

    All the aforementioned 2.0 litre turbos weigh less than the V6 engines they replaced and have similar power and better torque.

    I cannot for the lfe of me understand what is so difficult for you to comprehend, unless you decided merely to be obdurate. I mean, come on, this is not rocket science! Of course the turbos are smaller displacement than the normally-aspirated engines – they’re boosted to give far more power and low rev torque than the cooking engines.

    Another point completely missed in Nissan’s case is that both engines are available only with a CVT, the droney descendant of Van Doorne. That alone means I won’t be darkening a Nissan dealer’s door trying to cadge an Altima test drive. CVTs I cannot personally stand, they make a car into a moo cow. And I assure you there is no sport in an Altima, nor do they claim it has any. It’s a staid old bus of a middle-sized sedan, handily bested by the Accord, Mazda6 and likely the Camry which is the only one to retain a V6 option (which will no doubt change to their 2.0t in the near future). My patience with the general crud Nissan produces is very low – it’s at the very bottom of the totem pole.

  5. As usual, it looks incredibly middle-of-the road, and like the Altima before it (and most Nissans) will sell because Nissan dealers tend to finance anything with a pulse.

    I’ve driven literally all of the generations of the Altima (and owned a Gen II 1998 Model); it’s always been a serviceable but not really stand out car. It’s big restyling in 2002 was nifty, and it definitely drove sharper than the car it replaced, but as a whole the Altima has always been an also-ran in the segment. I had a 2016 2.5L CVT Automatic as a rental car about a year ago, nothing about the car was exceptionally stand out. The 2.5L QR25DE is an older unit, and it lacks things like GDI and other nifty tricks, but coupled with the CVT auto it worked well enough. Despite it not being a small car with a not particularly small or new tech engine, I still managed to average 30MPG US in it for the three days I had it.

    Also, many US cars have been offering downsized turbo units in place of older V6 units for quite some time now. Partially, in MPG tests they do beat out their V6 offerings. Real world? Hit or miss; generally if you stay out of boost you’ll be rewarded with good economy. Also, the now-ubiquitous 2.0L Turbo engines generally have a torque curve that comes sooner and is flatter than the V6 they replace, and lag is generally imperceptible by most consumers.

    Heck, GM’s offering in this class (Chevy Malibu) uses a 1.5L Turbo, or a 2.0L Turbo. I’ve driven the 1.5T; it’s so much better to drive and gets much better economy than the 2.5L naturally aspirated in the old car.

    Also, many of these cars do double duty as volume sellers in China; and China has different tax rules on cars with 2.0L and 1.5L and smaller.

    Also, the only one who really has “issues” with real world consumption of these small downsized engines seem to consistently be Ford. GM has been putting the old-tech 1.4L Turbo (no GDI, Iron Block) in the Cruze and Sonic, and both of those cars (Cruze especially) are known for being generally reliable (engine wise) with good economy. I also haven’t heard of any fuel or longevity issues with units from VW or Honda, either.

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