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