Would you like to get 39 mpg highway in a midsize sedan? We kept waiting for the fuel gauge on the new Nissan Altima to move and it barely did. It came with a four-cylinder, fuel-stingy engine that gets excellent mileage. While you would think the 2.5-liter engine would be underpowered, this Altima 2.5 sedan isn’t low on power at all.
And a more potent V6 is also available but this week, we test drove the newly-updated 2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL model.
What’s New For 2016?
Altima has been mildly updated for 2016. The midsize sedan gets a restyled front and rear. Likewise, the interior has been updated bringing a bit more glamour to the Altima cabin.
Features & Options
Altima 2.5 SL ($28,570) comes with Bluetooth streaming audio/phone, CD player, and 17-inch alloy wheels. It also comes standard with a rearview camera, Intelligent Key, automatic headlights, and NissanConnect with mobile apps. Other features include an eight-way power driver seat, remote engine start, a blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, dual-zone automatic climate control, and satellite radio.
Luxury features include a heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, heated front seats, air vents for the rear seats, a four-way power front passenger seat, two-way adjustable front headrests, ambient interior lighting, and a premium Bose nine-speaker sound system.
This tester came with the optional Technology package ($1,700) that included adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic braking, and enhanced NissanConnect services with emergency telematics. It also came with a moonroof ($800), premium paint ($395), and carpeted floor mats ($210).
Total MSRP including destination: $32,510.
The Altima interior gets a mild makeover from the previous model year. The Beige color in the cabin wasn’t our favorite, but other color combinations are available. Fit and finish in the cabin is good with plenty of soft-touch plastic, but the plastics used are a tad excessive. Altima’s front seats are impressively comfortable and well-suited for taller drivers with plenty of legroom up front. Nissan says their seats have a NASA-inspired “zero gravity” design.
The cabin feels airy and there’s good visibility.
Controls are easy to use, and the heated steering wheel button was easy to locate. We turned on the heated seats and steering wheel, cranked up the premium Bose nine-speaker sound, and the cold weather outside faded away quickly. The heated outside mirrors took the frost off the glass on our morning commute.
Passengers in back have good legroom but taller passengers will have limited headroom due to the more stylish outside roof. Rear passengers get an A/C vent for added comfort too. The rear seats fold down with a 60/40 split for additional cargo carrying ability. The trunk is average with 15.4 cubic feet of space.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine in the SL produces 182 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. The powerplant comes mated to Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), driving the front wheels. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 27/39 city/highway and 31 combined mpg.
If the extra power of the available V-6 is not needed, this engine is a good choice for urban commuters.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine in the SL was a surprise for us this week. We thought it would be underpowered as we tested it at altitude in the Colorado mountains. However, the fuel-sipping four-cylinder pulled us up I-70 without issue and even had extra power to spare.
We don’t like CVT’s but Nissan’s continuously variable transmission comes with simulated stepped gears, making it feel more like a conventional automatic. During low speed acceleration the transmission feels almost like a traditional gearbox. In sport-shift mode, the CVT yields significantly greater responses.
The Altima’s fuel-stingy 2.5-liter engine feels considerably more eager than its horsepower and torque ratings suggest. Under acceleration, the refined 2.5-liter engine can still be loud when pushed hard. Overall, we were genuinely impressed with its performance and especially with the sedan’s fuel mileage.
Ride quality is smooth and quiet as well, especially on the open road at highway speeds.
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The 2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL offers comfort, luxurious features, and makes for a good family car for commuting in urban environments. This Altima tester came nicely equipped and we think it represents a good value. Nissan’s CVT technology is superior and we didn’t even think about it, which is a plus. If you want a fuel efficient sedan that’s a good daily driver, the Nissan Altima 2.5 SL is a worthy choice.
*Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy