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Roseville, Calif. – It’s not easy for the Nissan Altima. Despite being a solid midsize family sedan, the competition has always been formidable. And seemingly no matter what Nissan does, the Altima typically gets overlooked.

That trend did change for a bit when the redesigned Altima was introduced in 2013. A smart remodeling put a little scare into the competition, which brought about changes that once again put some distance between the top-tier midsize sedans – Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Ford Fusion, Mazda6 – and the Altima. The previous upgraded infotainment system was short-lived for the Altima when rivals made their upgrades.

With that said, we still believe the 2016 Nissan Altima is a solid selection for a midsize sedan. What will stick out is a new exterior design, a peppy four-cylinder engine (there is a V6 option), reasonable price, competitive gas mileage, and comfortable seating.

Speaking of seating – want to feel like an astronaut? The Altima features new “zero gravity” seats that were NASA inspired. The seats conform to different body shapes whether they are standard cloth or the leather optional. The cool seats aren’t available in the back, but those passengers will be comfy as well with good head and leg room for the typical adult.

One thing the Altima can brag about is the exterior. The highly-desired Camry and Accord may be better choices overall despite their vanilla-like look, but the Altima has the edge in styling. New this year is an attractive V-shaped grille design and sharper looking headlights and taillights. The Altima bumper is also new and combined with the taillight housings creates a good-looking back end.

What we’ve always enjoyed about the Altima has been performance, and that hasn’t changed, thanks to the responsive continuously variable transmissions (CVT). When we first started our week-long testing it was assumed the engine was a V6. In fact, it was the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine (182 horsepower, 180 pound-feet of torque) that was providing significant power as we tested it initially on a steep suburban hill. It seemed much quicker than the advertised 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds. More good news is the standard Altima engine gets an estimated 27-39 mpg.

Very pleased with the four-cylinder engine, I can only imagine the performance that the 3.5-liter, V6 (270 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque) produces. It’s been clocked going 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds and gets around 22-32 mpg.

2016 Nissan Altima

  • Performance: 2.5-liter, four cylinder, 182 horsepower; 3.5-liter, V6, 270 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: – 27-39 mpg; 22-32 mpg
  • Price estimate: $23,335 to $28,200
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance: 3 years/36,000; corrosion: 5 years/unlimited

The Altima also offers good handling for a family sedan. It can aggressively attack winding roads and tight corners – so there’s a definite fun factor. On the negative side, the Altima drives a bit rough over uneven surfaces and there is more engine noise than many competitors.

The real issue with the 2016 Altima is lack of interior sophistication. While not a problem here, many youthful drivers want the latest techy toys, including an in-depth smartphone app integration. Another issue is the Altima has a small 5-inch display screen that is positioned at an odd angle for optimum viewing.

While we personally like the Altima for its performance, appearance and comfort, the midsize sedan is lacking the interior makeup that many of its competitors provide. Nissan needs to rework the interior again to remain competitive.

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