The 2013 Nissan Altima sedan was completely redesigned this year, with a more refined look and interior, and better standard and optional equipment. The all-new model seems likely to keep the Altima amongst the best-selling mid-size sedans in the U.S., along with the perennial leaders, Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
And fuel efficiency is one of the notable improvements, with the 2013 Altima earning a combined EPA rating of 31 mpg with the standard powertrain, a 182-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). That's 1 mpg better than the best Accord--also all-new for 2013--and 2 mpg higher than the mild-hybrid Chevrolet Malibu with eAssist. The new Altima's rating, by the way, breaks down to 27 mpg city, 38 mpg highway.
That standard four-cylinder Altima offers plenty of power for conventional point-A-to-point-B trips, though the engine can get loud at the higher reaches of its power range. There's another option, too: Premium Altimas offer a quick, 270-hp 3.5-liter V-6 that's rated at 25 mpg combined (22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway). The V-6 is also paired to the CVT, but it adds standard paddle controls and a manual shift mode to simulate the gear ratios of a conventional automatic transmission.
Beyond better fuel efficiency, the new 2013 Altima has a new design, updated safety gear to comply with new, more aggressive crash tests, and more infotainment features on offer. Overall, Nissan has effectively vanquished two of the old Altima's main flaws, a cheap interior and substandard safety equipment. In doing so, though, some of the Altima's sport-sedan feel has been sacrificed to better ride and a quieter interior. It's not longer as lean and taut as its predecessor--though we suspect that efficiency-minded family buyers won't mind the tradeoffs.
The 2013 Nissan Altima's new shape owes a lot to its upscale Infiniti relatives, with a large, chrome-trimmed horizontal-bar grille and a sophisticated but adult shape. The swelling fenders give the Altima a hint of its bad-boy Juke baby brother, but the interior is conservative, straightforward, and centered around larger touchscreen displays than ever before.
Meanwhile, the Altima Coupe carries over essentially unchanged for the 2013 model year, with only a single powertrain: the 175-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and CVT. As of yet, Nissan hasn't said if a new version of the coupe Altima will be coming.
There's plenty of room for five inside the new Altima sedan, which rides on the same 109.3-inch wheelbase as its predecessor. The company spends a great deal of time on seat engineering, and it shows, with the front seats proving very comfortable for hours on end. Leather seats remain optional, but even on base models, the front seats are (manually) adjustable six ways for the driver and four for the passenger. Heated front seats and a power-adjustable driver's seat are an option as well. The rear seat backs are split 60/40, and one or both fold down to expand the trunk space into the cabin.
On the road, the new Altima has a notably better ride, handling virtually every road surface with aplomb. It no longer has the tightly controlled ride and eager feel that were dialed into the old hydraulic steering--the new 2013 model has an electro-hydraulic system now--but that seems to be an inevitable byproduct of the switch to more efficient, less power-sapping steering systems.
The NHTSA gives the 2013 Nissan Altima five stars for its overall crash-test safety, but the IIHS hasn't yet weighed in on whether it will earn a "Top Safety Pick" designation this year. The list of safety systems includes a standard or optional rearview camera, blind-spot monitors, and lane-departure warning systems, as well as the usual anti-lock brakes, traction control, and tire-pressure monitors.
For 2013, the Altima finally catches up to the competition on the infotainment front. If offers new bundles of features connected to audio and Bluetooth--now standard on the sedan, along with audio streaming, incoming text-to-voice translation, and the more predictable CD player and auxiliary jack. The audio system permits streaming from Pandora, and accepts routing and mapping data from Google Maps, too. All these data sources are displayed not only on the touchscreen in the center stack, but also a small central display between two large instruments in the cluster ahead of the driver.
The substantial options list includes Bose audio; satellite radio; a navigation system with 7-inch touchscreen display; a glass sunroof; dual-zone climate control; push-button start; a wide-view rearview camera; automatic headlights; LED taillights; heated rearview side mirrors; and a USB port (which we feel at this point ought to be standard on every car).
The 2013 Nissan Altima sedan starts at $21,500, and its seven trim levels and models range up to roughly $30,000--putting it right in the heart of the ultra-competitive mid-size sedan market. With the best EPA gas-mileage rating of any competitor in that segment, the new Altima is likely to pose stronger-than-ever competition for Honda, Toyota, Ford, Chevy, and Hyundai.
For more details, see the full review of the 2013 Nissan Altima range on our sister site, TheCarConnection.
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