Full 2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid Review
What's New for 2010
The 2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid gets the same mild face-lift as other Altimas, meaning a new grille, hood and front fascia. The cabin likewise gets a slight update in the form of new fabrics, a revised instrument cluster and an updated premium audio system that includes iPod integration and a new display screen with a rearview monitor.
When it comes to being kind to the earth and having a small appetite for fuel, hybrid cars are tough to beat. Less endearing, however, are their typically odd styling and lackluster performance. Having an engaging personality isn't usually part of the design dictum. The 2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid, however, isn't your typical hybrid. Yes, it runs clean and lean, but it also looks and drives like a normal midsize sedan. Make that a normal Altima sedan, and that's good news for those who enjoy driving a responsive, athletic vehicle.
Thanks to a licensing agreement with Toyota, the Altima Hybrid shares a number of hybrid components with the respected Camry Hybrid. However, it does employ a Nissan engine -- a revised version of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder in the regular Altima -- as well as a specialized continuously variable transmission (CVT). The end result is a better performer than the Camry Hybrid that still earns the same impressive 34 mpg for the EPA's combined fuel-economy estimate.
The Altima Hybrid's other EPA estimates stand at 35 mpg city/33 highway. To put that into perspective, consider that the standard four-cylinder Altima rates just 23 city/32 highway and 27 combined. Though the hybrid boasts a sizable improvement in fuel economy over the standard Altima, you should also know that it comes at a nearly $5,000 price premium compared to the well-equipped Altima S.
Speaking of pricing, the biggest drawback for the Altima (and indeed many of Nissan's models) is the way that desired optional features cannot be bought à la carte but rather are bundled into a trio of large and expensive packages. Adding insult to injury is the fact that as you move up in the package hierarchy, choosing the upper ones requires the purchase of the lower ones. So although the Altima Hybrid may start out equipped and priced similar to its closest rivals, those packages can quickly put it at a price disadvantage compared to the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Camry Hybrid.
Still, in the admittedly limited hybrid midsize-sedan segment, the 2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid earns our affection, along with the Fusion, by offering impressively swift acceleration, sporty handling, a comfortable cabin and miserly fuel consumption. If you're likewise enamored, make sure you live in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island or Vermont, as those are the only states where it is currently sold.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid sedan is available in just one trim level. Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, instrumentation unique to the hybrid and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
Options are combined into three major packages, each package requiring the purchase of the preceding package. The Convenience package includes an eight-way power driver seat, automatic headlights, a rear spoiler, folding sideview mirrors with integrated turn signals, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated audio controls.
The Premium package includes a sunroof, heated sideview mirrors, leather seating, heated front seats, rear air-conditioning vents, Bluetooth and a nine-speaker Bose audio system with a six-CD/MP3 changer, a USB port, iPod connectivity, satellite radio and a color display with a rearview monitor.
The Technology package (which requires the preceding packages) adds a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic information, digital music storage, Bluetooth streaming audio and a hybrid energy-and-fuel-flow readout.
Powertrains and Performance
The Altima's hybrid powertrain is similar to Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive in both design and function. It combines a modified version of the Altima's 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (which makes 158 horsepower in this application) and an electric motor capable of 40 hp and 199 pound-feet of torque. A specialized CVT is standard. The gasoline and electric power plants operate one at a time or together, depending on driving conditions, to optimize fuel economy and power. Teamed up, they make 198 hp.
The EPA estimates the Altima Hybrid's fuel economy to be 35 mpg city/33 mpg highway and 34 mpg in combined driving. These numbers are comparable to the Toyota Camry Hybrid's but lower than the Ford Fusion Hybrid's. Another benefit for the Altima Hybrid is its qualification as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle, meaning it is one of the cleanest gasoline-burning cars on the planet. In performance testing, we clocked the Altima Hybrid from zero to 60 mph in an impressive 7.6 seconds, making it the quickest of the class.
Standard safety equipment for the 2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags and front-seat active head restraints.
In crash tests, the Altima Hybrid was awarded the highest scores possible from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (five out of five stars) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ("Good" ratings) for both frontal- and side-impact protection. In the latter agency's new roof-crush test, the Altima scored a rating of "Acceptable," the second highest out of four.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Altima Hybrid offers a roomy cabin with first-rate materials that are on par with those of the Fusion and better than what's in the Camry. Interior storage is plentiful, with several bins and large compartments.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive, but rear seating can be a bit awkward for taller passengers. Since the rear seat cushion is mounted fairly low to the floor, thigh support for taller folks is compromised. Cargo space is limited due to the Hybrid's battery pack. Compared to the conventional Altima's 15-cubic-foot trunk capacity, the Hybrid's capacity rates just 9 cubes.
The 2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid is a green car that doesn't completely suck the life out of you. While it certainly shouldn't be thought of as a sport sedan, this hybrid manages to retain much of the spirited acceleration and road-holding prowess of the conventional four-cylinder Altima. Enthusiasts will also appreciate the steering, which is notably precise for a hybrid car while providing respectable feedback.