What's New for 2001
GXE is available with a new Limited Edition package, which includes goodies like an eight-way power driver seat, remote keyless entry, floor mats, special badging and a security system.
When Nissan introduced its Infiniti J30 knockoff, Altima, in 1993, it was an instant hit. The term "affordable luxury" became synonymous with the new sedan, and consumers rushed out in droves to buy this car. Five years later, the Altima was redesigned with the goal of improving on its original style and appeal. Unfortunately, the second-generation edition didn't include the upscale design details and cut-rate luxury cabin that the original car possessed. Sales suffered as a result.
So Nissan made substantial refinements to the current-generation Altima just two years after its debut. Styling was cleaned up, cabin refinements were incorporated, and the powertrain was refined. Noise, vibration and harshness were quelled through the addition of sound-deadening materials, and a trick new automatically adjustable strut suspension improved the ride and handling.But sales remained stagnant, forcing Nissan to offer hefty customer rebates and dealer incentives to clear inventory. Dear consumer, what this means to you is a good deal on a decent, if not terribly exciting, car. If what you need is a reliable, roomy sedan that offers the ability to have a little fun when the road turns twisty, Nissan's Altima will fill the bill.
Available in base XE, mid-grade GXE, sporty SE and leather-lined GLE trims, the Altima is reasonably crashworthy, scoring average or better in government crash testing. Side impact airbags come standard on GLE and are optional on GXE and SE. Our favorite, not surprisingly, is the SE, since the GLE can't be bought with a manual transmission or four-wheel disc brakes.
When equipped with a stick shift, the standard 155-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine manages to get the 3,000-pound sedan to speed with surprising alacrity, running from rest to 60 mph in a hair over 8 seconds, though without refined noises emanating from beyond the firewall. Handling is an Altima strong point, with sharp steering and a nicely balanced chassis sporting an Acceleration-Sensitive Strut Valving (ASSV) four-wheel independent suspension with rear Super Toe Control. Models with 16-inch wheels have a front strut-tower brace for increased rigidity and responsiveness. ABS is optional on all Altimas except XE.
Simple interior design means it's easy to find and use controls and switches. Seating is comfortable front and rear, but beware that the leather used on some models ain't exactly high-quality hide. Wood tone accents dress things up a bit on GXE and GLE Altimas, in an effort to remind you that this Nissan's calling card is "affordable luxury."
Our primary complaint with the Altima, aside from its utter lack of personality and rather gruff truck-based engine, is with the quality of the materials that have gone into its construction. It's too easy to see where corners were cut, and slamming doors and the trunk lid don't impart a sense of solidity.
Nevertheless, the Altima represents a solid value. Want a nice set of wheels for less than $20,000? Drop by your local Nissan store.