Used 2006 Nissan Altima Review
Edmunds expert review
Though lacking a bit in refinement, the 2006 Nissan Altima is a midsize sedan to be desired, especially when equipped with the 250-horsepower V6.
What's new for 2006
Introduced in 1993, the first-generation Nissan Altima sold well, proved reliable and was rather fun to drive. A solid car all around, even today as an inexpensive used vehicle. Then, in 1998, Nissan redesigned it into obscurity. The car was still reliable and rather fun to drive, and it was even bigger inside and out than the original. Surefire recipe for success, right? Problem was it had the personality of a bowl of dry Grape Nuts. Staid styling, obvious cost-cutting and an overall tinny feel did the Altima no favors, and the "affordable luxury" advertising tag line no longer rang true. The Nissan car faded from consumer shopping lists, kept alive thanks only to fleet sales and hefty rebates.
With the third-generation Altima, Nissan said it wanted to bring a sense of passion and driving spirit back into the segment. Wanted? More like needed. Since its redesign in 2002, the Nissan Altima has been a wild success as buyers have been won over by its likable combination of performance, space and comfort. Interior design and materials have never been its strong suit in a class populated by the ever refined Accord, Camry and Passat, though Nissan improved the cabin quarters somewhat for 2005. Many competitors now have big V6s of their own to keep up with the Altima, while the Mazda 6 and Galant hold a slight edge in dynamics. Even so, the 2006 Nissan Altima still delivers a well-rounded package in either the sedate 2.5 S or the zoomy 3.5 SE. A slightly more powerful Altima SE-R model with a firmer suspension was added to the lineup last year, so for those looking for a family sedan that can still thrill in the turns, the Altima deserves serious attention.
Trim levels & features
Six Nissan Altima models are offered: the base 2.5, 2.5 S, 3.5 SE, 3.5 SL and SE-R. The 2.5 is a bare-bones model with minimal features. Most buyers will want to start with the 2.5 S as it has air conditioning; cruise control; a stereo with a CD player; power windows, locks and mirrors; and keyless entry. Next up is the 3.5 SE, which adds V6 power, 17-inch alloy wheels and sportier suspension tuning. The 3.5 SL has a softer suspension and smaller 16-inch wheels, but adds more upscale amenities like leather seating, a sunroof, a trip computer, power driver seat, automatic climate control, a Bose audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD changer and steering wheel-mounted controls; many of these features are optional on the 2.5 S and 3.5 SE. The performance-oriented Altima SE-R has all of the above features, plus an even firmer suspension than the 3.5 SE. It also has 18-inch wheels with summer tires, bigger brakes, unique gauges, dark chrome trim, sport seats and HID headlights. The only major stand-alone option for the Altima is a DVD-based navigation system.
Performance & mpg
The 2.5 Altima models are powered by a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine rated for 175 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque (170 hp and 175 lb-ft in PZEV states). The base 2.5 takes a five-speed manual transmission only, but 2.5 S buyers have their choice of the manual or a four-speed automatic. The 3.5 SE, 3.5 SL and SE-R come with a 3.5-liter V6. In the 3.5 SE and SL, this engine cranks out 250 horses and 249 lb-ft of twist. Tuning enhancements on the SE-R push horsepower and torque to 260 and 251, respectively. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual and a five-speed automatic on 3.5 SE and SE-R models; the 3.5 SL comes with an automatic only.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard; ABS is standard on the SE-R, 3.5 SL and automatic-equipped 3.5 SE and optional on all other Altimas, except the base 2.5. Also optional are front-seat side-impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Traction control is optional on V6 automatic models only. In government crash tests, the Nissan Altima received a perfect five stars for driver and front-passenger protection in frontal impacts. An Altima without side airbags earned three stars for side-impact protection. In IIHS frontal offset crash testing conducted by the IIHS, the Altima received the top rating of "Good."
Both engines render the 2006 Nissan Altima fun to drive, and its capable suspension gives the Nissan car a more sporting character than most family sedans. True enthusiasts will want to check out the Altima SE-R performance model as it offers the most aggressively tuned suspension.
The dashboard features a sporty three-pod instrument layout and an uncluttered center stack. The steering wheel offers tilt and telescoping adjustment. Both the front and rear seats are comfortable and roomy, and the trunk has a generous 15.6-cubic-foot capacity.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.