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#14

in 2009 Affordable Midsize Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $13,533 - $13,533
Original MSRP: $26,650 - $26,650
MPG: 35 City / 33 Hwy
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2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The 2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid often surprises test drivers. They show up expecting to grade on a curve, since hybrids often trail traditionally-powered cars in overall performance. But once inside the car, they realize that the Altima Hybrid is actually fun to drive. It's not as quick off the line as the gasoline-powered Altima, but its shares that car's composure when the road gets twisty. What some reviewers do criticize is the car's noise level.

  • "The 2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid is a green car that doesn't compromise driving pleasure. While it certainly wouldn't be thought of as a canyon carver or a track-day candidate, this hybrid manages to retain much of the acceleration and road-holding prowess of the conventional four-cylinder Altima." -- Edmunds
  • "In keeping with the brand's sportier vibe, Nissan's engineers gave the Altima hybrid a slightly huskier exhaust note -- though the effect is somewhat akin to having someone in the trunk making motorboat sounds." -- Los Angeles Times

Acceleration and Power

The 2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 158 horsepower, which is wedded to an electric motor with 40 horsepower. Net horsepower is 198 -- more than a four-cylinder Altima, but less than the V6-powered version. Reviewers say the combination gives the car plenty of power, which is transmitted to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The car isn't particularly quick off the line, but power comes on steadily and evenly all the way past highway speed. A few reviewers, however, say the transition between electric and gasoline power is too abrupt and noticeable. The EPA says the Altima Hybrid gets 35/33 mpg city/highway, but some reviewers don't find those numbers accurate.

  • "The Hybrid is generally strong, though the CVT in this application slightly dulls passing response." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Acceleration from a standing start is not a rush, but the hybrid powertrain dishes up smooth, consistently increasing power." -- Sacramento Bee
  • "We can't be as complimentary about the hybrid system's integration, as there's noticeable surging at cruising speeds, and more vibration when the engine awakens from 'auto-stop' mode than in the Toyota Prius and Camry hybrid." -- Road and Track
  • "In urban driving in electric-only mode, the car displays impressive throttle response at low speeds, and we enjoyed the smooth ride courtesy of the electric motor and the CVT" -- CNET
  • "If your big issue is drivetrain smoothness, Altima's not for you. The gasoline engine shakes and shimmies when it automatically starts and begins augmenting the electric motor's power." -- USA Today
  • "As they say at the EPA, 'Your mileage may vary.' ... The hybrid's average, which included test-track thrashing, was a dismal 23 mpg. We occasionally go the mpg gauge to nudge over 30 mpg, but not by much." -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

The 2009 Nissan Altima is regarded as a sharp handler in all its forms -- hybrid and conventional. The car's electrically-assisted steering pleases most reviewers, which is not an easy feat, but Nissan seems to have found a weighting that most reviewers consider entertaining and responsive. The Altima hybrid's suspension smooths out bumps without over-dampening the ride, and the brakes -- often a sore point with hybrids -- perform well.

  • "Steering is notably precise, with ample feedback." -- Edmunds
  • "You get the Altima's athletic reflexes, quick steering, and, in this test car, excellent braking (167 feet from 70 mph) -- dynamic distinctions worth having, hybrid or not." -- Car and Driver
  • "The electric steering in the Altima Hybrid is one of the best around. It has good on-center feel, and there's no sense of artificiality, like I've experienced in some other vehicles." -- MSN
  • "Unlike other hybrids ... the effect of the Altima Hybrid's regenerative braking is subtle enough to ensure that it does not significantly interfere with the feel of the brakes." -- CNET

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