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#12

in 2010 Affordable Midsize Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $15,443 - $15,443
Original MSRP: $26,780 - $26,780
MPG: 35 City / 33 Hwy
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2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid Performance

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

Test drivers have started adjusting their expectations of hybrid cars because of vehicles like the Altima Hybrid. It offers a driving experience that nearly matches that of a conventional midsize car. It has the sharp handling of the gasoline-powered Altima, and decent acceleration for a hybrid car. Reviewers do complain that the transition between gas and electric power is a bit abrupt in the Altima Hybrid, producing a mild shudder not felt in the Toyota Camry or Ford Fusion Hybrid.

  • “What is it like to drive the 2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid? Not terribly different than pure-gasoline engined Nissan.” -- Examiner.com
  • "The…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
  • "Altima -- hybrid or not -- is sportier than Camry. It feels more agile in corners, has a firmer ride, is quicker to scoot when you nail the throttle." -- USA Today
  • "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 2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid offers a total of 198 horsepower -- 158 from its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, with another 40 from its electric motor. Net horsepower is 198 -- more than a four-cylinder Altima, though less than the V6-powered version. Reviewers say the combination gives the car plenty of power.

That power is sent through a continuously variable transmission, which lacks traditional gears. Most reviewers like the CVT, which brings on power in one continuous, smooth band that lacks the shifting sensation of an automatic transmission.

A few reviewers also complain that the transition between electric and gasoline power is too abrupt and noticeable in the Altima Hybrid -- a complaint we rarely ever see about the Toyota Camry Hybrid or Ford Fusion Hybrid. The EPA says the Altima Hybrid will travel 35 miles in city driving on one gallon of gas, and 33 on the highway.

  • "The Hybrid is generally strong, though the CVT in this application slightly dulls passing response." -- Consumer Guide
  • "In my test drive of an Altima Hybrid, I noticed the easy power of the car. At times, it felt like it had a V6 ... The spunky feel also comes from the fact the Altima Hybrid is a bit lighter weight than the Camry Hybrid so the instantaneous torque of up to 199 lb-ft right at startup is palpable." --  MSN
  • "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
  • "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

Handling and Braking

The Nissan Altima is known for handling that's taut -- for a family sedan. The hybrid edition differs slightly from its gasoline-powered sibling, featuring electric power steering instead of the hydraulic power steering of the gas model. Reviewers say, however, that its crisp handling character remains. That gives it a real advantage over the duller Toyota Camry Hybrid. But the Ford Fusion Hybrid is every bit as athletic as the Altima Hybrid in the corners.

Reviewers are divided on the Altima Hybrid’s brakes. The car uses regenerative braking to recharge its batteries. Some reviewers say the brakes are smooth, while others notice a slight shudder when they engage, as well as an electronic whine. The effect may not bother some.

  • "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 Altima also shares Nissan's affection for crisper ride and hand-ling and more-vivid steering." By comparison, "The Camry hybrid drives a little bit like the world's most sophisticated hearse." -- Los Angeles Times
  • "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
  • “We found the regenerative braking activation to be less transparent than most other hybrids. In fact, it was barely translucent. The extra drag could be felt as the regen braking went into effect, and an electric motor whine was distinctly audible. Those who consider it a reminder of the good things they're doing for Mother Earth won't mind, but other hybrid systems handle the transition more smoothly and less noticeably.” -- Examiner.com

Next Steps: 2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid

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