in 2012 Affordable Midsize Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $13,486 - $19,736
Original MSRP: $20,550 - $31,200
MPG: 23 City / 32 Hwy
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2012 Nissan Altima Performance

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

The 2012 Nissan Altima is a good performer, provided you pick the right engine. With a 3.5-liter V6 and the standard Continuously Variable Transmission, the automotive press says the Altima can be pretty fun to drive, although one test driver thinks even the base four-cylinder engine is quite good.

Among affordable midsize sedans, reviewers think the Nissan Altima is a solid daily driver that has a bit of pep.

  • "… The entry-level 2.5 and midrange 2.5 S models offer a decidedly more engaging driving experience than you'd expect from such practically oriented automobiles." -- Edmunds
  • "Coupes ride firmly, but they're not as sporty as Nissan would like you to think they are." -- Consumer Guide
  • "This is an agreeable sedan with a bit of poke." -- AutoWeek
  • "Even with the CVT, however, the Altima is blessed with a willing chassis and taut ride and thus remains one of the better drivers within the mid-size-sedan class certainly more fun than the Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata." -- Car and Driver

Acceleration and Power

The auto industry is satisfied with the Nissan Altima’s performance, but the fun factor depends on the engine you choose.

The 2012 Nissan Altima is available with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 175 horsepower or a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 270 horsepower. Reviewers generally prefer the V6 because it’s faster and adds a sport-tuned suspension. But if you’re considering a four-cylinder model, be aware that some test drivers think it’s very noisy.

Altima sedans can only be purchased with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). As a gearless transmission, the CVT uses an infinite number of ratios to propel the car and optimize fuel economy. Reviewers often say that Nissan’s CVT is the best in the business, but some are still bothered by the lack of a traditional gearbox. A CVT brings on power in one constant smooth line, without the shifts of a conventional automatic.

A six-speed manual transmission is available on Altima coupes, but reviewers have more negative comments about that stick shift than they do about most others in this class.

The EPA reports that four-cylinder Altima sedans and coupes with an automatic transmission should get 23/32 mpg city/highway, while the manual transmission on the coupe will get 23/31. Sedans and coupes equipped with the V6 engine and automatic transmission get 20/27 mpg city/highway, while V6 coupes with the manual transmission get 18/27.

  • "The CVT pleased several of our editors with its smooth and responsive performance, while others felt it made the engine seem noisier under hard acceleration." -- Edmunds
  • "Neither engine sounds especially refined. While quiet at cruise, both the 4-cylinder and V6 roar obtrusively, even during gentle acceleration." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The engine doesn't seem powerful from the specifications, but the CVT manages to make use of it well. … Nissan's real secret is its programming, which tells the CVT which range of ratios to use depending on engine speed, throttle input, and other data." -- CNET
  • "With the V-6, Altima is quick and quiet; with the 4, it's a little less quick and a lot less quiet." -- Chicago Tribune

Handling and Braking

The Nissan Altima definitely isn’t the fastest or sportiest car on the market, but the industry agrees that it provides a comfortable ride. While the base Altima’s handling is even a bit sporty, V6 models benefit from a sport-tuned suspension, which is a nice touch for a car in this price range. However, if you want a more sophisticated handler, the Honda Accord or Ford Fusion will still likely outrun the Altima on a twisty road.

  • "The brakes offer good stopping control, though one test model suffered from touchy pedal action." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The suspension here is biased toward ride comfort, though handling doesn't suffer all that much for it. On the highway, the Altima's ride quality never feels harsh or busy, and wind and road noise are muted." -- Edmunds
  • "While not quite as dynamically sophisticated as the Honda Accord, the Altima's suspension soaks up minor road imperfections while delivering a comfortable and well-controlled ride over most surfaces." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Ride is economy-car soft to cushion bumps that lead to bruises. Handling is econocar as well, and not as pinpoint in sharp turns or twisties. To enjoy top mileage in a roomy sedan, you have to make a sacrifice or two, and sports car-like maneuverability is one. But standard stability and traction control ensure that this less-than-track-ready Altima will grip pavement when and where needed, even when wet." -- Chicago Tribune

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