Nissan has always been in the shadows of Toyota, especially in the U.S., and the ultimate measure of success is volume. The mid-size sedan segment is the most competitive in the industry where (Toyota) Camry and (Honda) Accord have led the way. In recent years, the Nissan Altima has challenged them and in some months passed them for best sales. Nissan does rely heavily on fleet sales or sales to rental car companies and businesses who buy in volume. Regardless, the numbers are there and for 2016 the Altima receives a mid-cycle refresh.
I won’t get into the details of what’s been changed, but it’s the usual suspects – headlights, grille, taillights, bumper and minor interior upgrades. In other words, they typically don’t change body panels, body structure or engines so there isn’t much to talk about. At the end of the day, buying a mid-size sedan in America today is like buying lumber…..it’s a commodity and they all serve the same purpose.
Nissan was the first to go the way of the CVT or continuously variable transmission and now others like Honda and Subaru have adopted the same awful technology, but it does offer incremental fuel savings so car companies have to take it into consideration. Back to the Altima, the only other thing that really sets it apart are its NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats. As someone who owns a Zero Gravity lounge chair which puts your back parallel to the floor to remove pressure on the spine, I can assure you that’s not happening in the Altima. However, they are comfortable and may be the best seats in the segment.
Now we come to the most important feature….price. On any given day, every mid-size sedan has factory rebates, subsidized financing and probably additional dealer discounts. And these can change on a daily basis and can vary depending on where you live. In most cases, you can drive a mid-grade Altima (or any of its competitors) for around $200 a month with about $2,000 down. Some deals are better than others depending on how much demand exists for the car and how old it is.