Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nissan Altima Hybrid review


I was really curious to drive a real hybrid. Not something like the Saturn Vue Hybrid I drove a few weeks ago. Where you pay about $3500 for a 1mpg gain.
I drove the Prius before and I am must say I'm not a big fan. It feels to me like driving a washing machine.
The Altima (and the Camry hybrid) are geared toward people who want a more "normal" driving experience.

-HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Well, it just looks exactly like a regular Altima. Just like the Camry hybrid does look like a regular Camry. These are not show off cars.
They don't make a statement. Or maybe the one that you "don't want to make a statement". You just want to save gas.
It's kind of like giving to charity anonymously.
I think the Altima is a really good looking car no matter what version.


_HOW IS IT INSIDE?
Again, pretty much like all other Altimas. Except for the video screen, telling you what's going on under the hood.
The interior of all Altimas is very nicely designed. Although it doesn't have as much personality as the Malibu's interior.
It is pretty bland, but materials are all of very good quality and everything fits very nicely.
The back seat is also very roomy.
The version I tested was loaded with every single options. But it still didn't have memory settings for the seats.


-HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
-Ride.
The ride is very smooth without ever being too soft. Again, very similar to the other versions.

-Steering.
I thought the steering was a bit on the luxury/over boosted side. But it was still precise.
And for a car you're not supposed to drive like a sports car, I guess it's OK.

-Engine.
This is the heart of the car. The gas engine is so smooth and quiet that it is very hard to tell when it switches from electric to gas. Or when it turns itself on and off. It seems to be a perfect match for the electric motor.
I was able to drive up to about 37MPH on electric alone!
Sure, as soon as you push it just a little bit, the gas engine starts.
But still, it is a lot of fun, cruising at 30MPH in total silence. It really feel futuristic.

-Transmission.
I am usually not a fan of CVTs. But this is the 2nd Nissan CVT I drive and it is, again, excellent.
If you really want to punch it, you will still miss the feel of downshifting, but this is not at all what this car is about.
There is enough power for almost any use, and the CVT is more than up to the task in this car.
A perfect match to the engine.

-SO???
Well. The loaded Altima Hybrid I drove was about $34 000. Very expensive for a mainstream midsized sedan.
The equivalent SL model, with the 2.5 Liter engine will cost about $30 000. So that is a $4000 difference.
In today's market, you can get the Hybrid for $2000 under MSRP, and the SL for $3000 under.
So in real life, the difference is more like $5000.

Is it worth it???

The Hybrid is rated at 35 MPG city and 33MPG HWY.
During a whole week of driving, including about 40% Hwy, I averaged 40MPG. Yes, 40.
So at 40MPG I would say this is a real advantage over almost any car that size.

Is it still worth $4000? I'm not sure. And that all depends on how fast gas will get back to $4 a gallon or more..

But the Altima Hybrid is a really good family car no matter what. And a pleasure to drive.
Plus, it does start at under $27 000, for a hybrid with real advantages over the gas version.
Unlike the Aura....

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

great!

too bad i can't buy one in my state. i would much rather have this in my driveway than some pragmatic camry hybrid.

so i bought a 2009 jetta TDI wagon with a stickshift...i'm getting like 46 mpg (80% highway) and only paid $700 more than the gas 2.5L model

Anonymous said...

If I was in the market for a replacement to an existing car, I might consider a hybrid. I am not going to go out, compelled by guilt, and replace my perfectly functioning current car. Now, one thing that you can use a hybrid for is a hedge against future possible upward price creep at the pump. If the hybrid model is comparable in price to the gas version, that is not a bad approach to trying to both save money and sleep better at night.

Anonymous said...

Does'nt the regular 4 cyl Altima get 31 or 32 mpg hwy.....and this hybrid is 33 mpg hwy? And according to the add on this site the Aura hybrid is rated at 34 mpg hwy. Am I missing something? And I was ripping on the Aura for this same 1 mpg difference. Perhaps I need to do some more research.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review, Vince.

You know, for all the nice cars they've made, Saturn looks pretty doomed - if their hybrids carry $3500 premiums for 1 mpg gain. That's not even worth it for the eco-bling (the folks who will pay $50,000 to get the next Prius first) crowd.

Pity, too, that all the money spent on hybrid technology and research went to waste paying the electric bills and healthcare premiums...

I hate to be Debbie Downer, but these hybrid cars are too little, too late.

Anonymous said...

I found the interior plastics were comprised of very low quality bits other than the dash top. The fit and finish of the Altima I test drove a year ago was awful, with flashing coming out of some of the pieces.

Nissan still hasn't made it IMHO.

Unknown said...

Too expensive. Although the Fusion Hybrid starts at the same price, a loaded one will be less than $34. I'm sure the Milan will reach that number however.

Anonymous said...

$4 gas? Why so pessimistic, Vince? I'm sure it will one day get there again, but you act like it will tomorrow.

As for the Altima, I am surprised that you call the interior materials "good quality." I checked out one of these new, and the hard cheap plastics are terrible. I opened the ashtray and it broke out. No joke - even the salesperson was surprised and made up excuses.

The Altima's not nad, but the design looks old already. Cheapness abounds, and the hybrid isn't worth it unless you are a badge prostitute.

Anonymous said...

Just because gas has come down in price there is no reason to get complacent. As soon as the economy kick starts again gas prices will rise.

Anonymous said...

this, the nissan Altima is the pinnacle of this segment, hybrid or not. It's the car that replaced the accord as consumer reports best car and its ahead of the Camry as well. I interior fit and finish is superb and certainly superior to any rival . the mazda 6 is just as nice. Nissan is the leader and any talk to the contrary is both unfounded and untrue and therefore ignorant.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for it, much better than GM's half assed effort. As for the Volt spoiling the party for Nissan? Not gonna happen, it is doubtful we will ever see the Volt. Great effort Nissan, glad they are taking hybrids seriously unlike GM.

Anonymous said...

"Nissan is the leader and any talk to the contrary is both unfounded and untrue and therefore ignorant."

Toyota supplied nissan with the hybrid technology. So the bit about nissan being the leader in hybrid terms is untrue and therefore ignorant.

Anonymous said...

""Nissan is the leader and any talk to the contrary is both unfounded and untrue and therefore ignorant."

Toyota supplied nissan with the hybrid technology. So the bit about nissan being the leader in hybrid terms is untrue and therefore ignorant."

Hahaha this guy is absolutely right. Nissan is the leader in absolutely nothing. Not gas mileage, horsepower, quality, reliability or anything. Let's not forget that Nissan almost filed for bankruptcy in the 1990's. Honda and Toyota never did that...

My brothers 2003 Altima has been a piece of junk.

Anonymous said...

i just checked on the nissan website, and nissan is even offering a $500 or $750 incentive on the hybrid altima. most buyers of the camry hybrid are paying at least that much over sticker, according to kelly blue book

nissan's glory days (the first SE-R Spec V, early '90s Maxima, 300ZX, etc.) have long been over. yet it's creeping up the sales charts and did indeed impress the old farts at consumer reports

as for you vince, why isn't the hybrid for sale in all states?