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2014 Nissan Altima Hybrid

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The new Nissan Altima is enjoying a sales up-swing at the moment following a $580 price cut that took effect May 3 of this year. The cheapest Altima’s are now just below $22,000 up to just above $30,000 for the loaded V-6 SL model. This comes on the back of poor launch sales and critiques of the marshmallow driving characteristics.

The big news for the 2014 Altima is the introduction of an all-new, Nissan-developed hybrid drivetrain option.

From extensive technical previews of the new supercharged 2.5-liter four plus Li-Ion battery packs, Nissan is clearly proud of the system and will also roll it out on the 2014 Pathfinder Hybrid for the first time.

Pre-2011 Ford and Nissan hybrids used technology from the Toyota Prius for the electrified system components including the transmission, power inverter, battery, and charging control unit via a licensing agreement. The Toyota-supplied components were then married to Ford or Nissan platform and engine designs.

As a result, the Altima Hybrid drove a lot like the Prius despite using a more-powerful gasoline engine for primary power. This is set to change with the new 2014 Altima Hybrid. The supercharged four-cylinder should deliver good torque and the use of lithium-ion batteries will mark a first for a mainstream, value-oriented hybrid sedan.

Will one Hybrid be enough to battle the Camry Hybrid, the Plug-in Honda Accord and the two hybrid variants of the Ford Fusion ?

Click past the jump for the full review of the new Nissan Altima Hybrid.

Exterior

Nissan Altima Hybrid

The images in this article are the non-hybrid 2013 Altima, as official hybrid images are not yet available from Nissan Nissan . Even so, by assessing the previous-model’s change into hybrid guise versus the base model, the Altima Hybrid’s key traits can be projected accurately.

To keep the price low, the Altima Hybrid sticks to the trim and style seen in the lower-range models but adds a few aerodynamic aids like under-body air deflectors and a rear spoiler. Hybrid badges show up on the trunk and both door panels to set the model apart, but the style takes a step backward versus V-6 models, due to the smaller wheels, tall tires and higher overall ride height.

The overall look of the new Altima is stylish but very color sensitive, looking strongest in darker shades. The contract helps make the extensive chrome trim come to life and also makes some of the body panel curves more visible. Tans and lighter tans (popular Altima colors) wash out a lot of the styling detail.

The headlights and grille are clearly Infiniti -inspired pieces that help the Altima evolve in a way that the ubiquitous previous model could not. The fundamental proportions are of a tall sedan, accentuated via the thick trunk whose taillights seemed to almost reach the rear doors.

The styling shows off one of the Altima’s best features: a big back seat and trunk. As competitors like the Chevrolet Malibu get much smaller, the Altima keeps its big-girl proportions intact. The oversized doors are particularly helpful for getting into the back seat and the torsion-bar rear suspension leaves the trunk f;at.

Perhaps the biggest style demerit for the Altima is how similar it looks to the Sentra sedan. Sharing a family look is fine, but for Altima drivers, it will be like looking in a fun-house mirror. The big details are the same, but the Sentra obviously is a cheap-looking economy car from all angles except dead-on from the front.

2014 Altima Exterior Features:

  • Premium, emotional Altima design achieved in part by deep-draw stamping techniques that allow for complex surfacing
  • Wide, aggressive stance, sloping rear roofline, deep fenders, high trunk, and small wheel opening gaps – providing premium proportions and silhouette
  • Large black-painted grille with chrome surround
  • Projector-type halogen headlights; available High Intensity Discharge (HID) Xenon headlights (3.5 SL)
  • Available auto on/off headlights with two-stage function, windshield wiper interface (turns on lights when wipers are in use)
  • Available fog lights
  • Chrome door handles, door waist molding, door sash molding and trunk finisher
  • Available LED taillights (2.5 SL, 3.5 SL)
  • Available heated outside mirrors with integrated LED turn signals
  • 0.299 coefficient of drag
  • Eight available exterior colors – Java Metallic, Brilliant Silver, Saharan Stone, Metallic Slate, Super Black, Cayenne Red, Pearl White and Storm Blue

2014 Nissan Altima Exterior Dimensions:

Wheelbase 109.3 in.
Overall length 191.5 in.
Overall width 72 in.
Overall height 57.9 in.
Track 62.4 inches (front) / 62.4 inches (rear)
Weight 3,350 pounds (Hybrid Est.)
Drag Coefficient 0.299

Interior

Nissan Altima Hybrid

The interior of the Altima Hybrid is expected to keep all the primary features already included on the 2.5 SL sedan, including the shapely but plastic-ridden dash layout. The standard-fit 4-inch gauge cluster screen will gain new eco functionality within the Altima Hybrid, but besides that this is a normal, roomy sedan.

The Infiniti themes of the exterior are also immediately clear inside, but less so than in the Pathfinder vs. JX35. The primary controls are knob and button-based instead of the central control interface in Infiniti models.

A new, free-standing center stack replaces the older configuration, providing more center console storage below the HVAC and stereo systems. This design also leaves room for two big cup holders just to the right of the gearstick.

2014 Nissan Altima Interior Features:

  • Five-passenger seating with 6-way adjustable driver’s/4-way front passenger’s adjustable bucket seats, 60/40 split folding rear bench seat with armrest
  • NASA-inspired "zero-gravity" front seats that help relieve pressure points no matter what the body type
  • Available eight-way power driver’s seat with two-way power lumbar support
  • Available heated front seats and heated steering wheel
  • Crafted interior feel with refined workmanship, extensive use of soft materials (such as deeply padded armrests) and chrome finish accents
  • Fine Vision meter cluster
  • Standard cloth seating, Piano Black interior trim with chrome finish accents
  • Available leather-appointed seats and trim
  • Available premium interior trim – wood tone trim finishers for Blond interior, metallic texture finishers with Charcoal interior
  • Advanced Drive-Assist Display with 4.0-inch high-resolution color display nestled in the instrument cluster
  • AM/FM/CD with RDS, MP3 and aux-in, four speakers
  • Available AM/FM/CD with RDS, MP3 and aux-in, six speakers and 5.0-inch color audio display
  • Available BOSE Premium Audio System with nine speakers (including woofers)
  • Available NissanConnect featuring 5.0-inch color audio display, USB port with iPod connectivity, SiriusXM Satellite Radio (SiriusXM subscription required, sold separately)
  • Available Nissan NissanConnect with Navigation, which includes NissanConnect features plus a 7.0-inch VGA color display, turn-by-turn navigation integration into Advanced Drive-Assist Display and steering wheel-mounted navigation controls
  • Available Dual-Zone Automatic Temperature Control
  • Standard Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System with Voice Recognition and Streaming Audio via Bluetooth
  • Remote Keyless Entry with Push Button Ignition
  • Available Nissan Intelligent Key with available Remote Engine Start System
  • Power windows with driver’s side auto up/down and auto reverse feature, available front passenger-side auto up/down and auto reverse feature
  • Dual front (center console) and rear (armrest) cupholders, front and rear door map pockets with bottle holders
  • Two 12-volt DC power outlets (in armrest storage and front console)
  • Power door locks with auto locking feature
  • Available RearView Monitor
  • Available power sliding glass moonroof
  • Available HomeLink Universal Transceiver

2014 Altima Hybrid Interior Dimensions:

Seating Capacity 5
Headroom (Front/Rear) 39.1/37.1 in.
Headroom without Moonroof (Front/Rear) 40.0/37.1 in.
Legroom (Front/Rear) 45.0/36.1 in.
Hip Room (Front/Rear) 54.0/52.1 in.
Shoulder Room (Front/Rear) 56.4/56.4 in.

Drivetrain, Suspension and Brakes

Nissan Altima Hybrid

Nissan is forging ahead with its own design of hybrid system that leverages the advantages of lithium-ion batteries for the first time. Previous Toyota technology was optimized for use with older, less-energy-rich Ni-Mh batteries. It seems like a small change but, in fact, the Nissan setup looks promising for its ability to regenerate electricity and charge the internal batteries faster, while also deploying more of the juice in normal driving.

Plug-in Hybrids, like the Chevrolet Volt , require complex software to keep the Ni-Mh batteries from ever being too depleted or over-charged. Keeping the batteries from ever being fully dead helps safety and also helps prolong their operational life to 10-plus years. As a result, the Volt will never let drivers use the last 40 percent of battery capacity, while Li-Ion batteries are more flexible and forgiving of deep charge cycles.

The other key change versus the previous system is a much more powerful 2.5-liter gasoline engine that is now supercharged for a projected 218 horsepower. Supercharging offers a cheaper, simpler solution than adding a turbo. Superchargers are also relatively efficient with the 2.5’s port fuel injection. Adding direct injection is possible, but would move the price out of reach for most mid-size sedan buyers.

2014 Nissan Altima Mechanical Features:

  • Advanced "D" platform featuring low NVH, low engine mounting position
  • Independent strut front suspension with advanced geometry, equal-length half shafts that are almost parallel to the ground – reducing torque steer
  • New independent rear multi-link suspension design with improved toe angle control and improved camber angle control, maximizes interior volume while improving dynamic performance and comfort
  • Standard Active Under-steer Control
  • Premium ZF SACHS shock absorbers, designed for secure cornering feel and comfortable ride
  • Standard front and rear stabilizer bars
  • Electronic Hydraulic Power-Assisted Steering (EHPS)
  • Power-assisted front vented disc/solid rear disc brakes with standard Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD)
  • Standard 16-inch steel wheels with full-wheel covers with 215/60R16 all-season tires (2.5, 2.5 S)
  • Available 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with 215/55R17 all-season tires (2.5 SV, 2.5 SL)
  • Available 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with 235/45R18 all-season tires (3.5 S, 3.5 SV, 3.5 SL)

2014 Nissan Altima Mechanical Specifications:

Trim LevelAltima Hybrid
Engine Size and TypeSupercharged 2.5-liter I-4 CVTC plus Hybrid Assist
Peak power – gasoline218 horsepower
Peak torque – gasoline210 pound-feet
Peak torque – electric250 pound-feet
TransmissionCVT Automatic
0 to 60 mph6.5 seconds, est
Top Speed109 mph, limited
EPA Fuel Economy44 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, projected

Safety

The 2013 Nissan Altima is an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus, a description that sets it apart from poorer-performing Top Safety Picks. This applies to Altima’s built after November 2012.

Nissan’s Easy Fill Tire alert is an interesting standard feature. It automatically beeps the horn when the tires reach the correct inflation, taking the gauges and guesswork out of tire pressure maintenance.

2014 Nissan Altima Safety Features:

  • Nissan Advanced Air Bag System (AABS) with dual stage supplemental front air bags with seat belt sensors and an occupant classification sensor
  • Driver and front passenger side-impact supplemental air bags
  • Roof-mounted curtain side impact supplemental air bags for front and rear-seat outboard occupant head protection
  • Front seat belts with pre-tensioners and load limiters
  • LATCH System (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren)
  • Zone Body construction
  • Standard Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Traction Control System (TCS)
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and Easy Fill Tire Alert

Pricing

Nissan Altima Hybrid

The 2014 Altima is expected to keep 2013’s revised pricing structure. The hybrid model is projected to cost just south of $26,000 and comes in 2.5 SV trim.

Competition

2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Toyota Camry Hybrid

The Toyota Camry Hybrid is the leader in this segment. Compared with the Altima Hybrid’s new mechanical configuration and Li-Ion Li-Ion batteries, the Camry suffers dramatically. In terms of driving style, the cars are very, very similar. The Nissan is slightly quieter on the road as well as quicker in all trim levels than the non-hybrid Camry’s. This is expected to continue with the Altima Hybrid’s projected 6.5-second 0-to-60 mph time versus the Camry Hybrid’s 7.9-second sprint. The EPA rated the Camry Hybrid at 43 mpg city, 39 mph highway and 41 mpg combined.

Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid

Honda Accord PHEV

The forthcoming Accord Hybrid’s base price of $39,780 is far more expensive than the $26,000 estimate for the Altima Hybrid. The Accord is a plug-in hybrid with a larger battery pack for pure EV driving at highway speeds. Contrary to Nissan, Honda has given the Accord Hybrid a styling work-over versus the standard models. Neither car is a real looker, but the Accord Hybrid’s beak-like nose will win few friends. The Accord Plug-in Hybrid received a 115 MPGe combined electricity and gasoline rating. On gasoline only, the Accord Plug-in Hybrid is still impressive at 47 mpg city, 46 mpg highway and 46 mpg combined.

Conclusion

Nissan Altima Hybrid

The 2014 Altima Hybrid is a really good compromise that will suit a wide swath of buyer needs. If the city EPA numbers can top the previous Toyota Toyota -based Altima Hybrid’s 42 mpg, it will be quite impressive. Paired with the well-damped and soothing ride and handling, the Altima Hybrid is shaping up to be quite the interesting car.

Of course, a supercharged engine means that the Altima Hybrid will pack some real guts. Even assuming a modest 40-horsepower bump from the supercharger, this gives the Altima Hybrid a chance at being the quickest and best drive of the hybrid sedan segment.

Category RatingDetails
Driving BSmooth, Quiet Ride But Little Handling Verve
Performance BPromising Supercharged Hybrid Powertrain May Deliver Best Of Bost Worlds
Look CGeneric Appearance Only Looks Good In Dark Colors
Value BValue-Oriented Pricing Expected; Efficiency Excellent
Overall BEasy-To-Use Hybrid Efficiency In Big-Car Shape
LOVE IT
  • Big power from supercharged hybrid means good acceleration
  • Physically smaller Li-Ion batteries will eat very little trunk space
  • Big interior dimensions offer near-full-size roominess
LEAVE IT
  • Interior mood of base cars not nearly as nice as SV and SL models
  • Nav system graphics not the best
  • Looks just like a Sentra or a rental car in light colors


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