2011 Nissan Altima Review

Side view of blue 2011 Nissan Altima
The 2011 Nissan Altima. Sleek styling that's aging well.

Popular misconception about automotive journalists: We're spoiled by high-end cars. Thinking about it, that might be true about some automotive journalists, but never us. The joy isn't about the price tag, the top speed or the 0-60 time, it's about how well the car does what it was intended to.

And that's why we love the Nissan Altima. This has become the sleeper...the car that is everywhere but no one really notices...until you get back behind the wheel again.

Nearly three years ago, shortly after the launch of TireKicker, we drove the Altima Hybrid...the first hybrid to under-promise and over-deliver in terms of mileage, and do it at about the same price as smaller gas/electric machines.

On the heels of that review, we spent a week in the Nissan Altima 2.5 S...and found that was a terrific family car, too...minus the complexity of the hybrid (which Nissan keeps to a minimum anyway) and at a more reasonable price.

Rear 3/4 view of blue 2011 Nissan Altima parked in front of building
The 2011 Nissan Sentra's slippery shape no doubt helps gas mileage.

So what's changed in two and a half years? Well, there's been a styling refresh, the engine is up by five horsepower (to 175), it feels a bit smoother and sounds a bit quieter than the '09...and Nissan's done a terrific job of holding the line on price, which is up only $520 in two years, to a still reasonable MSRP of $22,060.

Nissan's press fleet folks added the 2.5 S Premium Audio Package (Bose Audio system with 9 speakers, a 4.3" display, rear camera, Bluetooth, USB and SiriusXM) for $1,240, The Convenience Package (8-way power driver's seat, 16-inch alloy wheels to replace the stock steel sixteens, auto on/off headlights, dual illuminated vanity mirror, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls) for $1,150, the Convenience Plus Package (yes, really...that adds a power moonroof with sunshade, dual zone automatic climate control and manual folding sideview mirrors with integrated turn signals) which was also $1,150.

$175 for floor and trunk mats and $135 for splash guards brought the bottom line to a still-quite-reasonable $26,660 with delivery charges.

Interior shot of 2011 Nissan Altima
The all-business cabin of the 2011 Nissan Altima.

The Altima is one of those cars that becomes your faithful travelling companion...over time you find it just plain fits...there's nothing that it does poorly or even so-so. 23 miles per gallon in the city, 32 in the highway doesn't strain the relationship either.

The midsize family sedan field is a crowded one. But a car this good for between $22,000 and $26,000, with that kind of mileage makes this not just a must for a test-drive, but a reason to start your short list of finalists in advance.

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