Midsize sedans might not be the sexiest or most desirable segment of the new car market, but they are the gasoline for the American automobile market’s engine. Taken together with pickup trucks, these two body styles of vehicle make up more than a third of all sales annually.
The Altima is a big player in this mix: ranking number three behind the Camry and Accord for a whopping 2014 total of 335,000 sold.
However you slice it, that is a huge chunk of influence, and a car that many will consider when seeking their next ride. And to wrap up the math-blast: more than 80-percent of those Altima’s are this four-cylinder powertrain.
A week and road trip in Nissan’s best-seller confirms what might be obvious: the Altima 2.5 is nearly perfect. This car comes into its own right when you have had a rough day, or are two hours into a long drive.
The Altima SL feels like it will always drive you home. Where other vehicles feel like they naturally want to stop, the Altima feels born and bred to keep driving. Adding miles by the dozen and watching the odometer roll over is the Altima’s big asset versus the dozen-plus other models vying for a slice of its sales.
Let’s find out how the Altima does in section headings of Exterior, Interior, Performance, Pricing and Summary.
2015 Nissan Altima 2.5SL Review
Data and Graphic Source: GoodCarBadCar
The Altima’s exterior design feels extremely familiar, which is a double-edged sword in 2015 and into 2016. The all-new model arrived as a 2013 model year, with a much more horizontal and wide feel than the vertical emphasis of the previous generation. As the 2012-and-before model slung its headlights up and into the hood, the new model stretches the nose graphic with a wider grille and solid, triangular headlamp units. Projector halogens for the low-beams live in the outermost edge of the lamp graphic, while the blinkers are located down below in the bumper face above the available foglamps.
Simple profile surfacing extends part of the hood and front fender strake rearward into the doors. This pinched element flows into a beltline crease for the full length of the machine — helping the Altima feel long and low, despite its very practical roofline and giant doors all around.
Out back, standard dual exhausts are a nice treat from the Altima’s $22,300 base price, while the large chrome license-plate accent is also fairly premium and elegant.
This second-most-post 2.5SL trim level packs LED taillamps that the lower price levels skip, which is a shame because they are handsome and modern. The standard bulb units in the base Altima’s are much more forgettable.
Overall, that tail with relatively small, outer-mounted lamps is another big change versus previous-gen Altimas. The uniquitous tail treatment of 370Z-style lamps flowing up and into the trunk went from fresh, to current, to far too common as almost two million cruised America’s streets.
The new shape is exceptionally conservative all around, which may be a plus or minus in your book depending on priorities.
As LED and dark-wheel fanatics, we wish the Altima wore larger and less nerdy wheels. It is a slight bummer not to have white LEDs up front whatsoever in the Altima. While this is par for the segment compared with the entry-level Camry and Accord, both those cars do wear LED DRLs at a comparable, pretty-loaded trim level.
Altima S Special Edition adds a ton of equipment to the base Altima S, including a rear spoiler and some gunmetal metallic grey wheels.
If the exterior offends no one, the cabin is even more approachable and friendly. This car is extremely comfortable right away, with a huge range of seat adjustment and a possible driving position much lower than the Camry or Accord allow. On the other side of the people-size continuum, the Altima drive position can also bump up the seat helpfully high and near the pedals.
What really strikes you about the front cabin is a big sense of volume and overall width. The footwells are gigantic and the floor is admirably flat all around. Versus Camry and Accord, the Altima’s 45 inches of front legroom is +3 larger than both; only the new Sonata beats the Nissan by half an inch. The Sonata also pips the Altima for front headroom, where both offer much more hat space than Camry or Accord.
The main fixture inside sets the tone: a silver-accented center stack is mounted high up on the dashboard, mounted separately versus the center console and storage cubbies in the diving front part of the console. Black/grey and tan are the cabin color choices available, with each color-coded down to the littlest detail. The black is our preference, but in black, the seats and dash do get toasty in direct sunlight.
A giant entry to the back seat might sets the tone for a loungy and relaxed rear bench. A very comfy recline to the rear seatback is vastly superior to the FOrd Fusion and especially the church-pew uprightness of the 2015 Malibu back seat.
Versus Camry and Accord, roominess by leg and shoulder room in the Altima back seat feels large — which is of course a big part of why people love mid-size cars versus compacts like the Focus etc.
While is feels large back there, and entry is a piece of cake…. the SAE official measurements show that Altima is down at least 2.5 inches of rear legroom versus the Accord or Camry; just pipping the Sonata by half an inch. All are comfortable and spacious this year, however, and these are just minor details.
What will win the day for Altima drivers and passengers is the surreal driveline smoothness, seat comfort and very little wind noise. Some road rumble is a bit louder in the back seat than the very-quiet front, but the cabin is overall very serene — even for hours and hours at a time.
Nissan has a pretty handy comparison feature on their website, with the highlights in measurements noted below.