First drive: 2013 Nissan Altima in Dubai
The most anticipated cars in this region are always the cars that are near the top of the sales charts, and the Nissan Altima happens to be one of those. As the second-best-selling midsize sedan in the Gulf, the 2013 Nissan Altima is going to be all over the streets of Dubai by the end of this year, and with good reason. The new car has improved in all the right ways.
For one thing, most people seem to be mistaking the new Altima for a Maxima out on the street. That’s good for new Altima owners, although bad for Maxima fanboys. The swoopy new design is an obvious reaction to the design revolution started by the Koreans, so the new Altima has more character than flop releases such as the new Chevy Malibu.
The inside is overly conservative though, with no signature design cues whatsoever. The simple cabin features good materials for the most part, with soft-touch padding on all doors and frontal dash area. The only cheap bit is the hard-plastic dash top, which is a bit too obvious.
The “zero-gravity” seats are a big talking point by Nissan, as they say it is designed with NASA weight-less technology or some such. They’re fine, as far as we can tell, since none of us are orthopedic surgeons. Other than that, cabin space has visibly improved, particularly in the back, although it still isn’t as voluminous as the Toyota Camry’s accommodations.
The Altima also ups the tech factor with a big LCD screen within the gauges that shows all sorts of configurable info, such as trip computer functions and Bluetooth phone info. There’s also optional features such as remote start, smart key, side-curtain airbags, dual-zone a/c, rear camera and various safety aids, such as lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and standard active trace control.
That last bit is a trick new system that plays with the brakes to help the car turn better. We couldn’t really tell if it did anything for the handling, as we weren’t pushing the car’s limits anyway in our short city drive. The Altima rides a bit more smoothly than the earlier model, although there is still a slight hint of firmness. The steering now has a bit more weight to it, unlike the overly-light one in the old model. Wind and road noises are kept to acceptable levels, so it makes for a great commuter car, as we’ve come to expect from all the contenders in the midsize field.
We drove both the 182 hp 2.5-litre inline-4 and the 270 hp 3.5-litre V6 versions. The former feels adequate for getting around, while the latter offers up good power, although neither car feels particularly fast due to the lack of gear-changes. That’s because the standard transmission is a CVT automatic, so it has no gears at all. However, we have to say, we never actually noticed the CVT in casual driving. The weirdness of the CVT only gets noticed under full-throttle acceleration.
Based on our short drive, the 2013 Nissan Altima should continue to do well in the UAE. Prices for the American-built sedan have gone up, with a base price of Dhs 79,000 or possibly more, depending on the dealer. But it is still a bit cheaper than the Toyota Camry, so it remains good value. And that’s all that matters to many buyers in this segment.