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Datsun Ice Car

The 2013 Nissan Altima

Okay, maybe I’m trying too hard with this week’s headline. (Nissan used to be known as Datsun in North America.) But the new 2013 Nissan Altima won’t have to try hard at all to woo you over. It’s that good.

The Altima, for a number of reasons, has been steadily moving up the sales chart. Some of those reasons? Styling, value, the Japanese earthquakes which greatly affected last year’s Toyota and Honda production. But I doubt that you’ll find many complaining Altima owners who purchased their car because they couldn’t find a Camry or Accord to their liking. And they’ll be happy to know that the recently introduced 2013 model is even better.

Last week I headed over to Mike Barney Nissan, where sales consultant James Martin put me behind the wheel of a pretty much entry-level Altima 2.5 S sedan. Entry-level no longer means you’re stuck with a vehicle that looks like an undercover police car. The Altima 2.5 S is the second rung on the ladder, just above the base 2.5, but below the 2.5 SV, 3.5 S, 3.5 SV, 2.5 SL, and the 3.5 SL. Confused? It was certainly easier back in the day when the different models had actual names, wasn’t it? Look at it this way: The 2.5 and 3.5 designations refer to the engine size in liters. The letters? The more the better, and remember: L (which adds leather) is better than V (so-named for a reason which escapes me).

Unlike some cars in its class, the Altima still has an available V-6 engine (the 3.5), but really, after my test drive in the 2.5, I’m not sure why you’d need one. I was really surprised by the quick acceleration in the test car. It did sound like it was working harder than it was, though, as the drivetrain is a bit noisy at takeoff. And the CVT automatic transmission (the only one available) always left me thinking it was late to shift gears from first to second, which just added to the noise problem. Luckily, once you’re along, the noise abates, and you can enjoy a relatively quiet ride.

There’s plenty of room waiting for you as you enter through generous-sized door openings. The cloth seats in the S were comfy, and its driver-side six-way power adjustment made it easy to settle in to a good driving position. The front seats go way back—way farther than my six-foot frame would ever need. Another six-footer could easily slide into the back seat behind me and still have plenty of head and leg room. There’s also a generous-sized trunk hanging off the back of the car. Standard audio in the S is a six-speaker AM/FM/CD unit with an auxiliary audio input jack and MP3 CD playback capability.

Styling is subjective. I happen to like it, but I’ll admit that from a block away it could be any one of a number of attractive mid-sized sedans. The interior also is not unattractive, but certainly not ground-breaking. I guess both the interior and exterior were styled to appeal to the broadest common denominator—which these days seems to sell a lot of cars (see: Camry, Accord).

If you’re shopping price, you’ll be pleasantly surprised—it’s not too bad. The base 2.5 starts at $21,500. The Brilliant Silver S test car had a list price of $22,500 and added auto headlights, the six-way power driver’s seat, cruise, and Nissan’s Intelligent key. That standard 2.5-liter four puts out 182 horsepower, and is EPA-rated at 27/38 miles per gallon city/highway, which is great for a car this size. Comparison shopping on Nissan’s web page shows the Altima in a very good light, both in price, equipment and miles per gallon.

My guess is that even if Japan remains earthquake-free, sales of the new Altima will continue their climb. It will be interesting to see at whose expense it is.

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Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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