Text: Martin Aguilar / Photos: Patrick De Guzman Cardano | posted June 23, 2014 14:15
The much-awaited comeback
For the past couple of years Nissan has been relatively quiet in the Philippines. After the era of the Cefiro, the Exalta and the Sentra of the nineties Nissan has been napping as their competitors continued to rack up sales here while Nissan's overseas counterparts have flourished.
Can the Altima and the new Nissan Philippines, Inc. bring the brand to where it's supposed to be? Let's find out.
Truth be told, the 2014 Nissan Altima is essentially the same as the current generation Teana sold in our Asian neighbors; it just so happens that since we are a left hand drive country, Nissan Philippines, Inc. imports the Altima all the way from the United States.
The exterior of the 2014 Altima has a rather aggressive yet dignified looking front fascia that incorporates the automatic Xenon head lamps, a chrome grill and fog lamps. The front fascia alone is a testament to Altima’s well executed design; a design that is apt in today’s market. The front grill of the vehicle has a line that extends to the vehicle’s front fender up to the tail lamps and trunk compartment. This lines give the body of the Altima a rather smooth flowing design. The side mirrors of the vehicle are infused with turn signals, which is already becoming a standard in almost all of the vehicle models in the market today.
The rear of the Altima complements the design of the vehicle’s front with a pair of boomerang-style tail lamps that gives the rear a strong appearance. The line that extends from the front grill, which extends at the trunk compartment, forms a slight arc to finish off the design of the car. The rear fenders of the vehicle extend at the bumper making the Altima look bigger and more composed. Rounding up the rear are the two exhaust tips though personally I find the chrome garnish a little bit too wide for the rear.
Stepping inside the Altima, you can see the light brown interior details that gives the interior a neat and classy look. The Altima’s interior certainly offers you top of the class interior details. The steering wheel, shift lever, seats, door side panels, center glove compartment and so on are wrapped in leather. Silver and black trim offer a contrast to the tan/beige leather and fabrics.
There's space for 5 people inside the Altima. The seats of the Altima give every occupants an ultimate ride comfort with a generous leg and head room, particularly the front seats as Nissan elicited the help of NASA to engineer Zero-G seats for minimal fatigue and maximum comfort. The driver's seat also has an electric lumbar support and can be easily adjusted to the preferred height that will suit your prescribed driving position.
For convenience the steering wheel has also been fitted with audio controls and other essential command buttons that can easily be operated. The instrument cluster displays the speedometer, tachometer, fuel/trip indicator and a small digital screen located between the speedometer and tachometer. The Altima also has a Bose infotainment system that turns into a rear view camera when you engage reverse. The air-conditioning unit is excellent; a Nissan trademark since the 90's, though if you wish to get a bit more light or fresh air when out of town, there's a sunroof above.
One thing the Altima could have used was an audio control for the rear seats given that it's primary competitors such as the top spec versions of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry have them. Another thing the Altima could have used were reclining rear seats.
The Altima is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 DOHC engine that delivers 270 PS with 340 Nm of torque. The Altima's engine definitely has ample power without question; power is there when you wish to feel it and the CVT accelerates the midsize sedan smoothly. If you wish to engage 'gears' on your own, the large paddle shifters make it easy and rather fun. The Altima, despite it's size, is easily maneuverable. Handling isn't what we would call exciting or engaging but the suspension does handle the weight well. Same goes whenever you’re parking, the steering wheel is light and very easy to maneuver. When you start to hit highway speeds, the steering firms up a bit, giving you more precise control.
While driving the Altima, the registered fuel economy was 5.0 kilometers per liter in city driving with moderate to heavy EDSA traffic. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stretch the legs of the Altima in the open highway, though according to our EIC, the Altima was able to achieve 11.6 kilometers per liter at a 96 km/h average on the expressway.
The ride is smooth and surprisingly quiet on rough concrete; bumpy city streets likewise didn’t bother Altima’s ride or suspension. It goes smoothly and maintains its composure though there was a bit of a metal-on-metal rattle in the trunk area. Perhaps there was a panel loose somewhere in the back; though we were not able to locate it. If it wasn't for that, the Altima could easily score a 10 in terms of ride comfort.
The 2014 Altima is a great effort particularly on the pricing front. It still has to pay full importation duties and the shipping costs given that it's a U.S. import; it doesn't enjoy the virtually non-existent duties that Thai or other ASEAN made units from other manufacturers can get, and thus NPI's ability to price the 2014 Altima 3.5L SL at PhP 2,030,000 is quite impressive.
To sum up the 2014 Nissan Altima, it's a well rounded car with a great look, great ride and and a pair of incredibly good front seats, though there lies the rub: in the Philippines, most buyers in the executive/midsize sedan class will immediately make their way to the back, not the front. That's what most local buyers pay for in this class of car; a back seat where you can easily cross your legs and simply enjoy the ride while someone else takes care of the work.