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Motoring: Altima hybrid one of the best


Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | October 25th, 2010



With gas prices on the rise once again, people are asking more and more about hybrids. So it's time we looked at the Nissan Altima, a car I have no affections for. Would the hybrid version be any different?

Like most hybrids, the Altima is propelled by two motors, a gasoline engine and an electric motor that produce 198 hp. While the gasoline engine is Nissan's own, the electric drive system is the same one you will find in a Toyota Camry hybrid.

The Toyota electric drive system works very well, and it allows the car to be driven in just the electric mode when conditions allow. In a traffic jam, the car can run on its electric motor, saving gas. I like that a lot.

A feature I normally don't like are CVT gearboxes, but they are ideal for hybrid vehicles. The Altima hybrid also has a CVT gearbox, which sends power to its front wheels. Thankfully, the CVT gearbox in this application works quite well. It doesn't make the sewing machine-like whirring noises normally associated with CVTs and the power transfer from the engine to the wheels feels very direct, so acceleration is there when you need it. The Altima actually feels nicer to drive than the Camry hybrid, so good job Nissan.

I also like the Altima hybrid's ride quality. It has just the right amount of stiffness and softness for a car of its kind, plus the steering feel is rather nice too. So it makes for a nice daily commuter.

Like all hybrids of its kind, the battery pack sits in the trunk, lined against the rear seat. This affects the trunks volume, so if you normally carry a lot of stuff, you'd be better off with the non-hybrid version.

The interior is essentially the same as in all Altimas, which has its plus and minuses. On the plus, it is very spacious (in fact, even more spacious than the new BMW 5 Series) and it is very well equipped. My tester even had satellite radio and a very nice navigation system. I also liked its seats, which were very comfortable even on a long drive.

On the minus, the quality of the interior materials is certainly not the best in the business, nor is it the best in its class, but this is really nitpicking.

Now to the main question, what everyone looking to buy a hybrid wants to know: what is its actual fuel economy? During my week, I averaged 7.0-litres/100km, which is decent. The gas-only four-cylinder Altima can average about 9.0- litres/100km. The gain by the hybrid system might not sound great, but it does give you more power to play with and is less harmful to the environment in city traffic.

If you are looking for a hybrid sedan, the Altima is one of the best in the business currently. Prices start at $33,398.
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