The 2012 Nissan Altima is an excellent choice in mid-sized cars, offering a solid mix of performance and features in an MSRP range of $20,410 to $30,760. Granted, this is not the most stylish sedan in the class, but it does have a high-quality interior and strong gas mileage at 23 city and 32 highway. If you shop the competition, look at the Honda Accord and the Mazda6. The Honda offers a long record of reliability, while the Mazda6 caters more to drivers who are concerned about the experience behind the wheel.
Available as both a sedan and a coupe, the Altima no longer comes as a hybrid. There are three trims for the sedan (2.5, 2.5 S, and 3.5 SR), and two for the coupe (2.5S and 3.5SR). All models are basically carry-overs from 2011, and thus very well known to reviewers. This familiarity is particularly important when it comes to engine choice.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder puts out 175 hp, and is universally criticized as being just plain noisy. The 2.5-liter V6 with 270 hp is the far better choice, not just for the sport-tuned suspension but also for its seamless performance with the available continuously variable transmission. There is a six-speed manual option for the Altima coupes, but it gets a thumbs down from most reviewers.
While the Altima's interior may be a little small for the class, the materials are attractive, with a nice blend of soft-touch and texture. The sedan's front seats are roomy, but the coupe scrimps on leg room and head room. The backseat in either model is nothing to write home about, but it's survivable. The sedan offers 15.3 cubic feet in the trunk, while the coupe has just 8.2 cubic feet.
There are few standards beyond push-button start, power doors and locks, and a solidly basic audio unit, but there are plenty of tech options. Unfortunately, the tech packages do add dollars on the opening MSRP very quickly, and there's little mix-and-match ability. If you're willing to pay, however, you can have Bluetooth, music storage, navigation, and a rearview camera among other choices.
In federal government crash testing, the 2012 Nissan Altima picks up for stars overall, with four for front and rollover impact and five for side crashes. The coupe has only been tested on rollovers, scoring four stars. While the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not tested the 2012 model, the 2011 scored "good" on front and side tests, but only acceptable on rear crashes and roof strength.
Although aging in its appearance, the 2012 Nissan Altima still holds its own quite well in the class. Some reviewers quibble about the blandness of the interior, and the distaste for the four-cylinder engine is almost universal. Otherwise, the Altima comes off as exactly what it is, a well-balanced model offering good value for the price point and more than acceptable fuel economy. Definitely worth a test drive.