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Second-Hand: Nissan Altima

After trying so hard to make inroads into the family sedan market for several years, Nissan finally succeeded with the Tennessee-built Altima in 1993.

  • The image of cars in a showroom

After trying so hard to make inroads into the family sedan market for several years, Nissan finally succeeded with the Tennessee-built Altima in 1993.

Its thoroughly contemporary design is more than skin deep, and it shows in the overall driving experience. Owners love their Altimas and report few mechanical problems.

It’s an excellent choice for buyers looking for a smallish family car.

These sedans are finally hitting the used car market in significant numbers, so it should become easier to buy one. A new Altima is coming later this year.

Have a mechanic check the car before you conclude a deal.

Body style

Four-door sedan.

Altimas are fitted with a 2.4 L double overhead-camshaft, 16-valve four-cylinder mated to either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transaxle.

Road behavior

The 2.4 L engine is surprisingly strong, but not as smooth-running as a Toyota or Honda four. The automatic transaxle shifts smoothly, but can take its time in downshifting. The manual gearbox has a light, precise shift linkage and a smooth clutch.

Ride and handling are fine, but nothing spectacular. The body leans considerably in corners and the suspension transmits potholes as harsh thumps. The brakes are fine (ABS has been optional in all years).

Accommodations

The front seats are very comfortable, and the dashboard design is a model of good ergonomics. The Altima feels narrower inside than some competitors.

A driver’s air bag has been standard since 1993. A passengerside unit arrived for 1994.

What owners say

The only consistent gripe regarded the radio controls, which are too low on the centre console.

An Oakville resident, Monika Bunning, describes her ’94 Altima SE as “the best car I have ever driven. It drives like a tight, European sports car, with smart steering and very good brakes . . . I have driven approximately 60,000 km and have had absolutely no trouble whatsoever. I consider it a gutsy and reliable car.”

Daneil Desembrana of Toronto has owned a 1995 Altima GXE since new, now showing 57,000 km on the odometer. He has not had any significant mechanical problems with his car.

Bill Mazanik of Etobicoke bought a used 1995 Altima GXE a year ago. The car has now traveled 40,000 km. He sums up his experience with:

“While my wife uses the car to toot around town I love driving it whenever she lets me. Handling is great . . . If I want to be really nit-picky I could mention some wind noise and the trunk release should be electric. I will buy another Nissan product.”

Bill Goodwin, who writes from Cobourg, describes his ’95 GXE as “one heck of a nice car,” but wishes it had a bit more personality.

C. Beaudoin of Sarnia drives a ’94 Altima GXE he bought new. With 47,000 km showing, Beaudoin reports noisy front shocks and a rear window rattle, both in the cold. Otherwise, he writes: “All in all, I’ve been happy with my Altima.’

The only discordant note was sounded by Mirella Kogut of Oakville, whose ’93 Altima has given her more trouble in 90,000 km than she thinks reasonable. She mentions repeated problems with door locks, among other annoyances.

What to look out for

There are no major problems aside from defective air conditioning condensers.

Resale value

The values quoted below are average retail prices from the Canadian Red Book.

These prices are for an Altima GXE with air conditioning. 1996: $18,625; 1995: $16,300; 1994: $13,875; 1993: $11,650.

We need your feedback on these models for future reports: Hyundai Accent by March 13; and Chevrolet Sprint/Geo Metro/Pontiac Firefly/Suzuki Swift by March 27. Send them to: John Terauds, c/o Wheels, The Toronto Star, One Yonge St., Toronto M5E 1E6. Fax: 416 8653996. Email: jterauds @ istar.ca

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