The Nissan Altima can be a reliable, hard to beat used car purchase in the family sedan class…

Nissan substantially revamped the Altima, its popular family sedan, for the 2010 model year.

In addition to external front and rear styling changes, its roomy interior got a once-over in a refurbish that also included two important new standard active safety features, electronic stability and traction control systems.

The base engine in a 2010 Altima sedan or coupe is a robust 2.5-litre four cylinder and a 3.5-litre V6 was an option. A six-speed manual transmission was available with the four-cylinder and the continuously variable transmission option was standard with the V6 engine.

The fuel-frugal 2.5 litre four-cylinder (175 horsepower) can get 8.9 L/100km in the city and 6.1 L/100km on the highway and runs on regular gasoline. The 3.5 litre V6 can produce a whopping 270 horsepower, yet it still provides decent city/highway fuel consumption (rated at 10.6/7.7 L/100km). It does, however, have a craving for premium quality fuel.

A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is more efficient than a conventional automatic and is designed to always provide best fuel economy, however, some drivers dislike the way it holds engine speed at an optimal level. On the plus, it has a solid reputation for reliability and a nice feature of this CVT is a sequential manual mode that provides six speed settings.

There’s also a less popular hybrid version of Altima, which claims an outstanding city fuel consumption rating of 5.8 L/100km. This full-hybrid powertrain was jointly developed with Toyota and can run for short distances completely on battery power. Like most hybrid sedans the battery pack is stored in the trunk. As a result, the rear seats do not fold-down to expand the cargo area and there’s a reduced amount of cargo space in the trunk.

A push-button intelligent key system is standard on this generation Altima. It’s a convenient feature that allows you to start the engine without actually inserting a key in the switch barrel. The key fob must, of course, be inside the car and is best kept on your person.

Altima got the coveted “recommend buy” rating from Consumer Reports. Although higher than usual incidence of brake and electrical repair did show up on owner surveys, the overall rating for reliability was still better than average, with major mechanical issues showing up.

A rear-view camera was added to select packages on the sedan and coupe models in 2011 and three new exterior colours are available. Except for Bluetooth connectivity with the optional Luxury Package on the sedan, Altima was unchanged for 2012. The Altima Hybrid, however, was discontinued.

In crash tests performed by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) this generation Altima performed well and got good ratings. However, it only got an “acceptable” rating in a roof crushability test, which simulates a roll-over. Another test of the front seats and head restraints, which simulates a rear-end impact, also resulted in an “acceptable” rating. The next generation 2013 Altima, performed better in both of these tests and earned an overall “Top Safety Pick” rating.

Good to look at, technically sophisticated and economical to drive, the Nissan Altima can be a reliable, hard to beat used car purchase in the family sedan class.

Price Check: 2010 to 2012 Nissan Altima (March 2014)

Year                    Edition                                                 Expect to Pay Today

2010                Sedan 2.5 S                                                   $11,000 to $14,000

2011                Sedan 2.5 S                                                   $13,000 to $16,000

2012                Sedan 2.5 S                                                   $15,000 to $18,000

Prices vary depending on a used vehicle’s condition, mileage, usage and history. A complete mechanical check should always be performed by a reliable auto technician prior to purchase.

Safety Recalls: 2010 to 2012 Nissan Altima:

2009/10: The metal upper strut insulators may fail and allow the strut rod to come out of its mounting position, which will adversely affect vehicle handling. Dealers will replace the front strut insulators.

2012: The side curtain airbag inflators may have been incorrectly manufactured and, as a result, one or both airbags may not deploy as intended. Dealers will inspect and, if necessary, replace one or both side curtain airbag assemblies.

Contact: bob [dot] mchugh [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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