There will come a time where most of the major carmakers have ditched all other body types to focus on their ever-expanding portfolios of SUVs and CUVs. Market factors will, and already are, dictating this however, the four-door space is still highly competitive thanks to popular mid-size saloons such as the Accord, Camry and Altima. In fact, the latter is boasting a year-on-year growth of 30 per cent and enjoying its highest recorded segment share in the Middle East. You can be sure that there will always be room for cars of this ilk and following the introductions of the all-new Honda and Toyota last year comes Nissan’s the all-new 2019 Altima.

Featuring expressive aesthetics, a stylish cabin, two new powertrains to choose from and a plethora of technology including the Nissan Intelligent Mobility suite, it clearly means business this time around. Our test car came with the 2.5-litre four-pot mated to a CVT (joining it later in the summer will be a 2.0-litre turbo) and having spent a week with it it’s evident that it has built on 25 years of heritage and is now far better equipped and more competitive than it has ever been.

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

With sharper lines punctuating the body it isn’t just more attractive than the predecessor — it jumps ahead of most of its rivals as well. It sure is a good looker but that shouldn’t come as a surprise for it has been inspired by the award-winning Vmotion 2.0 concept. Much like its bigger stablemate the Maxima, it has a bolder V-Motion grille which is flanked by aggressively styled LED headlights and the powerful looking front end sure sets the mood. It features a shorter front overhang, a floating roof design and rides on a set of 19in alloys but again, it really is the crisp new sheet metal which catches the most attention. It has a neater profile than before (the character lines stretch across the front fender to the rear taillight and the rear chromed door handle sits higher than the front to help drop the car onto its shoulders) and overall it is lower, longer and wider than the previous model and has a sportier stance.

Moving on to the inside, the materials quality and design are huge improvements over the prior Altima but the highlight of the premium cabin is the wide ‘gliding wing’ instrument panel which creates an open, airy environment. Some of the comfort and convenience features include enhanced NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats with added bolstering for improved holding and support, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and an 8.0.in multi-touch colour display. There’s no shortage of power points in there with a USB Type-A, USB Type-C and 12-volt outlet up front and for those seated at the back there’s another standard USB and USB Type-C outlet on the back of the centre console. On the safety front the Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies have been integrated as standard and the goodies include Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, radar-based Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and High Beam Assist. It also has a 360-degree camera with pretty decent image quality which doesn’t lose much clarity at night. There is ample leg, shoulder and headroom in the front row but slightly less in the second row in spite of the increased wheelbase but that said it is still very comfortable back there.

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

On the road, it feels far tighter than before and that is thanks to its new underpinnings which now include monotube rear shocks and beefier suspension reinforcements. This sure has improved the steering response (it’s a new dual-pinion electric unit) and it feels far more eager to turn in now than ever before and the dreaded body roll is kept in check through the corners far better now too.

Power comes from a new standard 2.5-litre four-cylinder injection engine which boasts 80 per cent new or redesigned parts. It produces 188 horses (the previous 2.5-litre had 179) and 244Nm of torque and aside from being more efficient it also gains improvements in noise, vibration and harshness. It is mated to a CVT which isn’t our favourite of transmissions but it does its best to be liked thanks to some clever programming to simulate upshifts and downshifts of a more conventional automatic — and the little paddle shifters behind the steering wheel encourage you to get more involved in the driving. Overall the drivetrain is impressive and it will satisfy most drivers.

The new Altima leads the competition in several categories (aesthetics, multimedia and driver assist technologies) and though it may not totally halt shoppers from buying SUVs, this sixth-gen model is a very compelling choice for those who still want a saloon.