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The Altima gets a fresh new look at its nose and tail for the 2016 model year. Its hood and fenders have been reshaped, its front fascia lowered, and its grille now features an up-to-date Nissan look. At the rear, wider taillights join a new fascia, trunk lid, and bumper. Sheet metal in between remains the same, but that isn't a bad thing. The overall effect is of a less spectacular Maxima. You won't, for instance, find a canopy-effect roofline at the Altima's C-pillar—here, it just flows smoothly into the rear fender.
Nissan added a sport-oriented SR model to the lineup, and it's notable for smoked headlight housings, daytime running lights, fog lights, a rear decklid spoiler, and aluminum-alloy wheels. Inside the SR, blue stitching on the seats, steering wheel, and shift knob gives contrast to the black upholstery.
Recent generations of Altima sedans had an immediacy of steering feel and a more tightly damped ride that made them feel like the sports coupes of the class. Like the Ford Fusion, the Altima was the "other" choice in a class full of softly sprung four-doors. But with its move to a luxury-car level of shock performance and a plush ride, the current generation had surrendered that "other" status and its resolutely firm, taut ride to the VW Passat and Ford Fusion.
That may be about to change, though, as Nissan redesigns the Altima's independent suspension for 2016 with new Sachs shock absorbers, rear springs, and bushings chosen for their ability to deliver more dynamic handling. Active Understeer Control applies braking to inside front wheels to tighten cornering lines. Sixteen-inch wheels are now standard on the Altima; 17- and 18-inch wheels and tires are available.
Fit and finish is mostly successful, though some plastic trim looks cheap—if, perhaps, durable. The shiny upholstery in the all-black interior in our test SR looked almost cheap, but woven mats countered with an upscale look.
The cabin feels spacious for four adults—five in a pinch. With 45 inches of leg room and 40 inches of head room, the front seat has more than adequate space for taller drivers. The rear seat looks cavernous, but even with a fairly steep rake headroom drops to 37.1 inches—just enough to keep tall passengers from making contact with the headliner; rear legroom of 36.1 inches is about average for the class, but there isn't much room for feet under the front seats. Rear seatbacks are split 60/40, and fold down for access to the trunk.