LOOKS. Melted
AMBIANCE . Tasteful
STEREO .Passable
FUN TO DRIVE. Nifty Tooler
EMOTION. Loveable
CACHET. Well Done


Sticker. $22,717.
Power 50 . horsepower
0 to 60 .8 to 9 sec.
Test Mileage . 24.3 mpg
Seating . 5
Trunk .14 cubic feet
Parking . Nice & Ooozy


Mr. Smoothie

The Altima rolls smoothly through the hottest, most competitive segment of the market with a cool nonchalance and a very definite uniqueness. The name, no doubt generated on some computer randomizer, suggests some sort of ultimatum of futurese and this compact companion pulls it off. It is a real winner. A new version is coming soon, but the

Altima remains one of those well thought out designs which has endured and will continue to please over a long ownership haul.

The eye coasts over the soft shape with a liquid glance that never catches a phony detail. The curves are loose, open and sublime, settling in on the contemporary aero idiom. It's a lot rounder than anything else, and that's ok. A pleasant relief from the darting, nostrilled over-detailed competition. It's simple, but manages not to look cheap. A touch shorter and taller than the rest of the compact set, it packs a decent bit of space inside.

Seduced by the softness which promises a pleasant experience, I snap open the well rounded latch and peer inside.

The interior is refreshingly bright and warm, unlike the predominant greyness so prevalent in the competition and the swelling dash is offset by a broad band of woodtone trim. Looks rich and attractive. Buff tweedy seats prove cozy and headroom generous. Wheel feel is solid and the view clear. Turned into traffic the big four pulls fast and smooth, no shortage of squirt on tap. Supple ride, perfect poise and a pleasing affinity for the curvy bits rolled into one compact unit. I really like the the way the Altima drives. The amenities are amenable and the trim size is perfect for city confines. On the high road comfort and quiet match up well with many big plushers. A well done turnip.

Built and styled by Americans with the usual solid Nissan engineering the Altima is a class act. Not the bargain it was when introduced a few years ago, the value is still sound. It's well finished, well built, and well designed and well - what else is there!