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The Nissan Altima comes with really comfortable seats that were designed using tests done by NASA and are great on long road trips.

The only way to really get to know a car is to put kilometres on it. A lot of kilometres. And with this Nissan Altima 2.5 SL, that amounted to more than 3,500 kilometres along one of the most famous drives: Route 66 through the American interior. So, yeah, I got to know the Altima well. And it was a good relationship.

Good for many reasons, but one in particular was so important for those long days behind the wheel. You see, doing the old Route 66 takes you through eight states on a mix of two-lane cement roads, fast-moving interstates and even a bit of dirt track. To finish the trip in decent time means full days of driving, even if you do stop occasionally for fuel and obligatory photos and souvenirs. At the end of these long days, it eventually dawned on me: the Altima has really comfortable seats.

It's not something you generally think about. But it's something that is apparent not in how these ones feel (kind of like most other car seats when you plant your tush) but in what you don't feel after a few hours sitting on them – fatigue and discomfort. Nissan calls them Zero-Gravity seats, because they were designed using tests done by NASA and then further developed by the Japanese manufacturer to deal with the pressure points of your backside, and they work. Even after eight hours off and on in the cockpit, you'll feel, if not refreshed, then at least not exhausted.

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So, that's check, then, for comfortable seats. What else is handy for a long road trip? Storage bins for your beef jerky and cheap souvenirs; check. A good infotainment system with satellite radio, Bluetooth and navigation; check.

Let's not forget that, especially when you're driving so much, good fuel economy is important. The Altima has that, although it's not exactly the class leader here for mid-sized cars. Rated at 6.2 litres/100 km on the highway, the best average on this trip was 7.0; not as good as the Honda Accord. As well, while it's zippy around town, you need to plan your passing routes on the highway carefully.

It's a comfortable and stylish option, worth a look. Plus, Nissan has conceded that not every legendary road trip will be undertaken in southern climes; the Altima also has an active understeer control and electronic brake force distribution to help you deal with slippery Canadian roads.

You'll like this car if ... You don't like paying for a masseuse every month.

TECH SPECS

  • Engine: 2.5-litre inline four-cylinder Base price: $24,898; as tested: $32,143
  • Transmission: CVT
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.7 city/6.2 highway
  • Alternatives: Chevrolet Malibu, Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Honda Accord, Kia Optima, Chrysler 200

RATINGS

  • Looks: This model is only in its second year, so the Altima still looks fresh with minor revisions.
  • Interior: Fit and finish are good and there’s plenty of space, although headroom in the back is a little limited for tall people. But those seats are amazing.
  • Performance: While fuel economy is good, its acceleration on the highway is somewhat ponderous.
  • Technology: The seven-inch infotainment display is nice; the car comes with the usual electronic safety features such as lane departure and blind spot warnings.
  • Cargo: There are plenty of cubbyholes for bottles, phones and your usual junk, while the trunk is spacious.

The Verdict

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7.5

The mid-sized car market has some good contenders, and the Altima makes the list.

The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.

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