This is Not Yo Mama’s Nissan Altima

The 2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid is definitely a step up from its previous incarnations. I test drove this vehicle this past week across Southern California as part of my 2010 hybrid challenge. In a quest to see which 2010 hybrid model offers the best bang for the buck, I drove the Altima Hybrid 600 miles in six days. The result: I averaged 34.4 MPG on a single tank of gas.

Like other full hybrids on the market, the Altima Hybid features regenerative braking that allows you to charge the battery while driving. The Altima Hybrid also jumps into zero-emission electric vehicle mode when in stop-and-go traffic or waiting in the drive-thru lane. In addition, its 40-HP electric power motor allows you to coast gently upon releasing the gas pedal, thereby increasing further fuel savings.

As for the comfort features, the Altima Hybrid provides the same roomy interior and smooth handling performance you would expect from a regular Altima. The model I tested came equipped with XM satellite radio, leather seats, navigation system, and sunroof (which, of course, came in handy for those gorgeous L.A. days of sunshine). For a mid-size family sedan, I had no problem comfortably transporting three members of my family (including a child in a car seat) in hour-long car rides from beach cities to inland suburbs.

The Hybrid Generation

There are two improvements I would like to see, however, in future Altima Hybrid models. One, I believe the digital display on the dashboard could be more user-friendly. Compared to the Ford Fusion Hybrid Eco-Gauge display, the Altima Hybrid display seemed very rudimentary. It provided little fuel economy information besides real-time MPG performance. Secondly, I would like to see enhanced fuel economy performance. While the Altima Hybrid does provide better fuel economy in city streets than the regular Altima (35 MPG vs. 23 MPG), highway performance is almost identical (33 MPG vs. 32 MPG).

Altima Hybrid Dashboard Display

Overall, for a couple thousand dollars more than a fully-loaded non-hybrid version ($26,700 vs. $24,500), I believe the Altima Hybrid is worth it. When driving in a sprawling metropolis like Los Angeles, the improved fuel economy in city streets and in stop-and-go traffic makes the Altima Hybrid a preferred choice.

Shannon Arvizu is currently finishing her Ph.D. dissertation on the clean tech movement in the U.S. auto sector at Columbia University. You can follow her test drives in the cars of the future at

Shannon Arvizu, Ph.D., is a clean tech educator and cutting-edge consultant for the auto industry. You can follow her test drives in the cars of the future at

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