2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid

Nissan’s gas-electric Altima Hybrid shows up late to the hybrid party, but makes a vivid impression.

by Scott Corlett


Tired of paying Prada prices for premium gasoline? Worried about cuddly polar bears drowning in an Arctic bereft of ice? Still like to drive? There is one vehicle that will keep you green and fast—the 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid.
Nissan is a late arrival to the hybrid club. So late that the company, instead of spending additional years developing its own gasoline-electric powertrain, bought rights to Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive. Consequently, the Altima Hybrid’s electric motor, nickel-metal hydride batteries, and other hybrid gadgetry are very similar to those in Toyota’s Camry Hybrid.


What is different between the Altima and Camry—and what elevates the Altima’s driving experience—is Nissan’s snappy 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and its superb continuously variable transmission (CVT). The Altima’s powertrain cranks out an impressive 198 hp, accelerating the Altima faster than the Camry while achieving the similar fuel economy to the Toyota (35/33 mpg city/highway).
Inside, the Altima Hybrid’s finishes are better quality than those of most class competitors, while its dash layout is both simple and intuitive. For a mid-size sedan, the Altima has roomy front and rear seating, although its trunk space is tight due to the extra hybrid batteries. One warning: it seriously sucks to be the Altima’s fifth passenger, not because of crunched legroom, but because the Altima Hybrid comes with a paltry nine cupholders, which means the last guy in gets only one spot for beverage.


The Altima Hybrid is equipped standard with some 21st-century fare, such as Nissan’s Intelligent Key entry and ignition system, which allows a driver to enter and pull away without removing the fob from his pocket. But for most of the high-tech features that you’d expect on a vehicle with a futuristic drivetrain (Bluetooth, satellite radio, or even the gee-whiz hybrid energy display), you must spring for one of the Altima’s pricey option packages.
So how does the Altima Hybrid drive? Although the Altima will never be confused with a sports sedan, it does drive like a regular car, without the droopy acceleration and sloppy handling of most hybrids in its class. On the hills of San Francisco, the Altima offered plenty of juice for dead starts and steep climbs. And on the twisty bits near the Golden Gate Bridge, the Altima’s steering was particularly impressive, with none of the video-game feel of other hybrids’ electric steering systems.


Unfortunately, in most parts of the country, drivers who crave both uncompromised performance and decent fuel economy can only envy their western and northeastern fellow greenies: Nissan is selling the Altima Hybrid only in the eight “California emissions states” (CA, CT, NJ, NY, MA, ME, RI, and VT). I guess Nissan thinks the folks in the fly-over states can’t care for the polar bears and like to drive at the same time.

Nissan is a gay-friendly company.

Get a free insurance quote for a 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid

Find a Nissan Dealer Near You

Get gay-friendly financing