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Nuts & Bolts: 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SV

Bottom line: The fifth generation of the Nissan Altima, a family sedan introduced in 1993 as a compact car, is an absolutely worthy entry in the affordable-family-sedan market. It has all of the comfort, safety, utility and economy most families are looking for. But it’s surrounded by competitors — Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Buick Regal, Ford Focus, Hyundai Sonata, Volkswagen Passat and more — a seemingly endless list. It would help if the Altima had some distinctive pizazz.

Ride, handling, acceleration: The new Altima gets good marks in all three. There’s nothing extreme in this car’s behavior.

Head-turning quotient: It’s pretty enough to appeal to both sides of the aisle, especially to those potential buyers who are ideologically closest to the middle.

Body style/layout: It’s a front-engine, front-wheel-drive midsize car sold as a sedan and coupe. There are seven trim levels — base 2.5, 2.5 S, 2.5 SV, 3.5 S, 3.5 SV, 2.5 SL and 3.5 SL.

Engines/transmission: There is a base 2.5-liter, 16-valve in-line four-cylinder gasoline engine with variable valve timing (182 horsepower, 180 foot-pounds of torque). Also available is a 3.5-liter, 24-valve gasoline V-6 with variable valve timing (270 horsepower, 258 foot-pounds of torque). Both engines are linked to automatic continuously variable transmissions.

Capacities: Both the sedan and the couple seat five people. Cargo space is 15.4 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 18 gallons of gasoline (regular grade is recommended).

Fuel economy: I got 20 miles per gallon in the city and 29 miles per gallon on the highway.

Technical highlight: Nissan has installed what it calls “0 gravity” front seats in all of its Altima cars. Borrowed from NASA technology, the seats are designed to reduce fatiguing stress points on back and hips. Congratulations to Nissan/NASA. The seats work.

Safety: Standard equipment in the 2013 Altima 3.5 SV include four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear); four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; electronic brake-force distribution; electronic stability and traction control; and side and head air bags.

Price: The base price for the 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SV is $27,780. Dealer invoice price on that model is $25,394. Price as tested is $29,150, including $590 for optional onboard navigation system and a $780 destination charge. Dealer price as tested is $26,686.

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