For the past 55,000km I've been driving a 2010 Suzuki Swift Rally Edition and although it fits like a glove, the new Nissan Altima Ti I've been testing for the past week has been a breath of fresh air.

Literally - for from the moment my back met the leather seat, dimpled for ventilation, I felt at home. And a drive to Bunbury and back cemented the relationship.

If it's comfort and space you're looking for in a mid-sizer, it's hard to go past the Altima - the leather and soft-touch fabric finishes are tasteful and the car is just about the biggest in its class. Nissan has apparently used data from NASA to design the "zero gravity" seats and for a split second I thought I was about to be blasted into space when I parked the Altima and the seat retracted to let me out.

The cabin is immense, with plenty of leg and elbow room, and the instrument display has all the information you expect, plus handy extra info such as direction, fuel economy and the distance you can expect from the rest of the tank (more about that in a moment).

The high-spec Ti has driver aids such as lane departure and blindspot warning lights and six airbags add to the safety features. There is plenty of info at hand but without it being distracting and the easy-to-use seven-inch screen with sat nav is heaven sent. During the drive in 38C heat, the dual air-conditioning system meant my partner and I could both have the temperature just the way we liked it. No one got hot under the collar and the superb nine-speaker Bose sound system was music to our ears. Even with the front seats right back there's plenty of rear legroom and the boot space is massive at a Commodore-rivalling 488L.

But for a car this size there's just not enough easily accessible storage up front. There are two cup holders but once you've plugged in a phone and perhaps an iPod into the flip-top compartment it all starts to get a bit crowded. There's a big console, sure, but that's more for stowing items; it's too deep to be able to get to things easily. The Altima's sloping means objects on the dash such as the speaker badge become a distraction reflecting in the glass.

The back window is small and dominated by the rear head supports and although four cameras and a moving object detector aid reversing, the Altima has a long wheelbase and a big turning circle.

This lack of manoeuvrability is the trade-off for all that space but it will put some drivers off.

The Altima is a dream drive when cruising on long stretches such as the Forrest Highway, thanks to its 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine. And it's frugal too - I racked up about 700km at about 7.7L/100km.

Setting this car on cruise and enjoying the quiet of the comfortable cabin is my idea of a long drive and I was pleasantly surprised when, after overtaking a left-lane dawdler, the cruise control returned automatically to the set speed. Handling and braking are smooth and responsive but the front-wheel- drive Altima can drag and grunts when asked to accelerate - the four-cylinder engine paired with a CVT proved a little undercooked for a car this size. The top of the range Ti-S gets a V6 but will cost you about $5000 more.

But the Altima's great strength in a crowded medium-sized car market where it's up against the Camry, Mazda6 and others, is in its space, comfort and fuel efficiency.

I ended my stint behind the wheel with reluctance.

Is it worth shelling out $40,000 plus? A fantastic drive combined with three years' free roadside assistance and six-year, 120,000km servicing make the answer a comfortable yes.

The Altima isn't without its issues, but with its abundance of space, style and composure on the road it certainly offers something different in the mid-sized market.

Model: TI
Price: $40,190
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
Outputs: 127kW/230Nm
Transmission: CVT auto
Thirst: 7.5L/100km

Model: Atara SL
Price: $39,990
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
Outputs: 135kW/235Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual mode
Thirst: 7.8L/100km

Model: Luxury
Price: $37,840
Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol
Outputs: 148kW/230Nm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic, six-speed manual
Thirst: 8.5L/100km

Model: Touring
Price: $37,500
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
Outputs: 138kW/250Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Thirst: 6.6L/100km

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