"Fun for the whole family!" is usually something promised by amusement parks and buffet restaurants. With few exceptions, that advertising come-on doesn't usually apply to family cars. Well, the 2011 Nissan Altima is one of those exceptions. Depending on which version they select, mom and dad will get some enjoyable driving dynamics from an Altima, all without subjecting the kids to a harsh ride or a cramped rear seat.
The Altima's fun factor depends largely on which engine you choose. The V6 version -- known as the 3.5 SR -- comes standard with a sport-tuned suspension that trades some ride comfort for sharper handling, making this Altima feel more like a sport sedan than a family sedan. The four-cylinder-powered Altimas are understandably less thrilling, though they are still more involving to drive than many rivals, thanks to the Nissan's communicative steering and composed chassis. As a bonus, the Altima is also available as a coupe for those who might want sleeker styling in exchange for some practicality.
Another perk of the 2011 Nissan Altima is the availability of plenty of high-tech luxury features, such as a hard-drive-based navigation system with music storage, a rearview camera, Bluetooth streaming audio and xenon headlights. Unfortunately, those features often come bundled in expensive packages, which in some cases must be paired with other packages. This often makes it virtually impossible to pick only the options you want and skip those you deem frivolous. Another potential downside are the Altima's backseats, which aren't quite as roomy as those found in the larger cars in this class. That said, most will likely find the Altima's "just right" size to be a major contributor to its relatively nimble feel.
In the final analysis, we consider the 2011 Nissan Altima to be a good choice in this very competitive segment. That said, there are many rivals worth checking out, including the well-rounded 2011 Ford Fusion, the ever popular 2011 Honda Accord, the enjoyable 2011 Mazda 6, the stylish 2011 Hyundai Sonata (and related Kia Optima) and the unknown but impressive 2011 Suzuki Kizashi. But should you ultimately choose the Nissan Altima, you'll be pleased, especially if fun in a family sedan is a requirement.