Quoth Andara Bledin
I ended up with an Altima as the only car the loan company would offer. I'd have never chosen one normally, but so far I adore the thing.
I'm assuming it's a newer Altima - the 1st generation (93-97) was very much an economy car with the KA24DE out of the 2nd generation 240SX dropped in. The 98-01 used the same driveline, the interior was almost identical to the 1st, but got a much nicer looking body. The third and fourth generation Altimas are squarely in midsize territory and much nicer cars in general; the 2.5L they used in the third generation had issues with the catalytic converter breaking up and somehow getting sucked into the engine and destroying the valves. Supposedly they've fixed this with the latest models, and it didn't affect the V6 version. My 99 is like driving a similar year Civic with a bit more interior room, a lot more power, and better a/c - but much worse mileage - my best is 26 MPG, my last tank was 21 MPG. Definitely a lot smaller than an Accord.
Mine's a 99. The engine is a tough bastard, as is the manual transaxle. But the car is a complete whore to work on. For example, this is what has to be removed just to reach the water pump
(along with a motor mount; the engine is being supported from below by a floor jack). An example of the previous owner's neglect
(that's one of two original 13 year old belts; the other belt shredded while driving). And here's the engine bay in one piece
It's like they designed it around a 1.0L 3 cylinder engine, then dropped in a 2.4L 4 cylinder. There's not even enough room between the crank pulley and strut tower for a pencil, and the power steering pump is under the intake manifold (it was fun changing one of the power steering hoses!).
But enough bitching and photo whoring, it runs good, it's paid for, and looks damn good
for a $2500 beater. Just rolled over 148k miles, hopefully it makes it another 148k. Got it 13 months ago with about 131-132k.