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New and Improved – Nissan Altima/Kia Forte

The latest versions of the Altima and Forte push them toward the top of the class.

The latest Altima has upgraded engines. (Photo: © Nissan)

The all-new 2019 Nissan Altima is a true midsize car. The standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine feels smooth and refined, with a ride that’s a bit firm but never uncomfortable. The steering delivers enough feedback to avoid feeling vague, and the all-wheel-drive system is completely transparent, adding extra grip when necessary.

My Altima had a complete lineup of advanced driver-assistance systems once only found in the best luxury cars. The ProPilot Assist system features lane centering, lane-departure warning, emergency braking and smart cruise control that keeps a safe distance around other vehicles. The system works well, but some functions can be limited by worn lane marking and heavy precipitation.

The infotainment system, which includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, is simple and minimally distracting, as is the climate control system. Rear seat room is ample. The trunk has a small but deep opening, with folding rear seats to further expand the space.

The previous generation Altima was a good, but not quite great, car. The latest version – with upgraded engines, a quieter ride and optional all-wheel drive – makes a convincing argument to put the Altima at the top of your shopping list.

Base Price: $24,645

MPG: 26 city, 36 highway

Crash Test: N/A

The well-equipped Forte is worth a look. (Photo: Kia Motors America)

The Kia Forte, now in its third generation, is a compact economy car powered by a 147-horsepower four-cylinder engine. It will never be confused with a luxury sedan, but the Forte is nicely appointed with dual-zone climate control, push-button start, heated and cooled front

seats, wireless phone charging and large touch screen with satellite radio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Driving the Forte is hardly breathtaking, but the engine has enough power to merge with fast-moving traffic. The continuously variable transmission gives the Forte a linear feel, combining fuel economy and engine performance. During my test drive, I averaged 37 mpg with the transmission in the most economical mode.

The traction and stability control systems work well, creating a smooth ride. The steering and handling is good for a compact car, and it is as quiet as more expensive midsize cars. The Forte may be one of the better handling and riding compact sedans available today.

If you’re shopping for a well-equipped compact car with the latest safety and entertainment features, the Forte is a worthy choice.

Base Price: $17,790

MPG: 30 city, 40 highway

Crash Test: 4 stars

Looking for a new car ride? Find more car reviews online. AAA.com/TestDrive

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