NEW YORK – To have less stuff or be better organized is a goal for many of us.
Nissan too decided the interior of the next-generation Altima needed a paring down, with designers from both China and the U.S. aiming to make the space more open and serene.
“There’s been a conscious decluttering and grouping – consciously reducing buttons but then also keeping (the ones that remain) away from each other,” Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s senior vice president-global design, tells WardsAuto here in a recent interview.
Generally speaking, as cars integrate new technology many people find it overwhelming, Albaisa says. “But a lot of these things are quite important; we need them,” so any effort to simplify them is worthwhile.
An obvious change is the lack of a true center stack in the new ’19 Altima. A floating-style infotainment screen protrudes from the upper dash, replacing a smaller infotainment screen in the ’18 model (pictured below) that was placed lower.
At the bottom edge of the new screen are hard buttons for the day/night screen setting, seek, audio, menu, map, camera and back.
The outgoing Altima’s center stack has 13 hard buttons to the left or right of the screen. Gone are dedicated buttons for audio bands AM, FM and SXM, as well as CD, navigation, phone and apps.
Some of those functions have migrated to on-screen virtual buttons, including phone and navigation. Other on-screen buttons, arranged at the lower bottom of the infotainment system’s home screen, are info, audio, menu, connection and settings.
Climate controls, immediately below the screen in the old Altima, now are visually separated in the new sedan by vents, a faux-wood trim, a satin-silver trim and beige lower instrument panel trim.
The new center stack actually has more climate-control buttons now that heated seats and heated steering-wheel buttons have relocated there from prior locations on the center console and dash.
Albaisa notes the wider, deeper and more textured knobs for driver and passenger temperature were deliberate and a result of feedback from customers who prefer their dials bigger and easier to grasp.
“This is actually what people are asking for. They really get frustrated with small knobs,” he says. “So dials are big, (with) chrome, with a lot of texture so you can immediately – even if you’re not looking, boom, it’s there. This is much easier to make fine adjustments (to) than when they’re small.”
He notes volume and tune knobs remain on the small side (although with more knurling for better grip-ability) for “packaging” reasons.
To add a sense of airy-ness and openness to the interior of the new Altima, engineers were able to reduce the size of the blowers so the instrument panel could be lowered.
“(That) slimmed it up and allowed us to get this much wider feeling,” he says. “We really want people to feel this is a very open and wide space.”
To create separation with Nissan’s Infiniti luxury unit, the Altima uses faux, not real wood trim. Albaisa says the wood film in the Platinum trim level of the ’19 car unveiled at the recent New York auto show has metallic flecks to reference technology, not luxury.
“Altima’s not a luxury car,” he says.
Another prominent trim in the New York show car is piano black trim, which quickly has become an interior trend. Albaisa likes its reflective, not “plastic” nature that matte or satin trims can possess. He also says it is more durable, not as prone to scratching, as when it was first introduced.
“(Suppliers have) changed the chemical compound of the plastic itself and this is not (a problem any longer),” he says of marring issues.
Sedans tend to be relatively staid inside and for that reason the Altima likely will not offer the same bright, flashy colors offered increasingly in smaller cars and crossovers. Nissan’s Kicks CUV, due this year in the U.S., has an orange IP, with the same color also found in the Ford EcoSport, a Kicks competitor.
“Sedans stay more in a refined kind of envelope and typically people are asking for a lot more light and (not) things you find in crossovers,” Albaisa says.
Albaisa and a Nissan spokesman won’t detail any colorways for the car beyond beige and charcoal. Sport grades, such as the new Toyota Camry’s XSE trim level, typically are available in red or with red accents. The current Altima’s sport grade uses charcoal and black.
The chief designer does say there will be a black headliner offered in the car, a typical sport-grade element that has become mainstream. Another sport-grade feature, a flat-bottom steering wheel, is seen here in the ’19 Platinum-grade model.
“A dark headliner and D-shaped steering wheels, which used to be only for sports cars, actually are becoming pretty normal,” he says, noting the latter is appropriate for a “semi-autonomous world…because you can pull your leg back and you’re not hitting the wheel.”
The redesigned Altima goes on sale in the U.S. later this year.