Text and photos by Chris Van Hoven
Every car in the heavily contested subcompact sedan segment has something unique to offer. The Toyota Vios has its Toyota badge for reliability and affordable spare parts. The Honda City comes with stylish looks and a fantastic feature package. Nissan’s Almera, admittedly, has neither of these as its selling point. But customers shopping for a new subcompact sedan may find some pleasant surprises if they give the Almera a second glance. We delve deeper to discover if the Almera’s selling points are enough to award it a space in your garage.
Despite a recent tweak in its looks, the Almera will never be as svelte and space-age stylish as its competitors. It bears a closer resemblance to its big brother, the Nissan Sylphy, both sharing unassuming, understated styling cues that contribute little to making it stand out in traffic. And yet, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To those who don’t necessarily crave attention, the Almera’s bulbous curves, arrow-shaped headlights and wrap around tail lights are pleasant enough to form an overall inoffensive package.
ROOM FOR MORE
Inside is where you’ll find the Almera’s best features. A simple two-DIN head unit (unfortunately without Bluetooth connectivity) lies in between two rectangular air-conditioning vents and an intriguingly-shaped circular air-conditioning control system. Why Nissan decided to use this central dash design as opposed to something more cohesive like the Juke’s, I’ll never know.
There are no complaints with Nissan’s choice of buttons and knobs, however, as each feels solid to the touch. Together with the leather-clad steering wheel and seats, these details give the Almera a more premium impression. The driver’s seat is capable of sliding, reclining, and height adjustments. The instrument cluster is nicely laid-out, with easy-to-read gauges and a digital drive computer display.
Once you sit at the rear, you’ll quickly realize that the Almera is most at home as a passenger car. The rear legroom is incredible, easily rivaling the legroom of cars in the larger compact sedan segment, and possibly some mid-sized sedans as well. Even with the front seats adjusted backwards, there is more than enough space between your knees and the back of the front seat. Rear passengers also get to enjoy Nissan’s legendary air-conditioning system with their own circular vents and controls. Those sitting at the rear also get their own center armrest, with two cup holders — features you’d normally find on executive sedans. The trunk is also remarkably spacious, capable of stowing a large suitcase, together with some medium-sized duffel bags thrown in.
Despite some minor quirks, the Almera offers a comfortable, peppy drive. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder HR15DE engine does an admirable job of offering decent amounts of acceleration when needed; making you think that there’s more to the engine than its 99 horsepower and 134Nm of torque output. While the rest of the segment leaders start to utilize CVT transmissions, the Almera sticks to the old reliable four-speed automatic which greatly contributes to its responsiveness. This combination gave us very acceptable levels of fuel economy, at 10.2 km/L on mixed highway and city conditions.
The Almera wasn’t designed to tackle sharp turns at speed though, as its softly sprung suspension presents a clear bias for comfort over handling. As an urban car, the Almera readily handles all kinds of bumps and road irregularities that the city can throw at it, all the while keeping its passengers in a level of comfort that is leagues above its competitors. Its steering is relatively light, and sufficiently responsive to zip around traffic. As a track day car, let’s just say that the Almera’s propensity for understeer elevates your heartbeat for all the wrong reasons. The Almera is, without a doubt, a car for the city commute to work, school, and the airport, where it feels most at home.
VALUE FOR MONEY
Priced at P880,000 for the top-of-the-line spec, the Almera is competitively priced, and comes with a standard set of safety features which includes driver and passenger airbags, ABS with Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist, as well as keyless entry and rear parking sensors.
In the end, the Nissan Almera is clear on what you can expect from it and can reward the customer who knows what they’re looking for in a subcompact. As a car for the starting family or perhaps as an Uber vehicle, the Almera offers the best rear passenger experience in its class, bar none.
Coupled with Nissan’s innovative after sales programs such as its Online Parts Store and Nissan Express Service, the Almera has a lot more going for it than what’s on the surface.