Nissan Almera First Drive
Perhaps the best place to experience the Nissan Almera is from the back seat. They used to say that about Valiants, but for a totally different reason, says Paul Murrell.
Most cars under the all-important $20,000 mark offer remarkable value for money, but there’s one place most of them can be decidedly miserly, and that’s rear seat leg room. So if you’re in a position where you regularly need to move long-legged passengers from point-to-point, your choice becomes limited. Or you just have to find the extra dollars.
You could always argue that passengers in the back seat get what they deserve and should be thankful that you’re ferrying them around. But if those passengers are teenaged children and their mates, the ear-ache while they are cooped up in a limited space simply isn’t worth it.
Which brings me neatly to the new Nissan Almera. In reality, it is simply the sedan version of the Micra. From the front seats forward, you wouldn’t know the difference but open the rear doors and you’ll find considerably more space and legroom than you’d expect in a mid-size sedan. It’s a wonder it doesn’t echo back there! There is 94mm more legroom than in a Hyundai Accent, 59mm more than in a Barina and 36mm more than in the Toyota Yaris, and while those numbers don’t sound huge they make all the difference to rear seat comfort. Open the boot and prepare to be surprised again…the available space is a cat’s whisker less than in the current Holden Commodore.
Despite wearing Nissan’s new signature grille and multi-reflector headlamps, the external design of the Almera is, to be kind, bland. But its value cannot be faulted. The entry model, the ST manual, kicks off at $16,990, auto adds $2000 and the range-topping Ti (auto only) is a very reasonable $20,990.
In the ST, things are a little bleak with the minimum of instruments, but there is keyless entry, steering wheel controls for the four-speaker audio system and Bluetooth connectivity. The Ti is an altogether more pleasant place to spend some time, thanks to rear park assist, climate control air conditioning, multi-function computer, 15-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, and a rear spoiler. Cruise control is a glaring omission (it’s not even available as an option), and cost-cutting measures abound such as no fold-down rear seat and non-adjustable headrests in the rear of the ST. While there are plenty of hard plastics, the seats are stylishly trimmed and visibility is excellent.
The 1.5-litre power plant puts out a useful 75kW at 6000rpm and 139Nm of torque. Standard is a five-speed manual gearbox that’s light and easy to use, and optional (standard in the Ti) four-speed auto. Official combined fuel consumption is 6.3L/100km (manual) and 6.7 in the auto. Safety is a strong feature in the Almera with six airbags, brake force distribution, brake assist and electronic stability control, but it doesn’t currently have an ANCAP safety rating.
PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS
If you’re in the market for a highly sensible new car with all the attributes of a small car but the space and practicality of a mid-size car, the Nissan Almera almost stands alone. You’ll miss out on a few of life’s little luxuries, but you shouldn’t get too many complaints from the back seat.