If you’re a car buyer on a budget, the market is just getting better and better for you. Car makers are responding to the massive growth of the B-segment and your choice of vehicles under R200 000 seems to grow daily.
Enter the new Nissan Almera, a nameplate South Africans will remember from the early 2000s. Based on the Micra, the Almera can be thought of crudely as a Micra with a boot, but some clever engineering means it offers a lot more than its hatchback sibling.
Space, space and more spaceIt’s difficult to describe how much interior space is available, particularly in the back and in the boot. Two 6-footers could easily sit behind each other (one in the driver’s seat, one behind). If you’re a freakishly tall family on a budget, this is the car for you. I've driven very large German saloons that don’t offer half the rear legroom of the Almera.
The boot space is equally cavernous, at 490 litres, and much emphasis has been placed on smoothing out the edges of the boot to create as much usable space as possible. I’m not sure how else to describe how big 490 litres really is – I can comfortably climb in there if that helps.
As a family vehicle, I would argue this is about as practical as it’s going to get at this price point.
Comfort, Interior design and featuresThe Almera will be offered in one trim level – Acenta. This means pretty much everything you could want in a budget ride is standard, which makes things nice and easy – no sifting through a long options list. More on that at the end of the article.
Most of the interior bits and pieces have been lifted from the Micra, which is not a bad thing overall. The climate switchgear still feels too plasticky, but otherwise the interior feels durable and well put together. At this price point, it’s about as good as it’s going to get.
I did like the addition of an independent rear fan. This will certainly be welcome in summer. It hasn't really been warm enough to test it in Cape Town, but it has two speeds and works by sucking in air-conditioned air from the front area, and pushing it through to the rear.
Where Nissan have excelled is drive refinement. The engine is incredibly quiet at idle, and cabin noise is very decent while on the move. In fact, with the radio on the sort of sensible volume my Gran would appreciate, there’s barely any road noise at all at urban speeds.
I still think the seats could offer more lateral support, but besides that, they are comfortable and the driver’s seat adjusts for height.
The pedals, gear shift and steering are all successfully engineered to be incredibly light and undemanding – it’s not a taxing drive at all. A decade or two ago, a car in this price bracket would have been a bit of a pig to drive. Not anymore.
If you’re looking for the kind of drive that gets your senses tingling, you’re not looking at an Almera anyway, and Nissan knows that.
New Nissan Almera StylingI’m not mad about the styling, mostly because it looks like I designed it. And the height of my car design career was in the back of Maths in Standard 3. In this segment, I don’t think car makers can afford to ignore styling especially with the Koreans and French making some striking yet affordable cars at the moment.
That said, it’s not offensive and will appeal to a very wide audience. I could live with it, and my Gran loves it. Chalk that up to success then.
Engine and driveThe Almera will only be available with one engine, the 1.5 litre inline-4 petrol, which has been tried and tested in the Micra. It’s a decent little workhorse; it has enough power to make it feel useful when nipping through traffic, and cruising at motor way speeds is no problem.
It doesn’t like revving near the red line, but most of these small displacement engines don’t. Again, if you’re a red line junky, you’re probably not looking at an Almera anyway. Below 4000rpm, the engine offers everything you need in a package like this.
Claimed consumption is fair, at 6.3 litres/100km. My test unit is averaging 7.2, but that has been exclusively short trips in town. With some highway driving I’m sure that figure will drop. Claimed consumption for the autobox is higher at 7.2 litres/100km; bear that in mind when making up your mind about the transmission. If you sit in traffic, an auto does make life less stressful.
Safety featuresDriver and passenger airbags are standard, as well as a suite of braking assist functions, ABS, EBD and BAS. The passenger cell features high strength construction, ISOFIX anchor points are standard as well as an immobiliser.
Standard features on the New Nissan AlmeraThe Almera is available in 6 colours with full colour coding (bumpers and wing mirrors).
Standard features include:
- 15-inch alloy wheels, - electric door mirrors, - manual air conditioning with dedicated rear vents and independent fan speed - control, - a radio/CD/MP3 audio system with aux input port, - steering wheel audio controls, - a height-adjustable driver’s seat, - tilt adjustment for the steering wheel, - remote central locking with speed-sensitive auto-locking doors and - a comprehensive trip computer with two trip meters, instant and average fuel economy readouts, tank range and service information.
SummaryNissan have gone for a value package here, and succeeded in offering something that South African’s certainly appreciate: space. It’s a car that is about the size of vehicles in the segment above, at a B-segment price. It’s not the most exciting car in the world but practicality and budget are not exciting concepts to begin with.
Nissan Almera Price in South AfricaAlmera 1.5 Acenta Manual – R165 000 (incl VAT) Almera 1.5 Acenta Auto – R175 500 (incl VAT)
*The all-new Nissan ALMERA range is available as standard with a 3-year/60 000 km service plan and Nissan’s 3-year/ 100 000 km warranty. Service intervals are 15 000 km.