Review: Nissan Almera 1.5 Mid

By Niky Tamayo
 

Nissan Almera 1.5 Mid review | Top Gear Philippines

Subcompact sedans are big business for car brands in the Philippines. They serve as entry points for new customers, building market share and brand loyalty. Nissan Motor Philippines' lack of an entry-level subcompact has long been a hole in its market strategy, costing the company market share versus other manufacturers. While there's the Sentra GX, this old car is more appealing to fleet managers than private customers. Enter the Nissan Almera. Though it might be easy to dismiss this car as a Nissan-ized Vios, looks aren't everything. We give Nissan's big little sedan a spin to find out what it's like under the skin.

Nissan Almera 1.5 Mid review | Top Gear Philippines

STYLING

The compromises created by stretching the Almera around along wheelbasegive it an unusal profile. The tall, extended cabin adds a lot of visual bulk, and the standard15-inch alloysseem lost within the fenders. The Almera's styling may echo theLeaf, which is based on the Almera, but the overriding impression is the similarity to the old Vios. The car's best angle is therear three-quarters, where the strong shoulder-line terminates in attractive taillights at the rear. The Mid variant'sspoilergives the floating trunk much more character, and hard-edged bumper corners bookend the side profile nicely.

Nissan Almera 1.5 Mid review | Top Gear Philippines

INTERIOR

If Nintendo were to design a car interior, it might look something like this. Lots of bubbly shapes, soft plastic surfaces and shiny happy-robot faces everywhere. The bottle-opener door handles and game-pad steering wheel are especially cute. On the downside, interior fabrics are Fifty Shades of Greige. This is no exercise in bondage, though. While elbow room is unremarkable, there's enough legroom out back to cross your legs comfortably. You sacrifice a little knee support and the trunk pass-through for it, but that rear seat rivals even some so-called "midsizers." The trunk is also impressively deep and flat.

Nissan Almera 1.5 Mid review | Top Gear Philippines

Nissan Almera 1.5 Mid review | Top Gear Philippines

ENGINE PERFORMANCE

The Almera's HR15DEengine is lively, despite a lack of on-paper power. The automatic transmission may only have four gears, but the engine's flexible powerband makes good use of each and every one. Throttle response is good, and kick-down when overtaking is rarely an issue. It's only at extra-legal speeds that you will feel any lack of power. What is missing here is the CVT available elsewhere. With the old-fashioned 4AT, economy in traffic is around 8-10km/L. On the highway, good aerodynamics means good economy, though the AT struggles to match the 20+km/L potential of the manual.

Nissan Almera 1.5 Mid review | Top Gear Philippines

RIDE AND HANDLING

The Almera's long-stroke suspension and long wheelbase make it comfortably composed over the choppiest of roads. There are some secondary motions, but they're well-damped, a welcome change from your typically stiffly-sprung sports-car-wannabe subcompacts. Despite the pillowy ride, the Almera tracks steadily on the highway and is surprisingly sure-footed when hustled. The chassis is settled through sweepers and transitions, and the electric steering's direct response and strong self-centering belie the light and numb feel at low speeds. The 175/65 R15 Maxxis MA-202 tires are a bit too tall for this kind of use, but they're quiet and comfortable in regular driving.

Nissan Almera 1.5 Mid review | Top Gear Philippines

EXTRA FEATURES

The standard 2-DIN stereo has clean, crisp sound despite the simple four-speaker setup. Clarity and bass reproduction are surprisingly good at higher volumes. The huge whip antenna gives it excellent reception to boot. Our Mid variant gets nicer gauges, a rear spoiler and rear-seat vents. These vents aren't air-conditioned, but they're still cool. Foglights and a rear spoiler round off the variant-specific package. If you want side-mirror indicators and backing-up sensors, they'll cost extra. As that tall trunk and long wheelbase are awkward to handle in tight spots, you'll definitely want to invest in those sensors.

THE VERDICT

The Almera is not the sexiest car out there, but there's actually a fun car hiding beneath that skin. And in a game of Top Trumps, it wins in interior space every time. If NMPI ever offers a taxi variant, commuters will be grateful. As the Almera is Philippine-built, future parts availability should not be a problem, either. Instead, the overriding concern is the price. A cheaper Mid-level manual would be spot-on for the green-minded. For those who don't care to shift for themselves, however, an automatic Almera may be the best Vios that Toyota never built.

SPECS: NISSAN ALMERA 1.5 Mid

Engine: 1.5 liter HR15DE variable-valve gasoline

Transmission: 4-speed automatic

Power: 98hp @ 6,000rpm

Torque: 134Nm @ 4,000rpm

Drive layout: FWD

Seating: 5

Price: P830,000

Score: 15/20

Photos by Ken Tamayo

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  • JoHunter Oct 13 2013 @ 01:51pm
    Ugh... why can't Nissan, Toyota and Honda take a lesson in subcompact car design from Ford (and maybe even Suzuki)? I know the focus should be function more than form, but some designs are just too *gly to get past.
    • wew Oct 13 2013 @ 02:47pm
      for me honda's and toyota's design is not bad, in fact they really look good especially the new vios...ung nissan ok lang din naman pero di nakkaatawag ng attention
      • GodziRRa! Oct 16 2013 @ 12:45am
        Guys cars like these aren't supposed to be attention grabbers. They're good entry level econoboxes. And I don't know if you guys find city, almera, vios head turners. If you see them for the first time maybe, but sub compacts like these will be like gremlins you will hardly notice them anymore. And that's not really a bad thing IMHO.
        • wew Oct 16 2013 @ 05:43pm
          subcompacts will never be as strong as other vehicle categories when it comes to attention-grabbing because they are so common to the point na mananawa ka sa itsura. pero kumbaga eh atleast kahit sa design eh makabawi man lang pag kinumpara sa ibang category at kaya namang pagandahin ang design eh,bakit ba hahaha
  • mark14 Oct 13 2013 @ 02:02pm
    Can someone tell me why Nissan is using two different dash designs for the Almera? Thanks! :D
    • Niky Tamayo
      Niky Tamayo Oct 13 2013 @ 06:38pm
      The design is the same, the colors are different.
      • mark14 Oct 13 2013 @ 07:02pm
        Thanks sir but the difference isn't just in color. The Almera that was pitted against the Chevrolet Sonic in the magazine months ago featured a dash with circular aircon vents. I'm just wondering if Nissan really sells the Almera with trim-specific dashboards :D
        • Niky Tamayo
          Niky Tamayo Oct 13 2013 @ 11:25pm
          Strange... I was just looking at that one and I missed it! It's just the center insert where the radio goes, so it can be swapped out easily. Doesn't cost any extra.

          As to why the actual shape of the vents is different... I honestly don't know. It could be the rectangular vents are packaged with the rear seat vents... to save money. They may be cheaper to make than the rotating ball vents.
  • foolishofficer Oct 13 2013 @ 09:26pm
    What would a taxi variant be called - sub-Base? I just hope Almera will do better - as it is I see more the recently released new Vios than the Almera launched late last year. That shows what people's choice is.
  • Josh Miranda Oct 14 2013 @ 10:14pm
    Its hard to choose between this and Vios and City.
  • dos2 Oct 14 2013 @ 10:27pm
    "an automatic Almera may be the best Vios that Toyota never built"
    -what does the author mean, the automatic almera is better that all automatic vios ever built even the current generation? thanks
    • Niky Tamayo
      Niky Tamayo Oct 15 2013 @ 01:27pm
      It is what it is. It's like Nissan built their own Vios, with all that people expect of a Vios. Space, comfort, smoothness. Yet on the other hand, Toyota's new Vios has become more sporty and dynamic (and drop-dead gorgeous). Whichever of the two is the "better car" depends on your priorities as a buyer.
      • Josh Miranda Oct 15 2013 @ 07:50pm
        Thats why I wish if Topgear could make a test between the big three. The all new VIOS, CITY and ALMERA. I believe many will benefit with this idea since all of that people find space, comfort, smoothness and availability of the parts when it comes to purchasing a sedan here in PH. Try to put up a test on the top variants and the base models. That is something good to read on.
  • Nobushino Oct 17 2013 @ 02:49am
    UGly
  • Nobushino Oct 17 2013 @ 02:53am
    With Mr. Niky "pillow/feather right foot" Tamayo getting only 8 - 10 km/l this translates to 4-6 km/l in real life.
    • Niky Tamayo
      Niky Tamayo Oct 18 2013 @ 06:50am
      So what would the Vios I got 6-8 km/l in get in real life? :p :D

      I'm not an eco-alien. I get great economy on the highway because I maintain 80 km/h and don't pull out to overtake much, but the city economy I post is typically normal driving. ;)
  • Josh Miranda Oct 17 2013 @ 05:42am
    A mid-size sedan wannabe.
  • InternalCombustion 3 months ago
    Wow. What kind of 1.5 has little power as a 1.3 engine. Nissan, why detune your engines so bad? Or are you just incapable without a turbo?
    • InternalCombustion 3 months ago
      And also, you guys might ask me "have you considered the torque figures?" Yes I did, and it is also significantly less than any conventional 1.5 gasoline. Hopeless.
  • rolandmirage74 2 weeks ago
    Nice car,i would buy this
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