Nissan Almera 2012 Updated

Unconventional Appearance 

The Nissan Sunny, like the Toyota Corolla, has been a 'bread and butter' family sedan since the mid-60s - at least two generations of Singaporeans have grown up with memories of having one of these vehicles around, if not learning how to drive in one, or at least having an uncle or aunt that had one.

Unless you've been living under a rock, or have been in deep hibernation for the last decade or so, you'll know that things just can't remain the same - things are more complicated now, and a basic family sedan just does not exist anymore, at least one from Japan. And would you really want to be driving a model that your father or uncle was driving? If your answer is 'no', then Nissan have played their cards right with the new Almera.

This accounts for Nissan brushing off the Almera badge for their latest 1.5-litre family car, and also helps us to understand the car's unusual lines and proportions.

The first Almera was in the 90s, a 5-door hatchback model that Nissan produced in the United Kingdom. It looked like a tidied-up Fiat Tipo, but its mechanicals were largely borrowed from the Sunny 1.6. It was only sold in limited numbers in Singapore, as back then most Singaporeans preferred sedans such as the Sunny.

As for the new Almera's styling, it is definitely a case of 'form follows function'. This means that you will only appreciate the Almera's funky, unconventional lines only after you take a look at the amount of legroom the rear passengers get, and into the huge, almost 500 litre boot. To put things into perspective, the Almera has probably more rear legroom and a larger boot than a full-sized executive saloon such as a Mercedes-Benz E-class!

In order to achieve this remarkable feat of space-efficiency, the designers have had to alter the proportions of the Almera from that of a conventional mid-sized family sedan. Firstly, the Almera shares its platform with the new Nissan March, albeit with its wheelbase stretched by 110mm. While this is not the first time Nissan has done this - the Latio and previous March also shared a platform - but this time it is more obvious. Park the Almera next to another sedan, for example, you will notice that the entire passenger cabin assumes a tall, hatchback-like profile, which draws attention to steeply raked bonnet and windscreen.

At the rear, aft of the sloping roofline, the Almera stretches its boot further back than other cars in its class - allowing it to have such a commodious almost 500 litre boot. Stylistically, the cues are taken from the Nissan Teana, but this does little to disguise the Almera's unusual proportions.

If it Ain't Broke 

Mechanically, the Almera gets carries over the DOHC 16-valve 1.5-litre unit from the Latio, again matched to a four-speed automatic transmission. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with this set-up ? the engine is smooth and free-revving, and the transmission is efficiently inoffensive. The problem is there seem to more interesting and high-tech alternatives nowadays, whether it's a single, or double, clutch semi-automatic (as favoured by the Europeans), or a 5-, or 6-speed gearbox (as found in other Japanese, or even Korean, family sedans), not to mention the Continuous Variable Transmission (as found in petrol/electric hybrids).

Nonetheless, true to its Japanese heritage and mechanical efficiency, the Almera will probably be very economical to run, and be especially low in fuel consumption. This is because despite being larger and more spacious than its Thai-built rivals rival like the Toyota Vios and Honda City, the Almera weighs between 15 to 55kg lighter than its rivals! Sometimes it is the simple solutions like reducing weight and improving efficiency that work best as they are tried and tested.

The similarities between the Almera and the new March are even more obvious from behind the steering wheel. The basic architecture and shape of the dashboard are readily recognizable as being based on the March.

Benefitting from Economies of Scale

The most obvious giveaway is the March's eye-catching and unique doughnut shaped climate-control interface. Once again, it works really well, and since it's a sophisticated digital unit, there's nothing wrong with carrying it over from the March.

In addition to the digital climate control, other luxury car features found in the Almera include key-less entry, push-button ignition, and steering-wheel mounted controls for the locally installed 2-DIN in-car entertainment system. The execution of the steering switches are particularly large and easy-to-use. So this means the Almera is actually quite well-equipped, even though the fascia has too many similarities with the March.

The person that judges the Almera by its look, does so at his/her own peril ? behind those unusual and unique proportions, the car is probably the most spacious cabin amongst its rival 1.5-litre sedans, and even rivaling much larger cars. The Almera's straight-forward mechanical set-up, while seemingly unimpressive, is probably very economical and efficient. And if you're turned off by the outwardly simple dashboard, a close inspection will reveal the fact that the Almera is really well-equipped and luxurious.

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