Inigo S. Roces / Inigo S. Roces | February 01, 2013 13:30
The Little Limo
It wasn’t long ago when the B-segment lacked some life, with nothing more than the Toyota Vios, Honda City and Hyundai Accent to choose from. These days, it’s brimming with options, with the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Mazda 2, Kia Rio and joining the party. Just this year, Nissan has decided to join the melee with their latest vehicle, the Almera.
The Almera takes its name from the Spanish word “Almendra” which means a large diamond. The Almera line may be new to our country, but it’s actually been around for some time, now on its third generation. In other markets, it’s sold as the Versa / Tiida Sedan and rides on the N17 platform. Technically, we got its predecessor, the N16 Pulsar, sold in the Philippines as the Sentra Exalta Grandeur (my daily driver).
This Almera is much different, clearly taking inspiration from the Teana. Teardrop shaped headlights are recessed on either side of its trapezoid grille. The cabin’s roofline forms a continuous curve as it slopes up and gently back down again. It almost forms a coupe profile in the rear, with tail lights rolling over a ponton-style (popularized by Mercedes-Benz) rear fender.
Inside, the cabin employs a retro-modern style. Themes of circles and spheres are prominent in the dashboard with bubble-style modules, circular air con vents and the large, round door handles.
On the driver’s side is an adorable smoothly sculpted steering wheel with built-in remote controls for the stereo. It sits just in front of the instrument panel with a multi-information display in between the two dials. It shows digital fuel and temperature gauges, and real time and average fuel consumption.
All around, there’s a large amount of cupholders and pockets, ensuring more than enough room for essentials and keepsakes. The trunk offers a deep and cavernous space, enough to fit in a month’s worth of groceries with room to spare.
As appealing as the cockpit is, the more appealing seat in the Almera is easily the second row. It features legroom you’d expect to find in a larger class of car, even with the driver’s seat set all the way back. An armrest with cupholders folds down from the bench while a rear comfort fan directs the cold aircon to the passengers. It may be just a blower, but is certainly a much appreciated addition.
Once rolling, it becomes clear that the Almera is a car geared more toward comfort. It returns a supple and comfortable ride, owing largely to its softer spring rate and long wheel base. In addition, its cabin is extremely quiet, shutting out most of the traffic and road noise. It has lightly weighted steering, and thought it looks long, is fairly easily to park with good visibility all around. The engine has enough pep to pull the car along and will easily return 9.3 km/L in the city.
As for safety, the car comes equipped with full suite even on the entry level model. No matter what variant, the car will have dual airbags and brakes with ABS, EBD and Brake Assist.
It all makes for a pretty calm drive. You can certainly feel the long wheelbase coming into play, particularly in the ride and handling. That’s a plus for the ride but not so for the handling. There’s ample power for most purposes, and while it may not look like much on the spec sheet, the engine has some good low end torque.
Nissan hopes to market the car to young and first time car buyers. However, during the course of the test drive, it’s the older car buyers that seemed more interested. The Almera fits the bill as a smaller and more efficient second car and is perfect for those who’d rather be driven around. After all, it ticks all the right boxes with sedate style, generous legroom in the rear, the rear comfort fan, and massive trunk.
It may not have much in the way of tech or sportiness but will not be found lacking when it comes to comfort. The 2nd row space is truly its best selling point, making the Almera a no-frills means of transportation with the size and space many shoppers in the subcompact segment have been waiting for.