Nissan Almera is a 'space' oddity

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IOL mot jun2 Almera a

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What the Nissan Almera lacks in the power department it makes up for with excellent interior room and a spacious boot.

ROAD TEST: Nissan Almera 1.5 Acenta

There isn’t a polite way to say this. The Nissan Almera has a big bum.

But when it comes to bread ‘n butter sedans that are designed to be spacious and cheap, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Almera’s distended derriere means it’s got space for 490-litres’ worth of junk in its trunk, and if you can get past its awkwardly balanced side profile you’ll find one of the roomiest cars in its pricing bracket.

Interestingly, the Almera is based on the much smaller Micra platform but with obvious elongations in certain areas. Its origins do become apparent in the elbow-room department as it’s quite a narrow chassis relatively speaking, but with a lengthy wheelbase of 2.6-metres you’ll struggle to find more knee and legroom in any car in this market segment ... except for maybe the Almera’s slightly bigger Sentra sibling.

LIMO LEGROOM

The Almera’s back seat is truly a sight to behold, and I’m not kidding when I say it’s comparable to cars like 7 Series and S-Class. In leg-stretching ability that is. There’s pretty much nothing luxurious about this car’s passenger-toting abilities other than a folding centre armrest and a separate fan control knob for the back seat (actually quite a nifty feature in a car of this class). Other than that it’s swathes of plain-Jane cloth upholstery and unimaginative black plastics everywhere, but hey... what did you expect for a big four-door sedan at R170 600?

IOL mot jun2 Almera b

Honey, does my bum look big in this?

Still, quality is good, and when we say the Chinese competition isn’t quite “there” yet, it’s “here” we’re talking about. Material choices are far from fancy but they’re all well-made and assembled in a way that makes the car feel solid, durable and squeak free. Basically, the Almera gets that high Japanese quality we know so well, even though it’s made in India.

Besides its barebones features list, it’s also a very straightforward car in terms of mechanicals with a nothing-special naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre petrol engine driving the front wheels through a basic five-speed manual gearbox.

EASY TO DRIVE

All this simplicity does make for a very easy-to-drive nature, though, and for it I reckon the Almera’s a good beginner driver’s car.

Its two standard airbags and ABS with EBD brakes will be attractive to rookie drivers too, but the lack of any traction or stability control systems could be a deal breaker for safety-conscious buyers. I also couldn’t help but notice other cost-cutters like old-fashioned drum brakes at the back and fixed rear-seat backs that don’t fold down to make even more loading space.

For the price you do get remote central locking, air-conditioning, electric windows, a trip computer, and steering controls for the stereo system with a 3.5mm aux input as standard equipment.

IOL mot jun2 Almera c

Well-equipped cabin is comfortable and roomy.

It also comes with Nissan’s three-year/60 000km service plan and a three-year/100 000km warranty.

MODEST POWER

The Almera’s engine is a modest one (that’s the polite way to say it’s underpowered) with outputs of 73kW and 134Nm. We’ve definitely experienced more sluggish cars in this segment, but this one still needs to be worked hard to flow with fast lane traffic. You’ll also need to stir the gears to keep the revs in their happy range, but thankfully the transmission shifts precisely and it’s actually fun to ratchet through the gates – even if enthusiastic driving doesn’t exactly befit this type of car.

Our trip computer showed an average fuel consumption of 7.5 litres per 100km, which is... well, average in this segment.

VERDICT

The Almera doesn’t pretend to be anything but the spacious, B-segment sedan it is. Actually, that’s a lie. With dimensions like this, it’s pretending to be a C-segment sedan. Did I mention its humungous boot and back seat? -Star Motoring

Follow me on Twitter: @PoorBoyLtd

FACTS

Nissan Almera 1.5 Acenta

Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol

Gearbox: Five-speed manual

Power: 73kW @ 6000rpm

Torque: 134Nm @ 4000rpm

Consumption (claimed): 6.3 litres per 100km

Price: R170 600

Warranty: Three-year/100 000km

Service plan: Three-year/60 000km

ALTERNATIVES

Chev Sonic sedan 1.4 LS (74kW/130Nm) - R186 000

GWM C30 1.5 Comfort (71kW/138Nm) - R179 999

Kia Rio sedan 1.2 (65kW/120Nm) - R165 995

Toyota Corolla Quest 1.6 (90kW/154Nm) - R174 900

VW Polo Vivo sedan 1.6 (77kW/155Nm) - R163 200


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