NISSAN ALMERA 1.5 VL A/T

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No fancy footwork; just a big, cool piece of mobile real estateNISSAN ALMERA 1.5 VL A/T

BY ARIES B. ESPINOSA


This subcompact didn’t get the memo that, well, it’s supposed to be a subcompact.

It might not be turning any heads, or registering sales numbers similar to its bestselling competitors in the subcompact category, but the Nissan Almera is able to provide something valuable others can’t: Lots of personal space. So much so that one would feel like he or she were in the next larger sedan category.

That cabin spaciousness comes in handy when Nissan Philippines pushes the Almera for first-time car buyers – young urban professionals and starting families – who don’t really need the brute power (yet) of an SUV and still don’t have enough purchasing leeway for more upscale vehicles.

And then you’ve got that legendary air-conditioning system, so you’ve got that “fairly cool” summer ride going for you.

Everything else about the Almera, though, is “point and shoot” – journeys achieved without much fanfare or fireworks.

Exterior

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Yes, the Almera exterior has been refreshed for its 2016 version. The bumper, grille, and headlights, as well as the 12-spoke alloy wheels, blacked diffuser at the rear bumper, the spoiler, and chromed trunk garnish all exude that touch of sportiness. But in a sea of other entry-level cars with bolder design statements, the Almera doesn’t really shimmer.

The cockpit expresses a no-nonsense setup and layout: Just the right mix of digital and analog displays for speed, revs, trip distance, fuel consumption, and efficiencies. The steering wheel offers the perfunctory audio controls, while the center console presents an easy-to-operate stereo system, sans the Bluetooth and other connectivity bells and whistles that are big deals with millennial motorists. The unique circular climate control reminds us of the Juke’s. Everything’s so simple, Nick Fury can drive this with his good eye closed (okay, we might be unsafely exaggerating on this one).

There are trade-offs, though, to having that much leg and elbow room. For starters, bid adieu to the center compartment. That space has been taken over by the dual air-con vent for rear passengers. Then there are only two center cupholders. Then the “mini” glove compartment can probably literally fit just your gloves (plus the owner’s manual and registration documents, of course).

Everything else about the Almera, though, is “point and shoot” – journeys achieved without much fanfare or fireworks.
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The Almera isn’t a pocket rocket, either. The 1.5-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine generates just enough horsepower (99 at 6,000rpm) and torque (134Nm at 4,000rpm) with the aid of its continuous variable timing (CVT) transmission to keep you at pace with the others on the highways and provide enough acceleration for that stop-and-go jam. The high-revving nature of the CVT may take some getting used to, as well. With that considered, the Almera does turn up respectable fuel mileage: 16 to 18 km/liter on highways and seven to nine km/liter in the city. And that may be all that matters for penny-pinching first-time buyers. That, and a sizeable share of personal space in today’s hyper-congested city streets.

The top-of-the-line Almera 1.5 VL AT retails for P880,000, while the 1.2-liter M/T variant goes for P630,000.


VERDICT

Positives: Space, no-nonsense interior setup and layout, friendly price, frugal fuel consumption

Negatives: Small glove compartment, power-challenged engine  

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Nissan Almera