Nissan Philippines Inc. (NPI) launched on November 16 the updated version of its Almera subcompact sedan at Nissan Pasong Tamo in Makati City, and with an entry-level variant to boot.
Changes were mostly to the exterior. Up front, the Almera has a larger grill (akin to the ones on the larger Sylphy and Altima sedans), a reshaped front bumper and new headlights. At the back, the restyled rear bumper now has black, diffuser-style lower cladding. For the interior, a new three-spoke steering wheel and a revised center console sum up the cosmetic changes.
New 1.2-liter engine
The biggest news is the introduction of two new variants, bringing the Almera line-up to five models. One is the 1.2-liter model, powered by a twin-cam, 12-valve inline-3 that produces 79 horsepower and 106 Newton-meters of torque, running through a five-speed manual gearbox.
Despite being the base model – equipped with 14-inch steel wheels with wheel covers – this variant, like all Almeras, comes standard with central locking with keyless entry, front and rear electric windows, two front cupholders, driver and front-passenger airbags, an immobilizer and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist. However, a two-speaker sound system is a dealer option.
The other is the top-specification 1.5 VL, still powered by the previous model’s twin-cam, 16-valve inline-4 producing 99 hp and 134 Nm of torque. Available only with a four-speed automatic gearbox, the VL comes with a chrome grill and exterior trim, a rear spoiler, rear parking sensors, turn signals in the electrically folding and adjustable door mirrors, fog lights and new 15-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, the VL comes with a full leather interior, an upgraded gauge cluster with a multi-information display, piano-black trim for the center console, steering-wheel controls, a height-adjustable driver’s seat and climate control. Other features include push-button start, auxiliary input (including iPod connectivity) for the 4-speaker sound system, a rear center armrest with two cup holders, adjustable rear headrests and the Almera’s much-touted, rear-seat air-conditioner with fan-speed adjustment.
Meanwhile, the midrange 1.5 E is available with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic and adds alloy wheels, electrically adjustable mirrors and the four-speaker sound system to the base 1.2-liter model. Lastly, the automatic-gearbox-only 1.5 V comes with all of the exterior and interior features of the VL, except the leather interior and electrically folding door mirrors.
Aimed at the ‘hardworking optimist’
NPI president Antonio “Toti” Zara said in a speech that the revised Almera is not targeted at millenials, unlike many of its competitors, which include the segment-leader Toyota Vios, the Mitsubishi Mirage G4 and the Suzuki Swift Dzire.
“We wanted to focus on a new segment of the market: the hardworking optimist,” he said before members of the motoring media.
Zara said these primarily include overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who value practicality and value-for-money in a vehicle. He then introduced “hardworking optimists” who recently bought Almeras and interviewed them about their ownership experience.
One was Denver Corpus, a former OFW who now works as a property consultant and taxi operator, while the other was Randall Negado, a finance and accounting supervisor for a business process outsourcing firm who bought an Almera after getting one as a GrabCar ride. For serving as the Almera’s ambassadors, NPI awarded them each a voucher for free preventive maintenance service for up to 100,000 kilometers.
Lower maintenance costs
Speaking of maintenance, Zara also said the revised Almera has been given upgraded parts, lowering running costs by nearly a third compared to its rivals.
In an interview with Fast Times, Zara said the Almera now has a 10,000-kilometer service interval (instead of 5,000 kilometers previously) and parts such as platinum-tipped spark plugs allow for higher mileage before replacement.
The Almera range starts with the 1.2 manual transmission (M/T) at P620,000. Next is the 1.5 E M/T at P726,000, while the 1.5 E automatic transmission (A/T) is P762,000. The 1.5 V A/T is P845,000 with the top-specification 1.5 VL A/T costing P880,000.