First off, it behooves anyone reviewing this car to point out the admirable fact that it is locally assembled. I will always have a soft spot for vehicles put together by Filipino workers, regardless of its actual quality. That means jobs for our skilled countrymen.
But besides its place of manufacture, is the Almera a serious candidate for your hard-earned money? It’s not a simple question with a simple answer, but let’s just say this subcompact sedan is at least worth your second glance—especially in this cosmetically revised package, which was introduced to our market in November last year. With that makeover launch, Nissan gave the Almera not just some much-needed facelift, but also a smaller 1.2-liter engine as well as a top variant for the existing 1.5-liter version. This unit we have here is that range-topping Almera 1.5 VL AT.
The improved Almera still won’t take your breath away, but it’s admittedly better-looking than the original model released in January 2013. That Nissan was able to pull off the feat deserves commendation—the previous face was inexcusably bland.
The 98hp 1,498cc gasoline engine soldiers on in this variant, which is practically the same as the cheaper 1.5 V AT, the only upgrades being the leather seat material and the power-folding side mirrors. Whichever variant is the better buy depends on whether you really want said premium features for an extra P35,000.
Engine performance doesn’t feel as refined as the bestsellers in the segment (namely, the Toyota Vios and the Honda City), but it’s a decent performer. A first-time car owner won’t complain. The same goes for its ride and handling. Cruise on the highway and this sedan will carry you and your passengers in acceptable comfort.
Where the Almera particularly excels in is the interior space. It’s longer and taller (although a bit narrower) than the Vios, but Nissan’s optimal cabin configuration makes maximum use of every available inch inside. The trunk is impressively deep and cavernous—perfect for the typical family that likes hauling stuff on road trips.
The center console has discarded the inverted-Mickey rotary controls for the air-conditioning, in favor of piano-black push buttons arranged in a circle. This may or may not appeal to your taste. You be the judge.
For safety, this Almera has dual front airbags, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, and rear parking sensors. Four audio speakers, an LED-equipped rear spoiler, a rear center armrest (with cupholders), and 15-inch alloy wheels round out the package.
Overall, this revised Almera is an easier sell than the plain-looking version it retired. It’s an interesting proposition, especially for those who may be cringing at the thought of owning its more commonplace rivals. For young students or office employees, take a look at the entry-level variant with the 1.2-liter motor mated to a manual shifter. It could be a better fit for your requirement.