Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Review: 2016 Nissan Almera 1.5 VL

It’s hard to get excited about the Nissan Almera. When it first made its way to the Philippine market three years ago, it already looked dated right before it rolled off the assembly line. And given the Filipino car buyer’s penchant for something sleek and sporty, it failed to gain traction despite boasting a blizzard-inducing air conditioning system. Fast forward to 2016 and Nissan has refreshed the Almera with a re-tweaked design and more features. Can it gain lost ground now?

Sad to say, but the answer is still a big, “no”. Though Nissan has done the right thing and introduced more variants of the Almera, including a fleet-special 1.2, even in its top-of-the-line 1.5 VL trim, it fails to sway the typically sophisticated car buyer. The sub-compact segment, where it competes, is highly competitive and everyone has put their own twist to stand out. Some tout sportiness, others technology and safety, others design. The Almera has none of those. But what it has in spades is spaciousness.

This fact isn’t so obvious when you look at the Almera (both in spec sheets and in person), but stepping in reveals the unmistakable: it can rival most compact sedans in terms of cavernousness. Front or back, there are zero complaints. The dashboard is pushed back and curved slightly up, resulting in great leg room for the front occupants, while those at the back will revel in the available knee room despite the noticeable center tunnel bump. It’s the same story with the luggage compartment. There’s no split-folding rear seat mechanism of any type, but it’s not missed here. The Almera’s generous trunk is good enough for trips to and from the airport.

Unfortunately, it also feels as if Nissan engineers have worked overtime to give the Almera a spacious interior that they designed everything else at the eleventh hour. The ergonomics, for instance, is severely dated. The driving position is never comfortable with the seats mounted too high and the pedals too close in relation to the steering wheel. The major controls—instrument cluster, audio system, and climate control to name a few are alright, but the positioning of other key items like the power window switches remain awkward. Once or twice, you’ll mistakenly bring down the rear passenger window when you actually intended to bring down the driver’s window. The same can be said with the shifter where the spacing between the gear notches is too small making you engage ‘2’ when you wanted ‘D’ countless times.

Adding to the Almera’s ergonomic woes is its lack of cubby holes. For a car so spacious for human occupants, it can’t even comfortably fit a smartphone. Yes, an iPhone can fit into the cup holders, but where would millennials put their non-fat lattes? The glove box isn’t much help either. It’s so small that after putting in the owner’s manual and registration papers, a travel umbrella won’t even fit. And on the subject of fit and finish, it’s pretty much expected for its price—hard, well-wearing plastics—though the leather steering wheel and thrones do their part to impart a slightly more expensive look and feel.

The rounded contours and absence of edges in the interior echoes the Almera’s sheet metal: all curvy and rotund. If done right, it could have been the Juke of the sub-compact class (or at least be cute like the foreign-market March); instead, the exterior serves largely to cover the chassis and interior. It was dated and forgettable when it first launched, and now, it’s even more so. The lines could be easily mistaken for the first-generation Altima, a car launched in 1992. And like that lukewarmly received sedan, people also commenting that they couldn’t tell which end is front. The standard spoiler does cut a better figure, but the design as a whole, is one big faux pas. Where are the Juke designers when you need them? Of course, credit is due to the styling tweaks introduced this year which ties the design better to the likes of the Sylphy—the arrow-shaped headlights, coke bottle grille, and the like.

As a driving machine, the Almera falls largely in the “Point A to Point B commuter car” category: get in, drive off, park it, walk away—there’s nothing that raises the pulse here. Despite the weak on paper 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, the 99 horsepower, 134 Nm of torque HR15DE does manage to feel peppy when trudging along in traffic. The four-speed automatic shifts responsively enough, though the gearing means the entire package loses steam at higher speed. The trade-off for this peppy performance is fuel efficiency which isn’t as high for its class: 7.93 km/L at an average speed of 11 km/h.

The same can be said with how the rest of the drivetrain package is configured. The Almera’s softly sprung suspension trades taut and precise handling for increased comfort. Even when riding on prescribed 39 PSI front, 44 PSI rear tire inflation, it feels plush, absorbing everything Manila throws at it. This commonly accepted standard for ride quality does result in a boat-like sensation at higher speed and some passengers may experience some discomfort as a result. What’s more, the steering feels disconnected and combine that with low mechanical grip means road ribs are enough to cause it to sway side-to-side. This isn’t exactly the most stable car out there. On the flipside, the light steering and large greenhouse makes it extremely maneuverable; though the overly sensitive back-up sensors take some getting used to.

While the old Almera had a simplified line-up, the new one comes in many flavors. The P 880,000 1.5 VL represents the range-topper and it comes reasonably loaded. Apart from the standard leather steering wheel and seats, it has automatic climate control, push button start-stop, power folding mirrors, and a full-fledged entertainment system with four speakers and steering wheel controls (no Bluetooth though). The pièce de résistance though is the rear blower with vents. This robs the driver of a decent armrest and armrest storage, but having the rear blower makes for a great conversation starter.

But after all’s said and done, the 2016 Nissan Almera still doesn’t have what it takes to leapfrog the competition. Designers have certainly done some nip and tuck in attempt to modernize the dated package they had to work with, but in the end, there’s no escaping reality that the foundations of this car are just too weak. Having a cold air conditioning and spacious interior are good traits on their own, but they aren’t sexy enough for would-be buyers to go flock Nissan showrooms; unless he’s in the market for an Uber fleet car and in that case, he’ll likely balk at the fuel efficiency. Compared to the increasingly capable and strong line-up of Nissan, the Juke and NP300 Navara to name a few, the Almera sticks out like a sore thumb. It shows that Nissan cannot win every war and in this case, perhaps it’s best to just raise the white flag.

2016 Nissan Almera 1.5 VL
Ownership 2016 Nissan Almera 1.5 VL
Year Introduced 2013 (Refreshed: 2015)
Vehicle Classification Sub-compact Sedan
The Basics
Body Type 4-door sedan
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.5
Aspiration EFI, NA
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 99 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 134 @ 4,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 4-speed AT
Cruise Control No
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,425
Width (mm) 1,695
Height (mm) 1,505
Wheelbase (mm) 2,600
Curb Weight (kg) 1,077
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Struts
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Drum
Tires Maxxis MA-202 185/65 R 15 H (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 2
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control No
Parking Sensors Yes, Rear
Exterior Features
Headlights Halogen
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights No
Auto Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Manual
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat No
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Yes, w/ Rear Blower
Audio System Stereo
No. of Speakers 4
Steering Wheel Controls Yes


  1. This car was dead even before it was conceived. No use insulting it though. It's like beating a dead horse.

  2. I still see a meager number of Almeras running in the road, mostly new.

  3. Hard to believe nissan calls this refreshed, mukang 1st gen vios na my ALMURANAS.

    1. Huh? Me-masabi lang?

  4. It may have a mediocre engine but like what this writer said it gets you from point A to point B. The price is reasonable so what's the fuss all about? There are more cars that deserve bad reviews and be featured in this segment like the Mahindra, Foton, Cherry, Ssanyong etc. So why don't these writers bash them?

    1. Many cars can also get you to point A to point B without embarassing yourself.

    2. Well, duh. The author simply hasn't gotten to test-drive the vehicles you've mentioned (except for the Tata Manza which, for me, was written fairly). Dami mong sinabi, pero sayo na rin nanggaling--"It may have a mediocre engine."

  5. Driving a Nissan is a far better brand than driving the other brands I mentioned. Maybe you're driving one of those brands you twerp.

  6. Please do a review of the Suzuki Ciaz GL AT if possible, thank you. :)

  7. I own one but the 1.5L E AT variant which I got for 762k. I chose it because it ha dual airbags, ABS, EBD, BA and crumple zone.

    Do other car manufacturers offer the same at 750k-760k range?

    I think it's inly good if you get the lower variant but at 880k, there are plenty of other options in that price range.

    That's just my opinion.

    1. Check the prices of the honda city and the ford fiesta. Both are 1.5L, have the safety features you mentioned and are very much better looking than this crap.

    2. Forget Ford, I had a bad experience with Ford Focus before. So never again.

      Honda City or Jazz were in my options but out of my price range. Oh wow, really, they have AT at 750k-760k range? Saan?

    3. Cheapskate. Shell out a little bit more and you'll get a totally better car than this ugly and outdated piece of crap.

    4. Haha. Wala diba?

      Nwei, Just being practical not cheapskate. But hey, that's your opinion an you are entitled to it. So no need to argue.

      I just worked within my budget and Almera fit the bill so I got it. No regrets so far.

    5. Just checked the prices, you can get an automatic Honda city for 799k. So what you're saying is that you chose an outdated and uglier car instead of shelling out an amount of not more than 50k for a much superior and more reliable car? Magkano lang naman dagdag niyan sa monthly mo. Are you sure you're being practical or are you merely justifying your purchase para hindi masabi na may buyer's remorse? I think it is the latter.

    6. No, my budget was at 700k below only and I stretched it to over 50k na. Stretching it more to almost 100k is too much for me.

      Like I said in the original thread, at 880k there are lots of better options. Maybe you missed that. Again, I have to work within my budget. And no regrets for me so far and I am not ashamed of my purchase.

      Nwei, I respect you opinion. No need to argue. :)
      I am proud owner of Almera. I'm sure you are a proud owner of whatever car you purchased too.

    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    8. That's called post purchase rationalization (look it up). The guy is a victim of sales talk. Poor soul.

  8. Try driving this nissan almera and you'll never regret it. It's just under rated but you'll be amazed.

  9. Try driving this nissan almera and you'll never regret it. It's just under rated but you'll be amazed.

  10. the best thing about the almera is, it's a NISSAN.

    1. Actually that's the bad thing. Their service sucks big time.

  11. Errr...Precribed 39 PSI fron and 44 PSI rear???

    Where did you get the "prescribed" tire pressure? 33 PSI front and 30 PSI rear for 2-3 passengers. For four passengers at mga karkada 33 front and 40 rear.

    How is this credible?

    1. Recommend load based on what's on the door jam for 5 passengers and luggage

    2. And you're right, I think it's 33/40 and the 39/44 is a typo... But the recommended pressure is very high for a small car.

  12. Had a chance to drive one and the interior looks really hideous to me. Its got cold aircon though

  13. How was your driving experience naman sir?

  14. driving ALMERA feels heavy (w/o passenger) hirap sa overtake,
    compare to BRIO feels very light (w/o passenger)
    both are AT.. just sharing..

  15. Nissan Almera seems pretty much okay, but I hope this service of modernization is safe enough to drive far far away.

  16. Nissan almera has the mlst comfortable ride for all the subcompacts. perfect car for the city