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Sunday, November 21, 2021

Review: 2022 Nissan Almera VL Turbo N-Sport


It’s hard to like a sub-compact sedan, especially if it’s a Nissan Almera. Truth be told, with the number of choices in the market, it was hard to recommend. It was styled by Stevie Wonder, the interior sourced from Mattel, and the mechanicals engineered by Wile E. Coyote. Frankly, there were only two reasons to get one: either your company shot gunned you to drive one (Almera or walk, bucko) or you were lured in by the deep discounts. It’s the sort of car you’d park far away during high school reunions, or pretend it to be, of all things, a Toyota Vios as not to get disapproving looks at the bar. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t instill any sense of pride at all.

Nissan seems to have understood this, and after its entire design and engineering team went through the seven stages of grief, they responded with the 2022 Almera. And oh boy, is it one lovely thing.



The design team fired Mr. Wonder, and in effect, came up with a sub-compact sedan with styling its owners could finally be proud of. It’s hard to critique what Nissan’s done here because the sharp, angular styling is so on point. The Almera finally has the curb appeal that’ll at least make people interested to take a closer look; as opposed to the previous one’s old as mold styling.

This particular unit goes a bit further. The VL Turbo N-Sport comes outfitted with different bumpers which extend its overall length by 35 mm. It also has some nifty matrix-like detailing around the front fog lamps and rear reflectors, too. They go well with the silver accents on the bumper’s trailing edges and side mirrors, and the 16-inch alloy wheels found at each corner.



The sharply-raked A-pillar might cause vertically-gifted people to bonk their noggin getting in, but once aboard, the Almera’s interior is actually a pleasant place to spend time. Like other sub-compacts, hard plastics are the order of the day, but at least the dashboard and door panels do look good. Plus, there are soft surfaces sprinkled throughout, and the switches and controls are as crisp as they go. The use of contrast-color stitching and leather seats also level up things, but do take note, the cow hide used here isn’t the Grade A stuff.

The front seat buckets are supple yet supportive, and together with ample adjustments from the tilt/telescopic steering column equals an ergonomic driving experience. Meanwhile, the back seats are upright, but spacious. Curiously though, Nissan omitted the rear blowers—a trademark of the previous-generation model. When it comes to carrying stuff, the Almera’s got a 474-liter trunk that’s both broad and long. Plus, the seatbacks fold down in a 60/40 split for extra capaciousness.



By and large, the Almera nails the interior basics, but not everything. For one, there’s no arm rest between the front seats. Not only does this leave elbows dangling on long drives, but it subtracts a vital covered and secure cubby hole. Then, when it gets to the back seats, the headrests aren’t adjustable; they’re simply molded into the seat backs. These things manage to cheapen out an otherwise well thought-of, well-made cabin.

Nissan’s particularly proud of the Almera’s on-board tech, and they have every right to be. They’ve taken the lead in the segment starting with the 8-inch Nissan Connect infotainment system which isn’t just easy-to-use, but produces unexpectedly crisp and clear sounds from its six-speaker system. Then, you have a reconfigurable 7-inch instrument cluster display. Using the left bank of steering wheel controls, it makes personalizing functions, including the various Nissan Intelligent Mobility features, quick. They’re no more than one or two menus deep.



Oh, and speaking of the NIM features, this car’s got autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, and lane departure warning—features which are, so far, class-exclusive. Even better, all of that tech works surprisingly well. After nearly a week of driving, there was not one false alarm or a single phantom braking. Nissan’s done their homework to make it work on local roads.

Another aspect where the all-new Almera shines is in the powertrain. Taking a different route from its competitors, Nissan’s fitted a turbocharged 1.0-liter 3-cylinder across the line-up. Despite the presence of forced induction, don’t expect it to be a fire breathing, quarter mile devouring pocket rocket. Instead, it’s all about everyday usability. Peak torque—the most in the sub-compact class—comes in pretty early (2,400 rpm) and stays there until it drops off past 4,000 rpm. This makes it feel feisty off the line (throttle tip-in is actually borderline jumpy), especially in Manila’s stop-and-go traffic situation.



On the flip side, because it only has 100 peak horsepower, jabbing the accelerator won’t make the speedo climb any faster. Don’t get it wrong: this sub-compact’s more than capable of hitting triple digit speeds, but it’s more about sensible progress than 0 to 100 km/h times. The engine too tends to sound gruff and rough when cold, but once it warms up, it settles down. There’s still some coarseness, but it’s smooth overall.

Despite the hate directed towards the CVT, the gearbox’s actually quick-witted. It responds smoothly and promptly to driver inputs, making the most of the available horsepower. Paddle shifters would have been a welcome addition, but as it is, the built-in shift logic does the job in eliminating the rubber-band feeling endemic to these kinds of transmissions. This, along with standard idle start/stop unlocks crazy fuel efficiency numbers: 13.69 km/L in heavy traffic and up to 21.27 km/L on the highway.



Other aspects of the Almera’s dynamics are mostly likeable. The ride quality is taut yet forgiving, which makes the car feel a segment or two larger than it actually is. No tinniness or fragility is detectable while driving over ravaged pavement (that’s including driving on the C5 truck lane at full speed), though it does feel a bit top-heavy in corners. The biggest complaint here is the raucous tire noise which drown out the cabin in all but extremely smooth asphalt.

When Nissan launched the Almera nameplate in the Philippines, like it or not, it became synonymous with being a tool for getting people from point A to point B. For 2022, the carmaker wants to change that. Just as Nissan, the brand, wants to become more evocative, more tug-the-heartstrings type of operation, they’ve come up with a sub-compact sedan that’s handsome, well-built, and fully-featured. It may be a hundred grand more expensive than the outgoing model (this VL Turbo N-Sport is priced at P 1,098,000), but it comes with a surprising amount of driver aids and other creature comforts. Beyond the specs though, at the end of the day, it’s a great little car at a good price. Finally, this is an Almera that can instill a sense of pride to its would-be owners.

2022 Nissan Almera VL Turbo N-Sport

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Ownership 2022 Nissan Almera VL Turbo N-Sport
Year Introduced 2021
Vehicle Classification Sub-compact Sedan
Warranty 5 years / 150,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type 4-door sedan
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/R
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.0
Aspiration Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I3
BHP @ rpm 100 @ 5,000
Nm @ rpm 152 @ 2,400-4,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 95~
Transmission CVT
Cruise Control No
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 13.69 km/L @ 18 km/h,
18.18 km/L @ 41 km/h
21.27 km/L @ 64 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,530
Width (mm) 1,740
Height (mm) 1,460
Wheelbase (mm) 2,620
Curb Weight (kg) 1,103
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Drum
Parking Brake Manual
Tires Bridgestone Ecopia EP300 205/55 16 V (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors No
Parking Camera Yes, 360-degree
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Forward Collision Warning w/ Automatic Braking
Blindspot Warning
Rear Cross Traffic Alert
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, LED
Auto Lights No
Rain-sensing Wipers No
Tailgate Electric Release
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) 8-way, Manual
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) 4-way, Manual
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
Sunroof No
Trip Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Day/Night
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Auto
Audio System Stereo
Aux
USB
Bluetooth
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes

19 comments:

  1. High End this or Low End 2022 Civic?

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    Replies
    1. Not the same category. Should be compared with City RS, Mazda 2 and Vios TOTL.

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    2. with how slow the 1.8L civic is, might as well compare it. lelz

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    3. I agree but if youre gunning for the high end on this one, wont you also consider the upcoming 2022 honda civic? I mean its got standard honda sense and standard turbo. If its true that the low end is 1.3M and the high end almera is 1.1M then its kinda something to think about.

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    4. Good point, price point is pretty close. That low end 2022 Civic will come with less creature comforts though (despite having ADAS and turbo engine).

      It's actually a common dilemma for buyers, do you buy TOTL of a lower segment or entry level of a higher segment. If you can afford it, its always better to go higher segment.

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    5. Since I know the base Civic specs, let's wait and see until Honda formally launches it. Then we can compare.

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    6. Interesting, only a couple more hours of waiting :)

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    7. The base Civic 'should' be more refined, spacious, and comfortable since it is a class higher while Almera will be easier to maneuver. Mind you, refinement, space, and comfortability are not easily upgradeable, so better to check the Almera if it satisfies your needs and wants. If not, go for Civic, but then again, no idea yet how the base Civic will look like.

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    8. ^ very true. It boils down to refinement/comfort versus features/tech.

      Delete
  2. Hey Uly, that topic should make a good article. TOTL vs entry level of higher segment. Could be a good angle to show the new Civic versus the fairly new City RS.

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  3. Uly, since this good-looking car has the idling start-stop feature, what size of EFB does it use and how much is it, judging from the engine bay pics it looks larger than the conventional batteries used for this segment (1SM or2SM). The only missing features I see for our local TOTL compared to the TOTL Malaysian/Thai are the center console w/ arm rest cover, manual headlight beam adjustment dial, cruise control buttons on the right side of the steering wheel, rear aircon vents, 4-eye rear sonar sensors, side skirts, and an engine cover to hide that mess of tubes, pipes and wiring in the engine bay. I'd pick this over the ugly & boring, unusable 6600-rpm HP peak City RS.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our headlights have auto aim adjust so we don't lose on the manual beam adjustment. I could also forgive the lack of the engine bay cover and lack of side skirts.

      It was weird for them to eliminate the rear AC vents since the Almera was the first one to offer the feature. That along with the front arm rest/cubby hole and the cruise control are the most lacking features for me here. I don't know though if you can install cruise control by just changing the steering wheel buttons though (you can with certain Mazda vehicles).

      The battery is labeled D23 when I peeked at the engine bay. It has a 620Ah capacity. I can't look at the CCA since it's covered by the battery holder...likely 1SM?

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    2. Honestly, neither the City nor the Almera comes out as a clear winner in the segment.

      The Almera hits the specs right when it comes to safety and frugality, plus that 1.0-liter engine is the one to have in stop and go traffic.

      Meanwhile, the City does have the better balanced ride/handling, it has cruise control. But it doesn't have Honda SENSING (another missed opportunity for Honda here) nor does it have 360-camera.

      Space is more or less equal on both cars. Material quality/fit and finish too.

      It's a bummer actually for those who're set on a sub-compact car.

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    3. No wonder consumers are shifting to sub-compact SUVs where they get the most features & tech plus more ground clearance (albeit from lesser known brands).

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  4. Uly, since you've driven both the City RS and Almera VL N-Sport now, can you do a comparo article. I'm particularly interested in the ride quality & handling, steering feel, pedal feel, NVH & tire noise damping, and other aspects that cannot be gleaned from a mere spec-sheet. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's been a while since I've driven the City RS, but from memory:

      Steering feel, handling, NVH/tire noise damping: City RS
      Economy, engine punchiness, cost of ownership: Almera
      Ride quality, on-board tech: to close to call

      Overall, this is the way I see it: the City still appeals to those who want something that's more fun to drive, while the Almera appeals to those who're driven more by tech or safety.

      Seasoned drivers will probably gravitate towards the City, while newbie drivers will find the Almera appealing.


      If only Honda didn't go conservative and installed Honda SENSING on the RS and perhaps installed a 360-camera, it could have easily won the competition.

      But yes to trying to do a comparo soon.

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    2. that makes sense. its the noobs who are usuall dazzled by tech features. they at cars like gadgets rather than you know... cars.

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    3. N00b troll si Romina, malamya pumalo. Next!

      Delete

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