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Nissan Almera 1.5 review (2003-2006)
Bodystyle: 5-door Hatchback
Engine: 1.5 in-line 4-cylinder
Fuel type: Petrol
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Date of test: June 2002
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What is it?
The Almera is Nissan's competitor in the busy family hatchback class. As such it faces rivals like the Ford Focus, Peugeot 307, Honda Civic and Vauxhall Astra. The 1.5-litre version is the entry point into the range, and can be specified in three or five-door variants, as well as a capacious estate and the slow-selling saloon. For Nissan it's an important car - only the smaller Micra outsells it in Nissan's UK figures. The Almera name is also attached to the Almera Tino, Nissan's compact MPV, which shares it's platform with the hatchback but which is significantly different in every other respect. The Almera engine range is limited compared to rivals - but it covers most bases, with 1.5- and 1.8-litre petrol choices and a 2.2-litre turbodiesel. By far the biggest seller in the UK is the five-door 1.5-litre petrol version.
Where does it fit?
Like its competition the Almera sits in the Nissan range between a supermini, the Micra, and a mid-sized saloon, the Primera. As such it's expected to be a big seller, although sales in the UK are steady rather than spectacular. The 1.5-litre is the entry-level model in the line-up, and also the most popular. The engine range may not be as comprehensive as in many rivals, but the 1.5-litre choice bridges buyers in the more traditional 1.4- and 1.6-litre categories. Trim levels are all fairly generous, the Almera's interior additionally is filled with novel features.
Is it for you?
That depends on whether you want to be noticed or not. The previous Almera was criticised for its bland design - although it had an impressive chassis. The designers were a bit more adventurous this time round, and for a while the Almera looked new and even exciting - but newer rivals have already taken away some of its lustre. Still, it's a comfortable, refined and solid feeling competitor in its class and shouldn't be overlooked. If you like gadgets then it should appeal, the interior having umbrella holders and briefcase belts to keep everything in place.
What does it do well?
The Almera does everything reasonably well. It's comfortable, spacious, refined and drives well. The interior feels quite substantial and although not perhaps the most exciting design in its class it's a vast improvement over its ultra-bland predecessor. There are numerous clever touches inside to keep the interior tidy, and in particular the funky dashboard brightens up the interior. There's good economy, too, and a driving position that can be adjusted to just about any shape imaginable.
What doesn't it do well?
In a market with so many models to choose from, the Almera doesn't have any one thing to mark it out as particularly special. It does everything well - but nothing exceptionally. On launch, things looked good for the Nissan, but a number of newer rivals better the Almera on the road, for space and in the design stakes too. Secure enough on a winding road, but it doesn't delight like Ford's Focus - or offer the space of Honda's Civic.
What's it like to live with?
You can take it as read that an Almera would provide you with trouble-free motoring. Nissan builds cars that exhibit superb reliability - the only time it'll need to visit the dealer is for it's annual service. Nissan dealers are fairly prevalent, meaning Almera ownership should be about as painless as car ownership can be. It's practical, refined and easy to drive - the Almera might not be the most exciting buy in its market sector but it's utterly sensible. The 1.5-litre gives good performance, too, though for mega-mileage consumption the 2.2Di is the one to go for.
Would we buy it?
Opt for the Almera and you're unlikely to have any complaints. It'll get you there every time, feels solidly built and is competitive in its class for price. That's likely to be enough for many drivers, but for those who demand a bit of excitement in their daily driver the Almera fails to deliver. The 1.5-litre engine is a refined unit, with decent performance and economy making it the choice over the larger 1.8. Sport versions add some visual flair, but overall we'd be tempted to look at several rivals before handing over a cheque to Nissan. Look out for special editions though - Nissan regularly offer the Almera with generous extras.
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