November 04, 2012
The one that was available for test drive was the 'E' variant (automatic transmission) of Almera, the entry-level model which has the least features among other variants (V and VL). With a reasonable price of RM69,800, many expect the equipment would be bare, but the Almera E was equipped with ABS, EBD, BA as standard. The only drawback is only a driver airbag is provided but not two, which I think is essential since the E variant would likely be the best seller due to its competitive pricing. Well, you can't get the best of both worlds sometimes......
The cabin space impressed me again. Ample legroom for the back passengers eventhough the front seats are pushed quite far to the back. Ergonomics for the driver is good, but the seating position is a bit high for my liking even after I lowered the seat height. Perhaps it would be a boon to smaller sized driver. Another thing worth mentioning is the seat which provided great comfort and support, as always from a Nissan. At this price, don't expect the quality of plastic found in Sylphy or Teana, but thankfully everything in the cabin felt sturdily built.
Start the 1.5 litre engine and it is quiet at idle. The test unit was equipped with the optional multimedia navigation system with reverse camera (RM2800). Getting in and out of the parking lot in the Almera was a brisk thanks to its light steering and good all-round visibility. I doesn't even need to look at the reverse camera view when I was reversing into the parking lot because the Almera was so easy to park!
Eventhough the Almera's 1.5 litre engine which produces 102PS and 139Nm of torque at 4000rpm looks plain in paper, it is surprisingly eager to be revved and acceleration was good thanks to the light overall weight of the car. The engine and 4-speed automatic transmission are refined and smooth, but the engine sounded coarse when it was pushed to its limit. Push the pedal to the metal will plunge the Almera forward at a swift pace, and the brake worked well in slowing the car down, albeit the brake pedal is lacking a bit of feedback that informs you the grip level of the brake pad.
The ride was a bit firmer than I expected from a Nissan. Not too firm to cause discomfort as the suspension isolated the road's undulations well, but body roll was still apparent when taking corners in the Almera. Road and wind noise were greatly suppressed from the cabin, making the cabin a comfortable world to stay in (well, 'stay' doesn't mean, like, in a house). While the handling is nimble, the light steering doesn't provide enough feedback from the road surface, reducing driver's confidence in its road holding capability.
So, should you buy one? The answer is yes because the Almera satisfy most of the factors of what buyers are looking in a B-segment sedan. Cabin space, fuel efficiency (15.9km/l for manual, 14.9km/l for auto), comfort, reliability and most important of all, price. The only thing is if you can, avoid the 'E' variant and go for at least the 'V' variant for two airbags, alloy wheels and other features.
P.S. For those who are interested in getting one, you guys can contact Salawati at 014-2344689 (Branch: Jalan Genting Kelang, Setapak). She was very helpful and friendly during the test drive.
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