Right, let’s get something out the way. The Nissan Almera is not, in any way, shape or form, an exciting or interesting car. It’s not fun, it’s not dynamic, it’s not going to make your nipples erect as you clip B-road corners with race-driver precision. It’s not going to turn your mates green with envy. It’s not going to make your neighbours think you’re doing well in life. It is not going to capture hearts and imaginations. So why, then, are we writing about it?
Well, quite simply, while we love to suggest fun and exciting cars, the reality is that for many of us, budget motoring’s sole prerequisite is reliability. The Almera may not be a nipple-stimulator, but as a car it’s fine. It’s fit for purpose. But because it’s so hum-drum, you can be certain that any Almera you may look at has lived an easy, stress-free life. Probably driven by people called Mildred or Graham. So you can buy safe in the knowledge that you’re getting something reliable.
This is a car that featured Lionel Blair in its marketing material. Lionel. Blair. From the moment he did a poor man’s ‘Woollard‘ for the above press shot, the Almera was consigned to a life of mediocrity. Poor thing. Maybe it would have been a different story had Nissan plumped for Tinchy Skrillex or whatever it is the kids are into. We don’t know?
But Nissan’s marketing faux pas is our gain. This, the second-generation Almera, was released in 2000. Nissan wanted it to capture the imaginations of the Golf, Astra and Focus-buying demographic. The previous model was a good car, and even featured a GTi version, which was a riot. The second-generation didn’t though. It was all S, SE, SE+ and Sport. And the Sport wasn’t a patch on the GTi. It’s a shame, because had Nissan been a bit braver and pushed a bit harder, it could have stolen sales from the rival brands.
It didn’t though, and as such, the Almera was part of a largely forgettable lineup from the early ’00s. But as we’re trying to point out, this is no bad thing. Cars that are unremarkable when new lead unremarkable lives, which means that when they’re older, they’re unstressed. Buy a Golf or an Astra of the same vintage and it will be full of child vomit and the possible odd Monster Energy sticker. It will be mechanically tired, it’ll probably be a bit battered to look at and yet people will flock to them for one reason and one reason only – badge snobbery.
And that’s daft. Search for an Almera and you’ll find no end of low mileage cars, usually backed up with full history and only one or two owners. You can, in the Almera, buy a car that’s close to new in terms of condition for a pittance. Or you could buy a hammered Golf.
And you’ll be glad you did. While we’ve been somewhat forthright by saying the Almera isn’t exciting, you may also want to take note of the fact have yet to say it’s bad. And that’s because it’s not. The Nissan Almera is a good car. It’s made by Nissan. NISSAN. They know how to screw a car together, and the Almera is no exception. Okay, so it’s about as exciting as toast, but toast isn’t bad.
This is the thing with cars. People are quick to throw negatives out there if a car doesn’t punch them in the face with thrills the very second the key is turned. We don’t get that. In any other walk of life, adequacy is fine. Black socks are not thrilling, but they keep your feet warm. A cheese sandwich will not take your taste-buds on a culinary cruise, but you’d still eat one if you were hungry. To be adequate is not the same as to be bad. And with that, the Almera is not a bad car.
The Almera came with a 1.5 petrol, a 1.8 petrol or a 2.2 diesel. In the case of the oil-burner, it’s best avoided unless you can find one with the later Renault engine. As for the petrols, the 1.5 is fine, it’s spritely enough, it does 40ish to the gallon. Adequate.
On the road, the Almera is a nice enough thing to pilot. The steering is pleasantly engaging, the suspension gives confidence and a pleasant surefootedness, while the brakes can bring it all to halt without any drama. As we said, it’s not going to thrill you, but there is enough there to redeem the Almera and as such, leave you with a car that’s pleasant enough to drive.
If it were our money, we’d go for the SE+ or, if for a bit more ‘go’, the Sport+. The latter is actually a pretty handsome car, especially in three-door guise. There is a saloon option, but it’s rare and utterly pointless with its tiny boot access. Stick to the hatch, it’s more practical.
And there you have it, the Nissan Almera. It’s a car in the purest sense of the word. But when money is tight, and you need a reliable set of wheels, you don’t need flair or razzmatazz. You just need something that does the job. And the Almera will.