Most reivews for products are written around the time they are newly purchased. Just to be different, I thought I would give you a perspective on what it is like to own and drive a Nissan Almera 1.5 SE a good few years down the line.
I bought my Nissan Almera in 2005 when it was coming up to 3 years old. At the time, it cost £6000, had only had one previous owner and had around 20,000 miles on the clock. Members of my family had had Nissans previously, including my husband, who at that time was driving a Nissan X-Trail. Every one, regardless of model, spec or engine size were all robust, well built and reliable. These factors, along with the more reasonable price tag (many other comparative cars were at least £1000 more), were my main reasons for buying the car.
The model I have is an SE which is pretty middle of the range. It is a 5 door hatch back with metallic paint and there still isn't even a hint of rust on it - pretty good considering it is approaching 9 years old! It has a single, front feed CD player with audio controls on the steering wheel, air conditioning (which has never broken down or even needed the gas topping up), electric wing mirrors and electric front windows.
It is relatively economical, with a tank of petrol (60 litres) covering around 500 miles of mixed driving (motorway & urban). The 1.5 engine is powerful enough for most uses, but you won't be racing people away from the taffic lights in this car! It is a comfortable drive with good adjustability of the drivers seat as well as the steering column, making it able to accomodate my 5ft 3ins comfortably and without me feeling I am either practically sat on the dashboard, or in need of a pair of stilts to reach the pedals!
The only downside I have found was highlighted when we came to buy a stage 1 car seat (9 months - approx 4 years) to be used across the Almera and the X-Trail. There was (at that time) only 1 model we could find in our local Halfords that was able to be securely and safely fitted in the Almera. Apparently the main problem was the 'old style' rear seat belts in the Almera, which meant the strap attaching the buckle to the seat is longer than on most modern cars. Hence, we tried 5 different seats and only the Britax Si fitted.
Apart from that, I can honestly say, I have had 6 years trouble free motoring from the Nissan Almera. I have it serviced and MOT tested once a year and the rest of the time it drives along nicely without any breakdowns or large repair bills thus far. I am sure this is unlikely to continue for many more years, but for a car being nearly 9 years old, without having to replace or repair any major mechanical bits, I think that's quite impressive by todays standards.
So, if someone offers you a second hand Nissan Almera (more than likely, for not a huge amount of money), I would seriously consider it. My experience has been only positive and I hope my little old bus keeps going for a few more years yet.
~ ~ Nissan motor cars have long been renowned for their reliability and longevity. In other words, they rarely break down or need expensive replacement parts, and they run on and on for literally hundreds of thousands of miles without complaint.
I can verify from personal experience that the above statement is the truth. In my day Ive owned a Nissan Sunny, no less than FIVE Nissan Bluebirds, a Nissan Primera, and two Nissan Maxima QXs.
None have cost me big bucks in maintenance or repairs, all completed mega-miles, and most were a pleasant and comfortable car to drive. Two or three were even FUN to drive and fairly quick; an old 3-litre Maxima, a 2-litre fuel injected Bluebird, and my wifes old 1992 Nissan Primera 1.8-litre, which was an import from the Japanese market.
~ ~ So when it came time last January (2007) to replace my wifes old Primera guess what car manufacturer was high up our shopping priority list?
I got busy on eBay and Autotrader (my preferred motoring shopping sites) and in no time our old trusty Primera had found a new home, and a new (well, relatively new) gleaming Nissan Almera 1.5-litre was standing proudly in our drive courtesy of eBay. Well, when I say in no time, it actually involved a plane ride from Dublin to Newcastle, and then a cross country drive and ferry trip back to Dublin, but the savings I made in comparison to buying here in Ireland more than made up for my trouble!
~ ~ However, Im afraid I have to report that for the first time ever I am more than a little disappointed with a Nissan motor car. Within thirty miles or so of leaving Newcastle I knew that here was a car that was seriously underpowered. In fact, this lack of power spawned the title of this review. Wet paper bags are indeed safe from the Nissan Almera, as they quite literally couldnt pull their way out of one! (At least the 2002 1.5-litre SE model that we purchased couldnt.)
~ ~ So what possessed me to purchase a Nissan Almera in the first place?
All of the above, plus the fact that the Almera has consistently been close to the top of the most popular car statistics here in the Republic of Ireland ever since it first hit the market (in its old model style) back around 1995. (Even though it never caught on in the same way over in the UK) I reckoned that all these buyers couldnt possibly be wrong. Id also driven a 1.8-litre Almera for a couple of days back around 2003 in order to review it for a newspaper here in Ireland, and had been impressed with all aspects of the car. The Almera has also recently been replaced by Nissan with a raft of new models (Qashqai, Tiida, Note, etc) which always has the effect of depressing the price of the old model and allowing you to pick up a good bargain.
~ ~ In retrospect the mistake I made was opting for the 1.5-litre petrol instead of either the 1.8-litre petrol or, even better, the 2.2-litre diesel version of the car. I knew from my taxi driver compatriots that both were good cars with plenty of pulling power and good economy. But it has to be said that I DID get it at a true bargain price. The car had only one owner and a mere 11,300 miles on the speedometer, was in completely pristine condition with all the bells and whistles, and was purchased for only £3,500. Even after paying the iniquitous (and in my opinion illegal under E.U. law!) import duty here in Ireland, it still only cost me around 6,900 (£4,673 Sterling) which is around 2,000 to 2,500 cheaper than I could have purchased the same car off an Irish forecourt.
~ ~ So what do I like about the car, and conversely, what is it that Im disappointed in?
~ ~ Ive already told you what I dislike the most. The fact that the 1.5-litre Almera is too slow. This is most likely caused by the body weight simply being too heavy to be pulled around quickly by a 1.5-litre engine. But if this is the case, then WHY sell the car with an engine the manufacturer must have known wasnt up for the job? Dont get me wrong. The quoted top speed of the 1.5-litre is 110MPH, and once you have managed to get it up and cruising on a motorway then itll quite happily run all day at close to the top speed. The problem is getting it up to this speed. The quoted acceleration time from 0 62mph (100kmh) is 13.1 seconds. This is extremely slow by modern standards, even for a bog standard family saloon car like the Almera.
This lack of speed is most obvious in first and second gears, where it seems to take forever to get any reaction whatsoever from the engine even with the accelerator pedal pressed almost through the floor! Overtaking is also quite an experience, as you need to plan it well in advance, give yourself plenty of passing time, and drop the car to third or fourth gear and floor the accelerator to even get even a glimmer of speed from the very unresponsive engine. And the slightest incline, even on a motorway, sees the speedometer needle drop by 10mph to 20mph! Talk about frustrating?
~ ~ One advantage of this lack of speed is that the Almera is quite cheap to insure. It's Insurance Class 5, and we save around 250 a year on the price we paid for insurance on our old Nissan Primera.
Another crib is the fuel economy. The combined fuel consumption figure for rural and urban driving quoted by Nissan is 42.2mpg, but I'd say we're only averaging about 30mpg overall, which is a big difference considering that generally neither my wife or myself would press the car overly hard.
To be honest, I can't really comment on the service costs, as I haven't been near a main dealer in years. (Highway robbers!) But our first major service with our own wee back street mechanic only cost 200 including parts and labour, so I wouldn't say that was out of hand.
~ ~ There's not a lot else I could find fault with.
From a safety point of view the Almera rates well. It has a four star rating from NCAP, (that's the folks who deliberately crash cars!) and has front and side airbags for both front seat passengers. Security wise it's better than most, with central locking, an engine immobilizer, alarm, and deadlocks on all the doors.
The car is comfortable with good firm seats in hardwearing fabric, that don't leave you feeling like a geriatric when you get out of the car after a long journey. The air-conditioning is excellent and icy cold, even though we haven't had much cause to use it with the dreadful summer we've had this year.
One minor criticism would be the firmness of the suspension. It's very firm for a car that doesn't have high performance capabilities, and you get a fair old jolt in the backside when you go over uneven surfaces or speed bumps, which unfortunately seem to be on nearly every road in my home city of Dublin these days. But I'd have no complaints with its handling, as you can zip round bends at a fair old rate of knots without any perceptible body roll. The gear change on the 5-speed gearbox is sharp and precise, as has been the case on every Nissan I've ever owned. ABS brakes are standard, and will stop you on an old sixpence and help stop you losing control if you brake hard in wet conditions. Good, responsive power steering that isn't too light to the touch leaves you feeling in full control of the car at all times.
~ ~ For a car that is officially described as "compact" it's roomier than most, with plenty of space and leg room for the back seat passengers. Boot space on the hatchback version is fairly limited, but you always have the option of removing the back window luggage cover and loading more gear in, or else folding down the 60/40 split rear seat, which turns the Almera into the equivalent of a small van.
~ ~ The instruments are easy to read and not complicated, and it has a good radio/CD player. (Non-branded)
Of course, it has acres of the almost obligatory plastic on the dashboard and doors that seems to be a feature of nearly all Japanese cars, but I have to say that the quality standard is fairly good (good quality plastic, whatever next!!) and after a while you don't even notice it.
Cup holders, which are adjustable for different size containers, in both the front and the rear are a nice touch, as is the extra cigarette/power socket in the rear which is useful for things like portable DVD players, game machines, etc.
~ ~ The Almera has been accused by many in the motoring media of having a bland appearance. While this may be somewhat true of the saloon, the model we purchased is the hatchback, which I personally think is fairly sporty in appearance, with quite racy, rounded lines. The set of five spoke alloys and Dunlop low profile tyres add to this sporty image, but that said a nice set of alloys will enhance almost any car. The headlights are excellent (extra bright xenon bulbs) and are supplemented by a good set of spotlights underneath the front bumper. The chrome effect door handles also look well, as does the dark grey metallic paintwork which shines up beautifully with a good quality wax.
~ ~ So overall I would have to say that both my wife and I both fairly happy with our purchase, as the good points mostly outweigh the bad.
I would recommend the Nissan Almera highly as an excellent second-hand purchase for anyone looking for an ultra-reliable, good sized family car. Only don't make the mistake I did and buy the seriously underpowered 1.5-litre petrol model. The 1.8-litre petrol and 2.2-litre diesel versions are far better buys.
© KenJ September 2007
OK your a young person with Schumacher as your hero, then dont buy this car. Instead your a grandparent who wishes for a no thrills but utterly dependable and realiable car. The interior could have been better, but the exterior makes up for it, I think !
My experience in the Almera has been slow, but with a comfort of knowing im safe with no fear of breaking down, probably ever is satisfying.
The power is quite sad with a lack of torque, top speed of 110mph and 0-62 in 12seconds. The fuel consumption is a major plus at 550 miles to empty, so you cant go wrong with value for money.
Granny = Yes
Boy Racer = No