After my student escapades with the Nova and AX, and with a new sensible office job, it was time to get a normal car that would be reliable, inoffensive and cheap (ish!) So, I ended up with a metallic green V reg Almera Ambition 1.4 last July. Bought for £5500 on a good finance deal from Arnold Clark Liverpool. The Ambition I think was the model they used to empty the parts bin for the introduction of the new model, as mines got a fair bit of kit for a base model. Only 14,000 miles, Ex-Motability, FSH, Tax, full tank of petrol, new 5 spoke wheel trims to make it look less of a mean green pension machine and a bit sportier, PAS, EW, AC, RCL, ABS, 1.4 engine giving 88- 90BHP and Airbag. It's got a 6 year bodywork warranty - which i have used for blistered paintwork, and you'd never tell it had a respray - a testament to AC Nissan for matching the metallic colour! What more can I say? Its reliable! Its innofensive - nobody looks twice even in those crazy moments! And the fiance deal is good - so its cheap-ish! Arnold Clark also sorted me with insurance - £670 fully comp for a 22 year old in Liverpool parked on the street.... nobody else got close to it! I gave it a full service a few weeks back - £55 anyone? Yes, its that cheap to run - but if youre not careful it will drink petrol more than you might expect. The big surprise for me though is that it handles really well, and goes ok for a heavy feeling car (the doors weigh a tonne!) with a small engine. It even impressed a sceptical girlfriend who wanted me to get a smart car (!?). Its ride is comfortable but firm enough to have a bit of fun with it if you want, the sterring wheel talks to you, the gearbox is ok, but maybe a bit notchy, I was only really disapointed with the turning circle - it makes it a bit fiddley to park in a tight spot in town. I guess its not really a car you would expect someone like me to drive, but its not a bad package if you can weather a few jibes
off your mates. Its more of a family car - theyre very spacious inside - or a motability choice (as mine was in a former life). I bought mine because I know someone who swore by his Sunny and then his Pulsar - they never broke down or cost him much to run. Happy days says I. I'd reccommend any Nissan (except a Micra - first hand experience says theyre god awful) to anyone who needs a good, reliable, decent spec car. If your'e in the market for one of these then you will probably be looking at V reg Astras, Escorts and Focuses aswell? I'd go for the Almera or the Focus depending on what you prefer...my logic was "Every swine's got a Focus, so....." Astras are too small and feel a bit cheap inside, and the Escort is based on a 1983 design, say no more. If you get a 1.6 Almera Ambition, it looks like you will probably get a rear spoiler and alloys aswell. I think thats as good a place as any to finish....
My dad bought his 97P dark metallic green GTI back in 1998 for £10995 not long after they were launched, with around 9000 miles on the clock. It was only last summer when my parents went on holiday that I finally got to use it for 2 weeks. Appearance – I think the original Almera shape stake some getting used to at first and from the rear it looks strangely oval. The GTI extras make the car far more aggressive and aesthetically pleasing than the standard models. It has 15 inch 5 spoke alloy wheels, side skirts, a deep front spoiler which houses front foglights and a rear roof level spoiler which houses the high level brake light. Two small red GTI badges on the front and rear give the only indication of it stature. This can be useful when you get boy racers at the lights, they get a bit of a shock when you leave them for dust. Spec: – 2-litre 16v engine ABS All round disc brakes Air Con Sony CD / Tuner, with steering column controls 140 bhp, 135 mph top speed, 0 – 60 8 secs Electric Windows and Mirrors Height and Rake adjustment on steering wheel Performance – This is obviously the key point of such a vehicle and the Almera is one of the most under-rated and unassuming cars in this area. The engine is extremely torquey and pulls superbly thorough all the gears. One problem especially in the wet is trying not to spin the wheels as you pull off. The car has wide fat tyres and hard sprung suspension so it seems to hold the road forever and a day. The exhaust note is quite an unassuming until you get above 4,000 rpm and then a great rasping quality comes thorough. The clutch and gears are surprisingly light for a performance car, making it one of the easiest cars to drive. Inside – the car is characteristically Japanese with lots of high quality black plastic. The dash layout is functional and the leather cover steering wheel and gear stick are nice touches.
There is easily enough room in the back for three adults with plenty of leg and headroom. The front seats hug and support you nicely as you go round corners. The seats are also fully adjustable to give you the best possible driving position. Reliability – What can I say it’s a Nissan and in the 4 years we’ve owned the car it has never had anything go wrong, the only non-routine work it has had done was a recall to put some heat insulation above the heater matrix. Servicing costs are also relatively cheap, the last service it had at 39,000 was around £160, with the most expensive being around £300. Tyres are the one thing to watch out for, the speed rating of V (130mph) makes them extremely expensive and if you want the tyre place to fit a lower speed rating you have to sign a disclaim absolving them from all responsibility should something happen. Overall I think this car is a wonderful all round package, with lots to offer in every department. It is highly underrated by the public despite rave reviews in all the press when it was launched, and also more recently when it was in the top three best second hand hot hatch buys. I have just checked on Auto Trader and you can pick up a similar car to my dads for about £5000, what a bargain.
THE ALL NEW NISSAN ALMERA ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Introduction ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Here’s an amazing fact for you. Even at the end of the production run of the old model Nissan Almera, it lay in a highly creditable fourth place in its particular segment of the car market here in Ireland, only being outsold by Ford’s top selling Focus, the Opel Astra, (Vauxhall in the UK) and the Toyota Corolla, all of which were far newer models, thus making the Almera’s remarkable sales figures even more astonishing. When you further consider that this car took a lambasting across the board from almost all the motoring press, who took great pleasure in calling it bland, boring, and totally lacking in character, then its sales performance becomes nothing less than phenomenal. So now that there is a brand new range of far sportier looking Almeras in the showrooms, you can look out for fireworks in the new car league tables from this car from Japanese car giants Nissan. Styling ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ The all new model Nissan Almera offers buyers no fewer than three distinct body styles, each one of them both ultra-modern and very sporty, and each designed in their own way to appeal to different segments of the market. The new grille forms the mainstay of the new design concept, and this allied to the sweeping and sleek body contours, that rise from the front of the car and flow smoothly towards the rear, gives it its new and distinctly sporty character. There is a hatchback, designed very much with the younger driver in mind, a saloon model made to appeal to the very lucrative “young executive” bracket and family sector, and a sports version, for all those who like a “bit of flash” in their motor cars. In fact, one of the greatest risks that Nissan are taking is that the new Almera compares so favourably in all departments, including size and space, with its big (and
more expensive) brother the Primera, that they may actually lose sales of the more expensive car to a “lesser” model from their own range. The new hatchback model should appeal to younger drivers in particular, and succeed in winning Nissan many new customers from outside of its already very loyal customer base. Exterior ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ The new hatchback version can either be a fairly normal, if very attractive, looking family wagon, or in its sporty guise with a sun roof, sports alloys, side skirts and spoilers fitted, can look like a machine that wouldn’t be out of place in a race at Brands Hatch. Its basic version is the three door, 1.5-litre model, and there is a five-door version also available for the family market. For just under three grand extra, you can upgrade to the 1.8-litre engine, that comes with automatic transmission, or for another £300 go for the so-called Gti model. Whatever one of the hatchbacks you choose, you can be sure of getting a car that is attractive to look at and very pleasing to the eye. With the large stake that French manufacturer’s Renault now have in this Japanese company, it is fairly easy to spot the touch of Gallic flair that has gone into the design of this new car. The same applies to the new saloon model. In its basic format it will appeal to the more conservative older buyer who is looking for classic elegance wrapped up in a compact package. But yet again, if you add the right extras, and choose the right colour, it can be turned from fairly ordinary looking into an absolute stunner, which will turn heads wherever it goes. Interior ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ The first thing I noticed were the new seats. In the old model, these were usually made out of light coloured fabrics, which you could almost visualise two years up the road, hacked around and tatty looking from constant use. Not so in the new model. The seats
are a made in a very attractive darker material, which is also extremely practical, as it won’t show the dirt so easily. The inevitable plastic is also very tastefully managed, using a combination of both dark and light grey colours. The darker colour is used on the steering wheel and column, and also on the top surfaces of the facia, in order to reduce reflections in your windscreen, and the overall effect gives a bright and very pleasant ambience to the cabin. The instruments are set in a hooded console with an attractive matt silver surround, directly in front of the driver, and a matching silver inset is placed on the gear stick and on the centre console. The heating and ventilation controls are easily accessible in the centre of the facia above the console, and are both large and very simple to read and understand. One last little touch is definitely inherited from Renault, and that is the remote radio and audio controls, which are set into the steering column for ease of use while driving. (I had this feature on a Renault 25 as long ago as the mid 1980’s) Comfort and Convenience ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ This is a car that is built with the comfort of the driver and passengers very firmly in mind. The two front seats are superbly designed, and very comfortable, seeming to give a good level of lumbar support, and being snug and comfy on the old bottom. There is ample headroom for even the tallest of drivers, and the seating and leg clearance in the rear seats is much improved on the old model, with plenty of room for two fully grown adults, and space for three at a bit of a pinch. Another improvement is the provision of lap and shoulder seat belts for all three passengers in the rear, including the “piggy in the middle”, and all models have fittings for child safety seats fitted as standard. ~ ~ The centre console in the front contains a stand for holding two dr
inks, and there is a cleverly concealed storage space just below this for hiding valuables, with plenty of further storage in all four doors. Yet another cleverly concealed storage box is placed right on the top of the facia, and a neat little extra is the small box that is provided just above the rear view mirror to hold your sunglasses. Something that will appeal to the ladies in particular is the little slot especially designed to hold a pack of tissues, that is hidden beneath the front arm rest, which also contains yet another small box designed to hold regularly used items like your credit card, fuel card, or parking permit. ~ ~ The rear seat passengers are not neglected either. The centre arm rest opens up to reveal a holder for two cups and a small storage tray, and another totally new innovation is the 12 volt power socket in the rear, below which is yet another small storage drawer for things like sweets, pens, and other small items. Without question, the single most unusual extra on the new Almera is the “curry hook” on the front passenger side of the centre console, that is designed specifically for hanging your take-away bag on the way home. This is only provided on the hatchback model however. I suppose the thinking behind this is that takeaways are more the habit of a younger driver, while older drivers, who will tend to buy the saloon model, mostly prefer the ease and comfort of a good restaurant when they want an old nosebag. ~ ~ The boot, while not in the jumbo jet class, is large enough for most purposes, and deeper than on the old model. A new touch are the nets that are now provided to hold small knick-knacks that tend to clutter up the boot space, and which can also be used to hold large items securely in place while driving. Performance, Roadholding and Ride ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ The new 1.5-litre Nissan engine is an able if not startling performer
. It will take you from a standing start to 60mph in 13.8 seconds, which is by no stretch of the imagination Porsche like performance, but is never the less more than adequate to leave you not feeling too embarrassed at the traffic lights. Again, the top speed of 107mph should be more than enough to satisfy all but the budding Michael Schumacher’s in our midst. The 1.8-litre version will speed things up somewhat, taking you to 60mph in 11.1 seconds, and on to a top speed of 115mph, while the 2.2-litre diesel version is somewhere between the two, with a 0 to 60mph time of 12.3 seconds, and a top speed of 115mph. ~ ~ The precise and accurate five speed manual gearbox is a delight to handle, and the engine and box are well matched for either urban driving or more sporty driving on quiet rural roads. On the open road the new Almera moves and handles like a far larger car than it actually is, and the front McPherson strut suspension gives a comfortable and easy ride on all levels of road surface. It could be a bit less firm on poor surfaces, but by doing this it would tend to “wallow” a bit when cornering, so the compromise setting seems the ideal solution. The power assisted steering is both precise and responsive, giving good “feedback” to the driver at all speeds, and allowing the car to be driven in both a steady, sedate fashion, or with more verve and vigour when the fancy takes you. And a powerful set of servo-assisted brakes finish off a most competent package, and are good enough to cope with most emergencies. (1.8-litre versions come with ABS as standard) On the safety side, there are two airbags fitted in the front, and side airbags are available as an extra at a cost of £450. Electric windows all round, and electrically adjusted rear view mirrors come as standard on all models. And last, but not least, they are fitted with both an alarm and immobiliser system.
Fuel Economy ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ This is excellent. The pick of the bunch in this department is obviously our old friend the “oil burner”, (diesel) which will whisk you around the place at the merest whiff of fuel, or to be more precise, at the rate of about 51mpg overall. The 1.8-litre is next best, with a fuel return somewhere in the region of about 44mpg, while the smallest engined 1.5-litre fares worst (it has to work harder!) with a return of about 37mpg. Cost and Warranty ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ This car will not break the bank, or have your bank manager threatening to cut off your assets. The base model 1.5-litre starts at a very cheap £9,980, with the basic 1.8-litre costing some £11,200. The basic diesel costs a respectable £12,625. There is a large and diverse range of models available throughout the range, all with different prices, but even the most expensive diesel “Sports” model is only £14,725. So the car is well priced in today’s competitive market. Nissan don’t include delivery and related charges, so allow for an extra £250 or so for this. All Almeras come with a 3-year or 100,000-kilometre warranty, and this also goes for the paintwork. They also offer a 12-year anti-perforation warranty, and free roadside assistance for one year anywhere in Europe. Conclusion ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ I was highly impressed with this car overall, although it has to be said that I have been a Nissan fan for many years. I felt that it could have done with just a touch more power right throughout the range, but as the overall size of the car has been dramatically increased, I suppose this is simply a by-product you would have to accept as inevitable. The new design, obviously strongly influenced by their recent merger with Renault, is really eye catching, and will win Nissan many new customers. Ally this to the outstanding rel
iability that has always been a byword of Nissan vehicles, and this car has to be a real winner. An excellent all-rounder, and a four and a half out of five from this driver.
this is a review of a P reg ie old model Almera bought in line with my car buying strategy - always second-hand and try for a car that is well on in its model life and rather unfashionable. The Almera had been around for 5 years or so, is built in Japan and mocked by motoring journalists and the trade depreciates it very fast. Regularly serviced, it has been reliable and cheap to run. It does not have as much space inside as my previous car a Fiat Tipo but has been comfortable to drive. I do a lot of miles between London and North East Scotland - 1000 mile round trip and have clocked up 30,000 miles in 15 months.The radio is good. No aircon on this model at least.Notenough space for storage inside. Rear seats ok for room. Nissans are consistently underrated as a very naff car driven by pensioners and fluffy dogs and dice people but the reality is that they are very well built and a pleasure to drive. It will be interesting to see what Renault does to the company or the Nissan effect on Renault - Renault adds the style and Nissan the reliability?