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Nissan has had a firm hold on the so-called ‘rental market’ for quite some time, the Tiida being a rather successful seller to the rental fleets of South Africa, but the Tiida’s time has come and gone, and the resurrection of the Almera nameplate is upon us; but is it destined to continue the ‘rental king’ reputation Nissan has garnered or will it be a popular people’s car without the boredom-associated conotations?

Sadly, on the outward appearance the Almera looks to continue the rental legacy.  It’s not particularly ugly, and in its favour it is far better looking than the awkward Tiida, but it isn’t particularly exciting on the styling front.  It does appear rather small though, despite boasting a total length of nearly 4.5 metres.

This compact packaging offers far more than an aesthetic purpose though, as the Almera’s clever packaging continues inside, offering masses of cabin space in a seemingly small package.  Rear leg room is particularly premium in the segment, with more than enough space for a 6ft passenger to ride in comfort behind my 6ft 1in frame in the driver’s seat.

Comfort is relatively high too, although the cabin is dominated by hard plastics and fabrics both grey in complexion and ambience.  The interior is bland and inoffensive, but caters to a wide audience in its rugged ability to ferry children to and from school without breaking the bank in order to repair damage the little gremlins might inflict.  The design isn’t particularly inspiring though, more like a white noise of aesthetics placed there to occupy space and provide storage for keys and sunglasses without being too obtrusive.

The drivability was much the same, unobtrusive in nature and filled with white noise.  Cabin insulation in the Almera proved to be rather fantastic, allowing very little road noise to permeate the cabin; even wind noise was kept to a minimum.  However, despite the cabin insulation, the engine noise seemed to flow freely to the occupants, without so much as a slight muffle on the droning growl it emitted.

The 1.5-litre normally aspirated petrol engine boasts sufficient outputs of 73kW and 134Nm, and although it drove rather smoothly, it had a gravelly engine note that seemed to bemoan throttle inputs, despite being light and revvy and only reaching peak power at 6000rpm.  Besides that, the engine proved to be a strong point for the Almera, with an amenable nature and a relatively cheery power delivery.  The 5-speed manual gearbox was a light, simple piece of engineering, and despite being rather hollow and feeling slightly long in the tooth, it went about its duties with a fuss-free attitude.  The downside to the gearbox setup was the clutch, which proved to be a bit too long for easy use in stop and go situations, becoming rather tiresome and resulting in the engine moaning like an old woman living down the street from a night club.

The combination of a light body, weighing only 1042Kg, and a fizzy engine with decent gearing gave the Almera a clear advantage over its predecessor, the Tiida.  Fuel consumption matched the manufacturer’s claimed figure at 6.3l/100km, combining with a 41 litre tank capacity to produce a range of up to 650km on a single filling.

The simple charm of a basic engine and spacious interior matched with great fuel efficiency are fantastic, but as far as perks go, there aren’t many beyond that.  Despite featuring air conditioning, central locking, steering wheel audio controls, and alloy wheels, the Almera’s feature list is non existent.  It’s a rather barren machine, built for a sturdy commuter who cares for not much more than getting from point A to point B in an affordable, inoffensive way.

The ride quality, handling, and overall drive quality are as inoffensive as the interior, riding subtly over bumps and blemishes in the road surface, cornering with a relatively smooth, soft ride.  The steering is light and airy, fairly direct, but requiring a smidgen more effort to make small directional alterations than would’ve been preferred.

For the daily commute, the Nissan Almera 1.5 Acenta offers a spacious cabin and a relaxed nature.  It’s not particularly exciting, nor inspiring, but it’s a workhorse that should do its job reliably for years to come.  It will no doubt flood the rental fleets, and at some stage in the coming years, you’re likely to end up driving one on a business trip somewhere in the country.  It will be an agreeable companion, but one that you’ll part ways with simply with a brief handshake, an acquaintance more so than a lifelong friend.

The Stats:

Engine Capacity:

1498cc

No. of Cylinders:

4

Max. Power:

73kW @ 6000RPM

Max. Torque:

134Nm @ 4000RPM

Gearbox:

5-speed Manual

0-100 time:

14 seconds

Top Speed:

170km/h

Gross Weight:

1042Kg

Fuel Tank Capacity:

41 litres

Fuel Consumption:

6.3l/100km

Drivetrain

FrontWheel Drive

Price (as tested):

R170 600

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Author: Roger Biermann

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