Ford Fiesta Ambiente 2014 review
It’s Fiesta time! Following the depressing news of the end of its vehicle production in Australia, Ford finally has something to celebrate.
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I generally only get noticed in traffic when I'm lucky enough to be behind the wheel of something exotic. But not this time.
More than a few noticed me behind the wheel of Nissan's Micra-with-a-boot, the Almera - but for all the wrong reasons. It's not a pretty little runabout, as you can see, but Nissan will be banking on price tags, fuel economy and space as being higher on the priorities list than styling.
Money talks at this end of the market, and the ST manual sedan is a bit of a chatterbox at $16,990. It has air conditioning, a four-speaker MP3/CD sound system, power windows, 15in steel wheels, tilt-only adjustable steering, audio and phone controls on the steering wheel, remote central locking. However, there's no cruise control, no USB port and no splitfold rear seat access to the large boot, so the value equation falters a little.
There's not really much in the Almera that qualifies as new technology - it has a Bluetooth phone link (minus audio streaming) with wheel-mounted controls, a trip computer (including a maintenance reminder) and an auxiliary input jack for the four-speaker sound system, but no USB equivalent.
The 1.5-litre engine is not exactly cutting edge - a 16-valve, double overhead cam unit producing 75kW of power and 139Nm of torque, the latter at 4000rpm.
It's not the first time Nissan has come up with an exterior that is noticed for all the wrong reasons - looks part Maxima, part Micra and all out of kilter. The cabin is low-rent as you'd expect in the cheapest car segment, but at 190cm I can find a decent driving position - even with tilt-only steering - and can easily fit my legs in behind my own driving position.
However, head room is far less cavernous thanks to the plunging roofline - anyone approaching average adult height is going to become intimate with the roof lining. The cargo space is up there for the segment at 490 litres but is hamstrung by the absence of a folding rear seat back - splitfold or otherwise.
The Almera has yet to be slammed into an obstacle by NCAP - it's US cousin the Versa ranks four stars with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and "good" under the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing regime. There are dual front, front-side and curtain airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes (front discs but rear drums) with brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist.
Budget motoring rarely presents a sublime driving experience and sadly for Nissan the Almera doesn't change that tune. There's ample space in the front thanks to the tall and somewhat ungainly looking body and despite the tilt-only steering adjustment a reasonable driving position can be attained.
The steering is light and it's easily directed in a metropolitan situation - where Nissan says this car will spend the vast majority of its time. Don't look for it to liven up when the roads become rural ribbons of bitumen - this is a suburban machine. The gearshift isn't anything to rave about either - it's too notchy and rubbery - but most will opt for the automatic.
Ride quality was a little on the rugged side, which was surprising given the runabout family duties it seems destined for - it's not unbearable but I expected a little more compliance given its metropolitan target market. Rear seat occupants won't want to be tall - headroom at the back is nowhere near as generous as the legroom, thanks to the sloping roofline heading aft.
Cargo space is more than ample, particularly given the overall size of the vehicle, but the absence of fold-down seat backs is limiting for larger load carrying.
As A to B transport there are many bland and sterile options - they get the job done but it's strictly transport only. Nissan's little sedan gets the job done but for anyone looking for some personality and flair in budget transport, there are more impressive machines on the market.
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