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Nissan Almera ST Sedan 2012 review

The car's biggest attributes - rear legroom and boot space - are compromised by design flaws.
EXPERT RATING
6

Nissan has put a boot on the Nissan Micra. If light sedan buyers are more interested in style than space, they'll soon boot the Almera off their shopping lists.

The Almera isn't a bad car: it's just budget vanilla in a segment where similar money will let you enjoy the taste of real beans. Still, Toyota gets away with the same thing in the more expensive and marginally less roomy Yaris, so Carsguide could be proven wrong.

Value

The Almera ST starts at $16,990 with a five-speed manual gearbox and features like keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity and an auxiliary jack for the iPod. That price puts it up against the Hyundai Accent sedan. 

The Accent has the edge in specification, looks, performance and fuel use. It loses out in steering response, rear legroom, and boot space.

Spend another $2000 and the Almera can be had with a four-speed auto rather than the five-speed manual. At that point it runs into the better looking Ford Fiesta, which comes with a six-speed dual-clutch auto and is our pick in this class for driving dynamics.

Invest $20,990 in an Almera Ti and there's climate-controlled aircon, reverse parking sensors, alloy wheels in place of steel, fog lights and a rear lip spoiler.

Technology 

A monochrome display shows fuel use, driving range and a service reminder. The sound system is basic but no worse than many rivals. A USB input would have been appreciated, though. The Almera isn't the only light car with a four-speed auto, but it certainly doesn't flatter the 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine.

Design

The Almera is far from the best-looking Nissan in the showroom. It lacks the quirkiness that made the Micra pug-dog appealing. And the humped roof makes a mockery of the rear legroom claim: it needs the class-leading space to let 180cm occupants slouch and avoid hitting their heads on the roof. It might stop the kids from kicking you in the back, though.

The boot is cavernouse but limited by the fact the rear seats don't fold down, ruling out the option of loading long objects, or a bike. The interior is well put together but looks and feels cheap with hard, textureless plastics and a silly storage slot above the glovebox that's great for throwing things at the passenger.

Safety

ANCAP hasn't crashed the Almera yet. Given its based on the Micra, expect a four-star rating - the hatch's passenger cell was deemed reasonably strong but the pedals moved enough to cause "moderate" damage feet in a prang. The sedan has all the safety software and six airbags, but needs an official crash credential to compete with the five-star cars in this class.

Driving

Nissan was at pains to point out the Almera will be an urban runabout - and that explains the absence of cruise control. It also means Victorian owners will spend a lot of time watching the speedo instead of the road. Around town the four-speed auto is no worse than the Yaris's similarly restricted transmission and it will be an acceptable shopping trolley. 

The manual gearbox's extra cog is a better match for the modest engine outputs - but around 80 per cent of buyers in this segment buy an auto. So expect it to kick down hard when going up hills, with a matching rise in engine noise. Sharp steering makes this a nimble car to commute in but it is a touch too sensitive on 80km/h-plus B-roads. The good news is the suspension is well tuned to handle typical road corrugations and the solid chassis means understeer, while it occurs early, is progressive and easily tamed.

Verdict

The Almera is a classic example of a car built to a price. In this case, that price is probably a couple of grand too high. The car's biggest attributes - rear legroom and boot space - are compromised by design flaws and, beyond a Nissan badge, there's nothing else to help it stand out in the light-car crowd.

Pricing Guides

$7,990
Based on 17 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$5,990
Highest Price
$11,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
ST 1.5L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $5,990 – 9,990 2012 Nissan Almera 2012 ST Pricing and Specs
Ti 1.5L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $7,990 – 11,990 2012 Nissan Almera 2012 Ti Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6
Pricing Guide

$5,990

Lowest price, based on 8 car listings in the last 6 months

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