Almera VE: Power and protection are its strongest suits

Published November 30, 2021, 2:04 PM

by Eric R. Tipan

2022 Nissan Almera 1.0 VE Turbo CVT

OK, style probably is another one of the Almera VE’s strong suits as well. But that breaks the title’s alliteration and stretches it too long. Nevertheless, the Almera’s much-needed 100-point restoration makes this fourth-generation model look, feel, and drive nothing like the last one. That turns this makeover into one of Nissan’s most dramatic yet.

Wearing the six-year old Emotional Geometry design language is kind of ironic, in a good way, because its surface is almost devoid of any angles. You’ll notice there’s hardly any inclination between the hood and windshield, rear glass and the tail, giving its shell a very sleek and aerodynamic shape. The facade is a fantastic interpretation of what was on the 2017 V-motion 2.0 concept, albeit in lesser proportions.

It gets the same expressive lines along the sides of the long hood, the same shape and details on the slim LED reflector-type headlamps (with daytime running lamps), and even a similar mesh on the smaller rendition of the chrome V-motion grille. It also adopts the diagonal character line rising from the front fender all the way to the trunk.

At the back is a noticeably beefy bumper with black molding, V-Motion-shape stamped on the trunk face, and wraparound LED taillights with thick black outlines.

Front and rear silver lips put a nice finishing touch and complete the look, unfortunately, it won’t be available on the EL.

The whole package is definitely attractive and for Nissan to take visual cues from a concept vehicle and put it on the Almera says something about what this model means for the automaker and this market. The result is a mix of futuristic flavor and a high degree of flair, giving it a leg up in a segment known for simple and straightforward designs on affordable Point-A-to-Point-B cars.

The word ‘intelligent’ will be used a lot from here on in and it starts with the key. With just a press of a button (on the door handle), the vehicle unlocks and with another press (on the Start-Stop button), the engine comes alive.

On the center stack is an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system (with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto) firing music into six tiny speakers that are amazingly good enough to fill up the cabin while hitting all the right notes and frequencies. Pairing is easy and the interface is very intuitive.

It has a thick, flat-bottom, multifunction (audio, telephone, multi-info display, and even voice recognition) steering wheel that’s great to grip and is just the right size, plus, I love the shape of buttons that let me distinguish which audio control I’m pushing without having to look at it. It took me all of 30 seconds to commit it to muscle memory.

Other amenities include a single-zone automatic air-conditioning system, three USB ports, and a 12v outlet. Body-hugging seats come in ‘Asian size’ so the fit is just right but are only manually adjustable and come in black fabric with gray trim.

Gone are the rounded features of the dashboards past. This fresher take is less cluttered, which makes it absolutely idiot-proof because the controls are easier to see, and gives off a sense that the cabin is spacious and wide. As good as it is, the best parts are still to come.

It uses a 1.0L three-cylinder, multi-point injected, Euro-4 turbo engine that has Start/Stop technology and sends 100-PS and 152-Nm of torque to the front wheels via an XTronic continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Even though it weighs just a little over a ton (1,080 kg), it’s unbelievably limber and light. Power delivery is spread out evenly throughout the rev range so you get the pull required, whether taking off or overtaking. Plus, the engine doesn’t get too taxed because it can hit (and maintain) 120-130 km/h while keeping within 1,900 to 2,100 RPM. The result is a very high 15.2 km/l in mixed driving conditions.

Noise, vibration, harshness levels are low but could be better. It’s only on really bad surfaces where the roughness comes through. So if you’re on a good stretch, it’s a quiet drive.

Its handling feels like driving a minicar because of the EPS (electric power steering) so it’s a little deceiving but it makes it so maneuverable. People who hate the arm workout during three-point turns will love it. Surprisingly, it doesn’t do too well around fast corners. Tires were firmly planted but a good amount of G-force acted on my butt and body.

Then there’s the Nissan Intelligent Mobility. This mid-variant already comes with Intelligent Around-View Monitor (with Moving Object Detection), Intelligent Forward Collision (with warning), Intelligent Emergency Braking, and even Hill Start Assist; not to mention Vehicle Dynamic Control now comes standard on all Almeras.

For all that the offers, this mid-level variant is very fairly priced at just P998,000.

This model wasn’t in a good place a few years ago but this turnaround has set it on a straight subcompact skirmish with the Vios and City. My take? It’ll do more than simply hold its own. If Nissan plays its cards right, the 2022 Nissan Almera 1.0 VE Turbo CVT even has the potential to change the segment’s landscape.