Subcompact sedan and dusted

SUBCOMPACT CARS are the next step up from tiny hatchbacks in the pecking order of automotive sizes and prices. These two categories usually cater to those shopping on a budget. In other words, these cars fulfill our automotive needs. Who wouldn’t want to be luxuriating in the serene smoothness of a Toyota Camry? But the reality is that the vast majority of the population is on a Vios budget — this Toyota subcompact being the country’s best-selling car.

The Camry is a want and the Vios is a need. That’s pretty clear-cut.

But Nissan has other ideas. Having pretty much abandoned the luxury sedan segment with the superb Altima no longer available (although the smooth Sylphy compact sedan still is), Japan’s number-two automaker is making its subcompact entry — the Almera — extra special. The company actually crafted an all-new model that transcends the needs for a subcompact sedan, making one actually want this car.

Much of that has to do with the exterior styling. The all-new Almera boasts a sleek yet spacious design that’s vastly more compelling than the homely styling of its predecessor’s. The new body features lower, wider, and longer dimensions using Nissan’s Emotional Geometry design language, while retaining the Almera’s vaunted roomy interior space. Key elements of the “Emotional Geometry” design include the distinctive V-motion grille, boomerang-shaped LED headlamps and taillamps, LED signature daytime running lamps, kick-up C-pillars, and a floating roof.

The new Almera, which is known as the Versa in the US market, now carries the same bold front end and sculpted body panels as the head-turning Sentra, Altima, and Maxima — all fast-selling sedans in North America. The previous Almera was no ugly duckling — just a wallflower — but that wallflower has become the belle of the ball.

Thankfully, the goodness is not just skin-deep. The new Almera now has an exciting turbocharged engine and, for the first time in a Nissan sedan, state-of-the-art Nissan Intelligent Mobility (NIM) features that provide monitoring and intervention technology. These features include Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Forward Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, as well as the Intelligent Around-View Monitor with Moving Object Detection.

The new Almera is now powered with a compact and lightweight 1.0-liter turbo engine, which delivers greater power and better fuel efficiency, available in four variants with automatic and manual transmission options. The segment-first turbo engine has a power output of 100ps, a class-leading 152Nm of torque, and a claimed fuel efficiency of up to 23.3kpl for the manual version.

The all-new Almera’s interior has also been totally redesigned to accommodate a new seven-inch TFT meter with Integrated Drive-Assist Display, infotainment screen, black leather interiors with contrast stitching, as well as a new flat-bottom steering wheel with hands-free, meter, and voice recognition controls. The stylish passenger cabin features high-quality materials and exemplary craftsmanship with head and legroom to spare, retaining its reputation for best-in-class roominess.

The infotainment system provides convenience and seamless connectivity with an eight-inch Advanced Touchscreen Display with Apple CarPlay, bringing infotainment, navigation, safety, security, and more under a single platform.

“The all-new Almera is the smart and stylish sedan that first-time owners, growing families, and young professionals can trust,” says Nissan Philippines President and Managing Director Atsushi Najima. “As part of Nissan’s transformation plan in the Philippines, we are offering a unique and exciting challenger in the competitive passenger car segment.”

The all-new Nissan Almera starts at P728,000 for the EL MT, goes right up to P938,000 for the VE MT and P998,000 for the VE CVT, and tops out at P1,098,000 for the flagship VL N-Sport CVT. The starting and top-of-the-line prices are just right, although I feel there should have been a P800,000-something variant inserted in the yawning chasm between the P728,000 EL and P938,000 VE MT. A P210,000 price jump between the two lowest-priced variants seems too steep.

The new Almera comes in six colors: Cayenne Red, Gun Metallic, Galaxy Black, Premium Corona Orange, Brilliant Silver, and Pearl White (with a P15,000 premium for the latter).

It comes with a vehicle warranty of five years/150,000 km for the VE and VL variants. Similar to the Navara and Terra, the warranty of the new Almera is the first in its segment, providing customers a worry-free ownership experience.

New car buyers may have been focused on the compact crossover wars, but with the all-new Almera, the subcompact sedan segment — which has close to a dozen players — has just gotten a lot more exciting.