Latest Nissan Almera Charges Ahead With Turbo Power

By Lee Pang Seng

IT MIGHT have taken the Japanese carmakers more than a decade to include turbo power in their mainstream cars, when compared to the Germans, but the ball has indeed started rolling in that direction. Locally, Honda has already set the pace with the Civic, CR-V and lately, the Accord, but down the line, Nissan (or rather Edaran Tan Chong Motor Sdn Bhd - ETCM) has taken the lead with the latest Almera.

This takes the shape of the Nissan Almera 1.0-litre Turbo, of which there are three variants; the base VL, the medium model VLP (P stands for Premium) and range-topping VLT (T as in Technology). Taking the turbo lead in the B-segment that includes strong rivals in the Honda City and Toyota Vios reveals the confidence that ETCM has in the market being fully accepting of such engine power for daily motoring.

After all, turbo power had been in the Malaysian market for more than 10 years already although it was once the sole preserve of the premium range from Germany, namely Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volkswagen and Audi. Turbo power is not purely for outright speed and performance, but could be fully enjoyed in normal everyday motoring as well with good fuel economy to boot.

We are pretty stumped really that it took the Japanese carmakers this long to warm up to the idea of applying turbo power in their mainstream range of cars. But the wind of change is surely coming and with Nissan coming hot on the heels of the turbo models from Honda, we should expect more of the same?

Apparently not in the immediate future because Honda has opted for hybrid power for its next City update. Isn’t the success of the turbo models that were introduced here encouraging to follow up on? While we would let you ponder on that rather unexpected strategy, we would delve into what the latest Nissan Almera Turbo has to offer.

The Almera might have its roots in the Sunny (it’s still marketed with that model name in some other markets), it is considered a B-segment car. When you consider the fact that the Sunny was once a strong market rival for the Corolla, now considered a C-segment car, back in the 70s and 80s, its current status is probably a marketing strategy.

It is a completely new model that first made its appearance in the US market as the Verso before being introduced in Thailand late last year. The latest Almera follows the new family styling based on the prominent V-motion front grille that frames the nose styling. The body’s sleekness in profile (with the prominent low-profile floating roof) also stands it in very good stead through improved aerodynamics and its consequential results in a quieter ride, stable highway driving and better fuel mileage.

With turbocharging, engineers could extract more power and torque from a small displacement engine. Thus, to learn that the latest Almera has a 1.0-litre engine is not surprising, given the fact that Mercedes-Benz has even come up with a 1.4-litre turbo unit and Honda has developed a 1.0-litre turbo engine as well.

The Almera’s engine is a three-cylinder unit with 12 valves and double overhead camshafts (which reminded us of the engine in the Perodua Kenari we used to own that is not turbocharged of course). With turbocharging, it delivers a lot more power naturally at 74kW (100PS) at 5000rpm and 152Nm developing at an early 2400rpm and holding till 4000rpm.

The peak power might pale by comparison to its immediate rivals but the Almera Turbo holds the boast of having the highest torque output. Its engine boasts some technical innovations, one of which is the electronic wastegate that improves turbo compression by opening and closing the wastegate valve more efficiently to reduce turbo lag.

Another innovative detail is the ‘Mirror Bore Coating Technology’ that is adapted from the highly regarded Nissan GT-R. This is said to reduce friction between the piston ring and inner cylinder, resulting in increased durability, reduced wear and tear as well as better heat management.

The Almera’s 1.0-litre engine is also said to deliver ‘remarkable fuel efficiency’ of 18.4km/l based on the NEDC R101 benchmark and its 35-litre fuel tank should take one beyond 600km. Good fuel mileage, common with small displacement engines, is made better with a more efficiently managed power unit.

Channelling the engine output to the front wheels is the ‘next generation’ XTRONIC CVT (continuously variable transmission) with D-Step Logic System and Sport mode. The previous Almera model came with a four-speed automatic in addition to the five-speed manual transmission option.

A short drive organised around the Glenmarie area revealed a linear build-up of engine power rather than a turbocharged one, though the pace of acceleration remained respectable. We liked the way the new Almera rode over the speedbumps and the many potholes, ‘hidden’ by the puddles of water as it was raining then. A longer drive should give us a better insight into the Almera’s engine characteristics.

The good ride probably had to do with changes made to the Almera’s suspension details, in particular the rear. A sturdier and stiffer trailing arm architecture is fabricated to improve stability and handling dynamics. Likewise, the bump stops are made of polyurethane and metal instead of rubber for improved stiffness. Another significant detail is the improved chassis that is made more rigid.

The boot looks spacious and promises lots of luggage space for a small family with 482 litres. And if you need to accommodate some longish items from your IKEA shopping, the rear seatrests are split 60:40 and could be folded away individually or together to extend space according to your needs.

Besides looking dashing for its class, the new Almera looks pretty well equipped for all three models, even the basic VL model. All models come well equipped with Intelligent Forward Collision Warning with Intelligent Forward Emergency Brake, Hill Start Assist, Anti-Lock Braking System, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist, and Vehicle Dynamic Control with Traction Control.

The Almera VL runs on 15-inch alloys with 195/65 R15 tyres while the VLP and VLT are fitted with 16-inch alloys and 205.55 R 16 tyres. The spare tyre is a temporary unit of 125/70 D15. The VL and VLP have halogen headlamps and front foglamps while the VLT has LED (light emitting diode) headlamps and front foglamps. However, all three have LED rear foglamps, door mirror indicator lights and rear combination lamps.

A rear-view camera is standard to the VLP and VLT along with the leather steering wheel and semi-bucket leather seats with grey accents. Other features standard to these two models are the dual-tone dashboard with soft padded grey instrument panel, automatic climate control for the air-conditioning system and 8-inch Advance Touchscreen Display Audio supported by six speakers (two for the Almera VL).

All the models have eight cupholders that should sufficiently accommodate the needs of the family though safety wise, only the VLP and VLT have six airbags against two for the basic VL. Simply put, that is quite an impressive list of standard items that you could get for the money you put down for the new Almera.

At the time of the media preview of the latest Almera at ETCM Glenmarie, the prices were not approved yet. However, the VL is expected to be priced at a low RM80,000, the VLP at the mid-RM80,000 and the VLT at the low RM90,000 level. The new Almera comes with a five-year unlimited mileage warranty and five times free maintenance service (including parts and labour) as part of the launch campaign. Furthermore, when you test drive one, you stand to win an iPhone SE (128GB) worth RM2199 (there are 15 available).