Nissan Almera is First Produced

The Nissan Almera is a small family car built by Nissan from 1995 to 2006.

The Almera name was essentially the European export-market name for the Nissan Pulsar / Nissan Sentra / Nissan Bluebird Sylphy.

The first Nissan Almera rolled off the production line late in 1995, as replacement for the Nissan Sunny, a nameplate which had been in use for nearly 30 years. It was mostly identical to the N15 Nissan Pulsar sold in Japan, except with different trim and petrol engine range.
Power came from 1.4 GA14DE and 1.6 GA16DE petrol and 2.0 CD20 diesel engines initially in 1995, but a year into production a 2.0 SR20DE engined GTi was added to the range. The Nissan Almera was ungainly in appearance but beneath its bland exterior lay an excellent chassis which gave perhaps the best ride and handling of any small medium car on sale in Europe. 1.4 and 1.6 models were sold in 3, 4 and 5-door versions, whereas the GTi was 3-door only, differing from the Almera's main competitor, the VW Golf, whose GTi was sold in both 3 and 5-door configurations.
Almost all Almeras sold in the UK were hatchbacks with three or five doors - this was quite different from some other regions such as Ireland, where the saloon version is substantially more commonplace. Specification was good, with all models getting power steering, driver airbag and stereo as standard. As with all Nissans, build quality and reliability were first rate. Phase 2 GTi's with low mileage were rather more sought after, and one can expect to pay up to £2500 for a good example.

Flagship models for each engine capacity are as follows:
1.4 Si GA14DE
1.6 SRi GA16DE
2.0 GTi SR20DE (1996 onwards, sold in bodykit and non-bodykit form)
The above all included 'high-spec' bumpers with foglights (Optional on the Si model), alloy wheels from 1996 onwards (Different size and design between Si/SRi 14" and GTi 15"), and rear roof lip spoilers (GTi models sported an integrated brakelight, also spoilers were optional on the Si).
The 2.0 litre GTi had an optional 'aggressive-looking' factory bodykit, with BMW M3-style sideskirts, and front/rear splitters. Non-bodykit models came with a simpler plastic front splitter. The GTi featured uprated suspension, front and rear strut braces and a quicker steering rack.

With the Escort-sized Almera, Nissan set its stall out to attract younger buyers. This was a Sunny for enthusiastic drivers a Nissan with attitude. That was just as well because the styling was unusual and equipment levels not overly generous. Reliability and brilliant handling compensate; this is a family hatch you could enjoy owning.

For entry-level models at least, equipment isn't the 1995-2000 Almera's strongest suit. The spartan Equation doesnt even have split-folding rear seats, for example theyre normally a family hatchback must-have. On the plus side, the Si and the GX do come with central locking, power sunroof, driver's airbag and electric front windows and the Si even has a CD player. SLX buyers get alloy wheels and air conditioning but the car still doesn't feel particularly special. The five-doors the one you'll struggle to lose in the supermarket car park with its curvy rear 'opera' quarter-light windows. All three body styles feature the same class-leading long wheelbase and the hatchback pair have a distinctive heavy prow over the back window. This, Nissan designers claim, helps stop the sun from burning rear passengers' heads. Really? To emphasise the daring design work, there was a wacky paint range calculated to enthuse the Europeans at which the car was aimed. Inside, however, familiar battleship grey Japanese plastic reigns though, as usual, everything is ergonomically sound and smartly presented. Thoughtful details include rear seatbelts to lock a child seat securely in place.

There are also courtesy lights on the doors, illuminated ashtrays (wow!) and even a buzzer to tell you you've left the rear foglight on. The all-new 2000 models are much more imaginatively designed. The nostril grille design is shared with the Micra and Primera and theres an unusual surf tail roof kinked up at the rear to give extra headroom. In the cabin, dashboard items are highly stylised with silver buttons while the bright two-tone colours (plus aluminimum-coloured plastic console trim in the Sport models) are a world apart from the rather dour shades in the older Almeras.

Equipment levels are much higher, too, with air conditioning standard from S level up, and there are numerous clever cabin details such as a retractable takeaway curry and handbag hook in the centre console, briefcase and umbrella holders in the rear seat plus secret storage bins.

Prices for 1995-2000 1.4-litre variants start at around £1,400 for the early 95N-plate Equation three-door models; pay from £150 extra for five-doors and from £400 more for GX or Si trim. More typical P-platers will range between £1,600 and £2,000, including the GX four-door saloon (worth no more than an equivalent five-door). Late cars on 99T and 99V plates start at about £2,700 (you may also see some 00W examples) The 1.

6 wasn't offered in entry-level Equation form so the only three-door version you could buy was the SRi. Bearing that in mind, four and five-door GX prices vary from £1,625 to £3,000. The three and five-door SRi models range from £1,750 to £2,375 (on N to T plates). Two-litre diesel four and five-doors are rare with most in the £1,650 to £2,150 bracket.

The excellent three-door 2.0-litre GTi is also rare at £1,900 to £3,150.

Not much goes wrong which is fortunate because some parts aren't cheap. It's a case of looking out for worn trim or non-working equipment and weeding out examples which have had a hard life. All Almeras have a three-year/60,000-mile warranty (check for a full service history to keep it valid) and many will still be on sale at Nissan dealers, so you might pay a bit more for peace of mind. The franchise's excellent used car programme (not all dealers participate) should be worth the extra cost, though.

(approx. for a 1.6-litre 95 hatchback) As you might expect from Nissan, parts are plentiful but, in the case of this model, they're not particularly cheap. A clutch assembly is around £135. Front and rear brake pads are around £45 each, a full exhaust about £390, a starter motor about £185 and an alternator around £325. A radiator should be around £120 and a headlamp about £90.

On the road, as we've suggested, the Almera is no mean performer, thanks in part to the sophisticated multi-link beam rear suspension borrowed from the executive QX saloon. This, says Nissan, is the 'cake-and-eat-it' system which proves that you can have fast, sporty handling and a comfortable, absorbent ride in one package. The two mainstream 16-valve petrol powerplants, though not exactly silent, are smooth and eager as well as being remarkably close in performance. The 67bhp 1.4 gets to 60 in 12.

6 seconds on the way to 107 mph, while the 99bhp 1.6 achieves 11 seconds and 112 mph. Both share the same great gearchange a short-throw five-speeder. If you want more performance, the 2.

0-litre GTi is capable of 130mph. Steer clear of the awful 2.0-litre diesel; its best for taxi drivers only. The later line-up launched in March 2000 has three brand-new engines and all are very good.

Though the 1.5 sometimes feels a little underpowered, it is very smooth and economical. The 1.8 is the best all-rounder and the direct-injection, turbocharged 2.

2-litre diesel is surprisingly lively and very refined once warmed up. Its a world apart from its lethargic predecessor and worth considering if economy is a priority.

Japanese reliability with Peugeot driving satisfaction. Its a tempting combination for used car buyers.