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Nissan Almera

If you're looking for excitement, then Nissan's Almera isn't for you. But if you're after dependable, inexpensive and respectable family transport, then this compact hatch makes a perfectly acceptable buy.

If you're looking for excitement, then Nissan's Almera isn't for you. But if you're after dependable, inexpensive and respectable family transport, then this compact hatch makes a perfectly acceptable buy.
Launched in 1995 to replace the Sunny, the Almera certainly didn't represent a quantum leap for the firm. It had all its predecessor's virtues - such as tough engines, a pleasant cabin and reasonable refinement - in an improved package. Dynamically, it was a better driver's car, and the GTi version is a cracking hot hatch.
But the styling is a real letdown and the Almera's only claim to fame was being grouch Victor Meldrew's transport in BBC TV's One Foot In The Grave. This staid reputation leads to great value, thanks to weak residuals.
Checklist
* Interior: upholstery is usually light in col-our and not too durable. Grubby marks and small tears are commonplace. Dashboards and plastic trim get rattly with age.
* Engine: don't worry about cambelt chan- ges as Almeras have chain-driven cams. Engines are sealed for life, but rattles from the top-end mean imminent failure.
* Bodywork: check for damage to rear quarter panels, as these are expensive and difficult to repair. Paint is prone to fading or going flat, especially solid reds and white.
* Windows: look for damp in the cabin or mould on the door trim. Rear window winder systems struggle with the weight of the glass, and tend to drop. Unless checked regularly, water can leak in.
* Clutch: a slipping clutch doesn't necessarily mean a big bill. Almeras are prone to this as clutch cables stretch. But repairs are cheap and take minutes to do.
Driving Impressions
The Almera's cabin is pleasant, if a little bland. But it's comfortable enough, with the switchgear well positioned.
Performance is adequate - the 1.4 is quite lively for a small unit, but the 1.6 feels flat in the mid-range. The diesel, although thrifty, is rattly and sluggish. However, the GTi stands out with excellent handling, performance and reliability. It's one of the hot hatch world's best kept secrets.
Glass's View
Not the most loved of cars, but the Almera finds homes with those for whom value is the top priority. Low-spec versions find their way on to daily rental fleets and are fairly unwanted used. Cars with better kit, especially air-con and metallic paint, look excellent value next to similar-aged VW Golfs. Some buyers skimp on maintenance because it's a reliable brand, so there are some shabby examples around. The choice isn't wide, so be sure to seek out the best you can. Jeff Paterson, Snr Cars Editor, Glass's Guide
Life With An Almera
I'm very defensive about my Nissan Almera. People tell me it's boring, but I think that's unfair. It goes about its business perfectly well, and has been supremely reliable for 85,000 miles. Germaine Steggles, Walthamstow, London
I was really after a VW Golf GTI when I test drove an Almera GTi - and now I'm a convert. It's just as much a GTi as a Golf or a Peugeot 205. Rob Baker, Runcorn, Cheshire

Verdict

As you'd expect from a Nissan, the engine pulls strongly from low revs, but lacks real verve until 4,000rpm. The new suspension provides im-proved comfort over the Sunny's, plus a composed ride. At speed, the steering is accurate, but feels a little lifeless. The chassis is well balanced, but lacks the fluid quality of the class-leading Peugeot 306 or Citroen ZX. Overall, the Almera is far from a bad car, but it lacks the depth of ability and personality of its key rivals."

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