Manila-LU in the new Nissan Almera – Drive Feature

The sad truth is, the Nissan Almera is often forgotten. That’s not because it’s a bad car, it really isn’t, but mainly because it’s part of a class dominated by the Vios and City. I’ve always maintained that I prefer the Almera compared to the other two, but sales have been slow over the years. In an attempt to sway more customers towards the Almera, the brand decided to go big on a launch and media drive for the facelifted version.

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2024 Nissan Almera Facelift

I, along with other media representatives was shepherded to Okada on a weekday afternoon to witness the launch of the refreshed Almera. I had seen photos already of the new look and to be honest, was not expecting much in terms of being ‘wowed’ by the new style. I must say though that when the car was finally revealed I appreciated the sleeker and more modern design of this new Almera.

The brand has done away with the aggressive and sporty V-motion front fascia and has tamed it down for this new version, which gives the overall design a more mature and stylish look. Basically, though the Almera remains the same, it is instantly recognizable as still the Almera.

After the short launch program, we were divided into our 2 man teams and assigned to our cars. During this trip, we would not only be trying out the Almera and pushing it to its limits, but we would also be trying out the brand’s newest feature; Nissan Connected Services. Which is basically the brand’s all-inclusive and high-tech phone app.

Nissan Connected Services (NCS) allows the Almera (VL Turbo) owner to control, keep track and manage their vehicle. Useful features include remote start/stop, remote lock/unlock, vehicle health monitors, vehicle finder, etc. Throughout the drive, Nissan will test us and give us challenges using the NCS feature.

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I took the wheel first and we peeled out of the Okada driveway at 4 pm, we gradually made our way through afternoon weekday traffic and I was instantly reminded why I like the Nissan Almera. In the city it is supremely comfortable and refined, the ride is soft and comfortable while the NVH levels are above-par for vehicles in this class.

I really like how light the Almera is to maneuver and despite its bigger proportions ‘making singit’ was easy (which is important in a convoy). The 1.0-liter 3-cylinder 100 PS engine remains the same, but I like how refined it is in terms of noise and vibration.

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We cleared the city and sedately traversed through NAIAX and Skyway Stage 3, and as we breached the NLEX Balintawak toll plaza the convoy started to hustle North. Normally, cars in this class are comfortable cruising the highway at 80-100kph but we were blasting past at around 120-130kph doing hard accelerations and overtakes.

Yet, the Nissan Almera seemed unfazed, the engine was willing to muster up all the power and torque it could give just so we can safely execute overtakes and keep up with the convoy. You’d expect the engine to sound like it was about to explode, but it just gave a loud but not irritating whooshing sound when I mashed the pedal. I also have to commend the steering of the Almera, it was direct and predictable for a vehicle with no sporting tendencies.

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The convoy made quick work of NLEX and SCTEX and upon entering the long TPLEX night had begun to fall. Undeterred by the lack of light, we continued to briskly speed toward LU (only stopping for bladder breaks), I was surprised at how throughout the journey I still felt ‘fresh’, normally in any car this side of the price bracket I’d already be feeling aches and some fatigue, which is a testament to how well tuned the Nissan Almera is in most driving conditions.

Dinner was situated at a restaurant just outside the TPLEX exit in LU, and after loading ourselves up it was time to make the final push towards the hotel. I swapped places and decided to be the passenger for the remainder of the journey, and I’m happy to report that on the uneven and often unpredictable provincial highways, the Almera was still decently comfortable for me as a passenger.

We finally made it to our hotel at around 10 pm, and we settled in for the night.

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Day 2 consisted of a short drive to one of LU’s famous murals, the Mabuyan’s Vessel is an interactive art installation found on a beachfront. This vessel was constructed using sustainable means and materials and is a testament to how the province is shifting its mindset on how to save the environment and keep the surrounding bodies of water clean.

After feeding us lunch, Nissan decided that it would be a fun idea for a bunch of motoring journalists to play a game in the vessel during peak afternoon heat. As the brand expected, our competitive natures kicked in, and we all made our way towards the vessel in the baking sun in the spirit of competition.

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With lunch over and 3rd degree burns for dessert, we made our way back to the hotel where we were given time to rest before the final activity of the drive. We were once again asked to meet at the hotel’s convention center where Nissan was going to conduct a short lecture on Nissan Connected Services, but upon reaching the area we noticed the cars were conspicuously arranged, something was definitely afoot.

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A brand representative gave us the lowdown on the NCS feature and how the Almera is actually the first car in the whole Nissan lineup to get the feature, furthermore, only the top-end Nissan Almera VL Turbo comes equipped with it. I personally believe that NCS is a good idea, it creates a more well-rounded relationship between car and owner, I do however wish the brand offered it across the range as standard.

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With the classroom lecture over, we were then given one last challenge by the brand. Highlighting the features of NCS we had to guess which car numbers were being used. After which, we had to note everything down in the answer sheet provided and points would be tabulated and a winner will receive a prize.

After consuming all the competitive energy we had left, we all took a break before dinner and drinks to cap off the relaxing but enlightening drive.

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Everybody knows that the journey home is the least favorite, it’s a signal that your R&R is over and reality awaits you at the journey’s end, but we did not expect the harsh reality waiting for us in Manila.

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The drive from LU until TPLEX was uneventful, apart from the beginnings of unpredictable weather everything was smooth sailing for the convoy. It was only until we hit SCTEX did traffic start to build up, after we cleared that we once again hit traffic on the Candaba Viaduct. We thought the worst was over, but after I exited the Bocaue toll plaza the weather decided to turn nasty, and extremely heavy rain started to pour down on us as we neared the nation’s capital.

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Apart from the rain night had also fallen, so visibility was nearly zero at some points, and with the rain and wind howling the convoy broke into different groups. I elected to prioritize safety and slowed my pace to avoid damaging a car that I don’t own, our final destination was to return the vehicles to Okada, which meant passing through the Skyway again, and as we crawled our way through the rain and reached the Buendia area standstill traffic decided to make an appearance in our already treacherous journey.

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We braved the gridlock and deluge to make it to Okada just a little past 7 pm, and when I parked the Almera I was once again surprised. We left LU with a full tank of gas, and we arrived at Okada only having consumed half of the tank, that’s surprising considering we were driving quickly through the province and highway, got stuck in crawling traffic, and lastly the Almera only has a 35-liter tank. It is one very fuel-efficient vehicle.

So to sum it all up, Nissan has done just enough to improve the Almera in terms of looks and more features, I don’t mind that they didn’t change any mechanical components because the Almera was already a good car to drive in the first place. More than ever I can say that I still prefer the Nissan Almera and that it might be the best overall choice in its class.




Pablo Salapantan

Pablo Salapantan

Pablo's first word was probably "Car", and this has developed into a personal passion that has consumed his professional life as well.

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