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Almera heralds Nissan’s new light era

New beginnings: Nissan hopes to boost its share of the light-car segment with the new Almera sedan and is forecasting 3000 sales annually.

Spacious Micra-based sedan poised to bolster Nissan’s light-car fortunes


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27 Aug 2012

NISSAN expects its new Micra-based Almera sedan will boost its share of the light-car market in Australia by about 30 per cent over the next year, even though demand could exceed supply.

Available now as an adjunct to the two-year old K13-series Micra hatchback on which it is based, the Thai-built N17 four-door sedan should add around 3000 sales annually to the 9000 units projected for the hatchback.

Nissan Australia CEO Bill Peffer considers the projection of 3000 units is “undercalling it a bit”.

“We think there’s probably more demand than there is supply in this small part of the B-segment market,” he said at last week’s national media launch.

In the first seven months of this year, Nissan’s market share of the sub-$25K light segment slipped from 6.8 to 6.2 per cent over the same period in 2011.

An additional 250 units a month on top of Micra would boost the company’s share to 8.0 per cent, leapfrogging Honda’s Jazz/City duo and equalling the Ford Fiesta, but would still leave it behind Hyundai (Accent and i20), Toyota (Yaris and Prius C), Mazda (2), Suzuki (Swift and Alto), and Holden (Barina and Barina Spark).

Known elsewhere as the Versa and initially unveiled nearly 18 months ago at the 2011 New York International Auto Show, the Almera together with the upcoming Pulsar replaces the unloved Tiida sedan in Australia, imports of which have now ceased.

The Almera is only 25mm shorter than the Tiida sedan, but its 2590mm wheelbase is just 10mm less, and is 155mm longer than the Micra’s.

Nissan figures also show best-in-segment rear-seat legroom (940mm) against sedan versions of the Yaris (904mm), Barina (881mm) and Accent (846mm).

The Almera’s boot capacity of 490 litres is beaten only by the Barina’s 502 litres.

Nissan says the extra cabin length helps justify the $1500 premium the base $16,990 (plus on-road costs) Almera ST manual commands over the equivalent $15,490 Micra ST-L – a gap that widens to $2000 on the Ti flagships.

In addition to having completely different sheetmetal and some dashboard alterations, the sedan differs from the Micra by being 645mm longer at 4425mm, 30mm wider at 1695mm and 20mm lower at 1505mm.

Both share the Renault-Nissan alliance ‘V’ platform that also underpins the upcoming new-generation Clio and Note, among a host of other future vehicles. Skipping the base Micra 56kW/100Nm 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine, the Almera comes with the same 1.5-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder petrol engine found in the Micra ST-L and Ti.

Driving the front wheels via either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic transmission, it delivers 75kW of power at 6000rpm and 139Nm of torque at 4000rpm.

Average combined fuel consumption is 6.3 litres per 100km for the manual – 0.2L/100km better than the Micra despite a 46kg weight penalty – while the combined carbon dioxide emissions rating is 149 grams per kilometre.

Cars fitted with the auto return 6.7L/100km and 159g/km.

As with the hatch, the suspension has the usual MacPherson struts at the front and class-norm torsion beam design at the rear, steering is by an electric-powered rack and pinion system, and drum brakes are used at the rear.

Almera comes with electronic stability control, ABS brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist and dual front, side and curtain airbags, but has yet to be rated for crash safety by ANCAP.

Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, an auxiliary input, Bluetooth telephony, a tilt-only adjustable steering wheel with remote audio controls, trip computer and electric mirrors. It rides on 15-inch steel wheels.

The auto-only Ti from $20,990 gains climate-control, rear parking sensors, keyless entry, push-button start, variable intermittent wipers, a rear centre armrest with built-in cupholders, adjustable rear head restraints in place of the lower integrated items, 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights and a rear spoiler.

Curiously, the Almera lacks a folding rear seatback, putting it at a distinct disadvantage against competing light sedans.

Nissan says it is angling for private rather than fleet buyers, with the base ST expected to snare up to 75 per cent of volume and automatics also accounting for about three-quarters of sales.

Of its rivals, only the $16,480 Barina is cheaper, by $510.

Almera matches the Hyundai Accent’s $16,990, Ford does not offer a manual Fiesta while the $18,990 CL auto does not have curtain airbags, the base Toyota Yaris and Honda City cost $1200 and $1500 more respectively, and the cheapest Kia Rio sedan is an auto at $21,690.

Only the ageing Proton Persona at $16,990 driveaway is significantly cheaper, and it also sits on a longer wheelbase, but the Malaysian sedan lacks crucial safety equipment such as ESC and side and curtain airbag availability.

2012 Nissan Almera pricing (plus ORCs):
ST (a)$18,990
TI (a)$20,990

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