Driven to Despair: The Nissan Almera



Mike Humble


“Even the original advertising strapline was all to cock – “The car they don’t want you to drive” – just exactly WHO and WHY were never really explained”


If you were to think of an automotive apocalypse, what’s going through your mind right now?

Something Communist like a Lada 1200 estate or something equally bleak from Poland like an orange coloured FSO 125p are the obvious choices for some, but for me, some of the motoring miseries were a bit more mainstream. Purely, by nature of competition, all the manufacturers strive for perfection which naturally brings on success – or so you’d think. Every now and again however, it seems that the benchmark is to be average, boring and pretty much without any redeeming features whatsoever. The makers push in all the stops to really go for middle of the road misery.

Ladies and gentleman of the jury – The NISSAN ALMERA

First introduced into the UK in 1995, the Almera replaced the outgoing Sunny models. It offered three body styles with four engines spreading out from a 1.4 to a 2.0 diesel. It was known for being quite a roomy car compared to rivals such as Astra or Escort, but it was here where any real plus factors ended. Exterior and interior styling was heart stoppingly dull and Nissan ought to have been given some kind of award for really going that extra mile in terms making this new car so incredibly anonymous to the eye.

Out on the road it fared no better.  Good performance (especially the 1.8) a quick gearshift and tidy predictable handling but sadly with one of the noisiest suspensions I have ever come across. Even the original advertising strapline was all to cock – “The car they don’t want you to drive” – just exactly WHO and WHY were never really explained. Later commercials featuring spoof versions of The Sweeney and The Professionals were really brilliantly funny adverts featuring the talents of a then unknown Phil Cornwell. I can only imagine the disappointment of an excited potential customer feeling so flat after visiting the dealer and taking the test drive.

The year 2000 saw a new generation model, this time built in Washington rather than Japan and as per the previous model, and most other Nissan’s, they were fairly reliable at least. My ex partner bought a brand new 3dr 1.8 Sport model and I gave a mate of mine a lift down to Heathrow airport one day. Arriving at terminal 4 he woke up just before parking complaining about the front seats. He remarked “Have you given me Rohypnol as I don’t remember anything of the past two hours and my backside is sore”

And yet the horror continues, if that wasn’t enough, then consider the Almera Tino – a wanna be compact MPV with all the practicality of being handcuffed with your hands behind your back. Despite pouring hot oil over these automotive behemoths, it did not stop them selling. The reason was simple, they appealed to those who either couldn’t drive or did not car what they drove

Your thoughts?


  1. Who can forget the awfull shockingly bad heating and combined radio controls of the updated Almera, my mother never did figure out how to switch from blistering heat to radio 2 without turning the whole system off. It was pretty reliable but rust was rampant at the rear end with rotting suspension parts (applies to the original Almera too) that are only available at the dealers at a horrendous cost, so the car was written off.

    • A small garage owner I know runs one as a discourtesy car – a 1.5 SE and swears by it. NEVER EVER conks out and he paid just £500 for a 52 plate with 44K on the clock and FSH. He says its a load of crap to drive though!

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