by Dr. Iain Corness
Chinese GP this weekend
The Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai this weekend. The race will start at 2 p.m.
Thai time on Sunday. Will Mercedes continue their dominance? Will Ferrari have
found the missing horses? Will The Finger be beaten by the Aussie upstart? Find
A few weeks ago I tested the new Nissan Teana, and was very
impressed with the vehicle. This week, Khun Ju of Pattaya Automobile Co. (on
Sukhumvit Road, about 50 meters past the Ambassador City and on the same side)
offered the Nissan Almera, seeking my opinion on the Teana’s smaller brother.
Mind you, Nissan has an unrivalled propensity for finding nonsensical names.
Remember the Nissan Cedric of 40 years ago? Or the recent Nissan Tiida? Or even
the current Juke and Sylphy? Just where do they get these names? A quick search
turned up the fact that “Almera” is of Arabic origins and means Princess. Hardly
an attractive name, but is it an attractive car?
This Nissan Almera is derived from the Nissan March eco-car, which was released
a couple of years back. The Almera is also considered an eco-car, and is thus
restricted to the 1.2 litre engine from the March. (In Malaysia the Almera has a
1.5 litre engine, not being restricted by the Thai specifications.)
Direct competitors in the B segment to the Almera in the marketplace include the
Toyota Vios and the Honda City.
The first impression one gets of the Almera is one of size. It is not a small
car and is generally larger than its rivals in the B segment.
Almera: 4425 mm (L) x 1695 mm (W) x 1500 mm (H), wheelbase: 2600 mm
VIOS: 4410 mm (L) x 1700 mm (W) x 1475 mm (H), wheelbase: 2550 mm
City: 4415 mm (L) x 1695 mm (W) x 1480 mm (H), wheelbase: 2600 mm
The exterior styling is a matter of personal taste. The front is quite pleasant
with its Lexus-like grille, but I cannot connect with the “ironed” slab sided
rear panels. Doors are of good size and entrance and exit are easy. The steering
wheel is also adjustable in height, and it was possible to get a good driving
position. The seats were also comfortable.
Not only does it look full-size from outside the car, once settled in, the
interior is very large and the five seats are not at all squeezy. From the
inside, it does not feel like a small car in any way. Even with the driver’s
seat racked way back, there was ample room for the rear seat passenger’s legs.
One of the first items to learn to accept is the Idle-Stop system. This
ingenious electro-trickery turns the engine off when sitting stopped at traffic
lights, resulting in improved fuel consumption figures. But then lift your foot
from the brake pedal and the engine re-starts and away you go. Initially when
stopped and finding a large bus each side of me and another hovering over the
rear bumper bar made me pray that it would restart, but after the first few
times I began to accept that it would work, and prayer was not necessary.
With only a 1.2 litre 79 BHP engine the Almera is no drag-racer, but the engine
is not at all fussy and is adequate both in city driving and open road,
returning around 20 km per litre of gasoline. With a 40 litre tank this works
out as a distance of 800 km per tank.
The CVT transmission is exceptionally smooth and never seems to get confused as
some automatic transmissions can do, and the gear changes are seamless.
The steering is light at parking speeds but gets progressively firmer as the
speed increases. It is very easy for a woman to park the Almera.
It is very quiet in operation, and comfortable, has a cavernous boot and ideal
for the weekly supermarket expedition.
There are six models, with the base S (manual) at B. 433,000.
E (manual) B. 464,000
E (CVT) B. 498,000
EL (CVT) B. 532,000
V (CVT) B. 572,000
VL (CVT) B. 608,000
Dislikes: Not too many, particularly when you look at the price. Even the top of
the line model as tested is only B. 608,000 and has ABS, EBD and BA. However, I
would like a central console with arm rest, and the top models should have
daytime running lights. There are only two airbags, and considering the amount
of electronics already in the Almera, side curtain airbags should not be too
difficult to incorporate at the design stage.
Features I did like included the very simple to operate air-conditioning as
opposed to drop-down menus. The GPS was clear, though it was a trifle annoying
having to “agree” to the terms of reference every time before setting off.
However, it is one of those developments it is hard to imagine being without.
Looking at the B segment, the Almera is by far the cheapest and is certainly
worth your investigating. It does have the smallest engine and is exceptionally
economical. On the other side of the coin, it is the least powerful amongst its
rivals, but to be honest, do you need Formula 1 acceleration in Pattaya’s
congested streets. As long as you can outrun the busses, what more is needed,
and especially looking at the purchase cost which ranges from B. 433,000 base
model to 608,000 top of the line.
The best advertisement is always word of mouth and I found one owner in my
office. His was a top of the line Almera and he had owned it for 12 months, and
was effusive with praise. He found, as I did, that it was a very pleasant and
comfortable motor car. His only recommendation was to lower the tyre pressures
by a few psi to enhance the comfort, and again I would agree, but only by around
2-3 psi for safety reasons.
Test car supplied by Pattaya Automobile Co., a new Nissan dealership with all
the infrastructure required for sales and service.
Address: 222 Moo 2, Sukhumvit Road, Tambol Najomthien, phone 038 255-800.
Who sold what at the Bangkok International Motor Show?
James Bond, I presume!
The figures have been released from the organizers of the
motor show, with the top 10 not holding any surprises. Toyota, as usual, sold
more than anyone else, and in fact 25 percent of all sales went to Toyota,
almost twice that of Honda, the next in line. Here are the sales figures:
However, of even more interest were the figures from the more expensive end of
Aston Martin 7
I must say I find 10 RR’s surprising, particularly against only three Bentleys,
a much more superior car in my books. From all these, I will have an Aston
Martin DB9 and play James Bond’s all day. No mention in these statistics of MG,
as they were not taking any orders, their presence being purely to test the
Super 1 Racing Bira this weekend
The Super 1 Racing group is promoting its second meeting at
Bira this weekend. It seems a mixed bag of categories, but there will be the
usual groups of sedans and pick-ups I am sure. We will be taking the Retro
Escort with its newly rebuilt shock absorbers fitted overnight, so we will use
the meeting to tune the chassis.
There is only one other problem - this is still Songkran. Highway 7 and Highway
36 will be ok, but how you get to the highways could be a problem.
Bira circuit is on Highway 36 about three km past The Regents school heading
towards Sattahip. Look for us in the pits as well as on the track.