The Nissan Almera was designed to offer best-in-class equipment and technology and was always considered a very road capable car offering sharp, precise handling, minimal bodyroll and decent tyre grip, especially in the GTi and post 2003 versions.
The first Nissan Almera rolled off the production line late in 1995, as replacement for the Nissan Sunny, a nameplate which had been in use for nearly 30 years. It was mostly identical to the N15 Nissan Pulsar sold in Japan, except with different trim and petrol engine range.
Power came from 1.4 GA14DE and 1.6 GA16DE petrol and 2.0 CD20 diesel engines initially in 1995, but a year into production a 2.0 SR20DE engined GTi was added to the range. The Nissan Almera was ungainly in appearance but beneath its bland exterior lay an excellent chassis which gave perhaps the best ride and handling of any small medium car on sale in Europe. 1.4 and 1.6 models were sold in 3, 4 and 5 door versions, whereas the GTi was 3 door only, differing from the Almera's main competitor, the VW Golf, whose GTi was sold in both 3 and 5 door configurations.
Almost all Almeras sold in the UK were hatchbacks with three or five doors - this was quite different from some other regions such as Ireland, where the saloon version is substantially more commonplace. Specification was good, with all models getting power steering, driver airbag and stereo as standard. As with all Nissans, build quality and reliability were first rate. Phase 2 GTi's with low mileage were rather more sought after, and one can expect to pay up to £2500 for a good example.
The above all included 'high-spec' bumpers with foglights (Optional on the Si model), alloy wheels from 1996 onwards (Different size and design between Si/SRi 14" and GTi 15"), and rear roof lip spoilers (GTi models sported an integrated brakelight, also spoilers were optional on the Si).
The 2.0 litre GTi had an optional 'aggressive-looking' factory bodykit, with BMW M3-style sideskirts, and front/rear splitters. Non-bodykit models came with a simpler plastic front splitter. The GTi featured uprated suspension, front and rear strut braces and a quicker steering rack.
For the phase 2, the front bumpers were re-designed, front splitters were added on the Si/SRi, and the GTi had all-round bodykit as standard (Although it was optional to not have the bodykit), and now all of the lip spoilers had integrated brakelights. The original telescopic radio aerial was moved from the drivers A-pillar to the rear of the roof and was changed to a "bee-sting" type. On the GTi, the phase 2 headlights and front indicators featured a black surround.
The Bodykit itself was changed to a more subtle, straight design on the GTi, with the addition of vents on the rear splitter. Due to the high 'casualty rate' of Phase 1 splitters, due to the thin and brittle plastic used, Phase 2 bodykits were much sturdier. As such, it is not uncommon to find Phase 1 GTi's with Phase 2 bumpers or no splitter at all.
Launched early in 2000, the second generation Nissan Almera differed from its predecessor with smooth, curved lines. Some still thought it bland in comparison with its rivals although the Almera was selling strongly worldwide.
The N16 Almera was based on Nissan's global MS-Platform, which was Nissan's first new platform to be developed after the partnership with Renault. The MS Platform was also the base for the new Primera and Almera Tino.
While the previous generation Almera was considered spacious for its class, the N16 Almera was lacking in rear passenger legroom due to a shorter than category average wheelbase.
Almeras can be also equipped with 1.5 common-rail turbodiesel from the Renault Megane II - Nissan had recently ventured with Renault and the Almera's diesel engine was the first instance of Nissans and Renaults sharing mechanicals.
First, the Almera's Macpherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension (Nissan's name for its double lateral link twist beam suspension) had been retuned. This resulted in a quieter ride and a reduction in the amount of rear bump-through experienced when heavily laden, improving high-speed stability, driving dynamics and making the car more controllable after an emergency maneuver. The new suspension tuning also proved to produce almost no body roll on tight turns. Overall, Nissan said, the Almera had slightly firmer damper settings and marginally stiffer spring ratings; though there had been no loss of ride comfort or increase in noise levels in normal motoring. The suspension revisions had been executed in such a way as to only come into play at the upper edge of the dynamic envelope.
The facelift also included new chrome, projector-style headlights that were set in a titanium-coloured surround with separate lights for main and low beams set behind an enlarged translucent cover. The front bumper now had an integrated engine air intake that ran almost the full width of the car while a honeycomb mesh grille added visual benefits to the frontal image. Some models also got small circular fog lights.
The interior of the facelifted Almera had also been redesigned with better quality materials and a large color or monochrome center screen which controlled all of the car's functions (climate control, CD player and trip computer). Higher trim levels also included Nissan's Bird-eye GPS system.
Additionally there was a change to the Diesel model line up, with the change to a Renault power plant. This made the Almera 2.2dci (136psi), the fastest Nissan in the UK prior to the arrival of the 350Z.
The facelifted Almera was built in Washington, Tyne and Wear, UK, and exported to parts of the Asia-Pacific where they were sold as the Nissan Pulsar. In 2006 the second generation Almera reached its sixth year of production but was still selling strongly world-wide. It was also sold in Mexico in three versions; a 5-door manual 5-speed, a 5-door automatic 3-speed "Comfort" model and a 3-door "Sport" version equipped with side curtain air bags, fog lamps and a 5-speed manual transmission.
The Renault Samsung SM3 is currently sold in Ukraine, Russia, and some countries of Central America as the Almera Classic. The car is a N16 Pulsar-derived model built in South Korea by Renault Samsung Motors. It has four versions and two engines available: the 1.5 litre QG15DE and the 1.6 litre with CVTC system QG16DE petrol, both from Nissan.