Advantages Price, Handling, Build Quality, Rare
Disadvantages Strange Looks, Ride Comfort, Tyre wear
Nissan Almera Gti [Bodykit]
1999 T plate
Bought May 2003 -£5400, 42,000mls
Sold May 2005- £3200, 58,000mls
Technical StuffCC/Cyl - 1998/4
Can't be beaten on value for money
I had hit 21 and was in the market for car with a bit of go about it. I looked at the Saxo VTS - too common, Golf Gti - to boring and the golf VR6 - to hard to find a decent one that has not been thrashed. I decided to look elsewhere after seeing one too many hammered Golf's and a colleague of mine recommended an Almera GTi as he had owned one for 5 trouble free years.
A long time ago…..
I had a look around and found they were pretty cheap. After a fair bit of hunting through the Autotrader I eventually bought mine in May 2003, second hand from a nice Glaswegian fellow, it came with all the original 15" alloys and a new set of 17" Alloys which looked stunning on the car. He had tinted the windows slightly and fitted a stainless steel exhaust; not to everyone's tastes I know, but at the time I thought it looked the business.
The Almera's looks are a matter of some debate, the car is longer than most hatchbacks, which can give it slight van characteristics, I have to say that I would not have touched any of the non bodykit models, without the bodykit the Almera just looks …well…. crap! What makes the Gti look so much better is the nice aggressive front bumper and grill and the moulded side skirts, with a fantastic large back bumper, made all the nicer with a stainless steel exhaust popping out the back.Most people see the Gti and don't know what it is, I quite liked this aspect, it sets it apart from the Saxo, Corsa, Clio and Golf brigade. It was nice when people used to come and ask what kind of car it was; I wonder how many golf drivers get asked that question?
Performance/HandlingAs a Gti this is where the car should shine, and it does.
The speed won't exactly blow you away, 0-60 in 7.9secs, but it does put a smile on your face when you consider what you paid for it. The 1998cc engine will get you to around 130mph should you feel the need, and the 140bhp it put out serves you well through all the gears but is best beyond the 4000rev mark in 3rd and 4th.The car does struggle sometimes, with trying to steer and put down the power, all with the front tyres leading to some under-steer in the bends but nothing horrific and you have to be pushing pretty hard to notice. In the wet the front wheels have a tendency to loose traction on pick away especially if you've put on bigger wheels beyond the standard 15" Alloys.
The chassis is surprisingly good considering the shape of the car and feels nice and stiff through the bends, and the suspension is quite hard which helps with cornering.All round disk brakes give you added confidence and I always found them more than effective when stopping hastily.
Performance wise the car does great with the stiff shocks, but a big complaint from a few of my passengers, not me I might add, was the rather hard ride.
The driver and passenger seats are almost, but not quite, bucket seats and provide plenty support for when you're throwing the car round bends.
The car does come with a Sony single slot CD player and a relatively good 6 speaker sound system with tweeters and everything! But I'm not much into the sound system thing so all I did was swap the old Sony CD player for a Pioneer 12 CD changer. The speakers cope well if you're into waking up the neighbours, no obvious hissings or crackling.The dash is typically Nissan not overly exciting but its solid, there's no annoying squeaks or rattles. The instrument display looks good too, it has nice white dials that give it a very sport look, without making it look tatty and the mileage is recorded on a digital display underneath the speedometer.
Little touches like the leather steering wheel, leather gear knob, leather handbrake, and rear head restraints make it feel like a much more expensive car. My only slight gripe with the interior was that it wasn't leather, but as cloth interiors go it was not too bad.The Gti has a full electric pack, Mirrors, Windows, Sunroof and a highly capable air conditioning system. Again all solidly put together down in Sunderland.
Space wise the Almera has most other hatchbacks beat hands down, its longer body allows for acres of rear legroom (my 6' 5" friend could fit easily in the back) and a substantial boot space.The seats split 60/40 allowing extra loading space, but that reminds me of a bit of an issue with the Gti model - to improve handling Nissan fitted a front and REAR torsion bar, great for handling not so great is the fact that the rear torsion bar sits right behind the rear seats, so that if you want to fold them down to carry something like a book case you can do but you cant get the bookcase passed the torsion bar; an issue that caused me to swear on more than one occasion.
If driven hard (which is irresistible) the petrol consumption is high. The ambitious 34 mpg put out by the manufacturer might be possible if you drive like the founder of Greenpeace problem is you can't help but rev this car, so mpg is probably more like 25mpg on average.
Reliability and Running Costs
Other reviewers have said you'll get around 18,000mls from the tyres, maybe, but I only got 11,000mls on one set but they came off looking like slicks. 140+bhp through the front tyres as well as steering does work them hard. You have to remember and rotate the front and back tyres every so often, the front wheels just get eaten up.Service costs were not too bad, a full service from Nissan cost around £150, I never let them do any work though, I would always take it to my local garage for anything extra like brake disks and exhaust work, dealers always rip you off with the additional work, they say, needs done after the service and I found Nissan dealers were no different.
What's important is that, not once did it fail to start, from my experience it never burned much oil or water etc. and on the whole I found it to be relatively economical.
Well there's a separate driver and passenger side reading light in addition to the central internal light that comes on when the doors are opened (wipe away the drool!).The standard lights-left-on-buzzer (BUZZZZZZZ).
There's also the standard remote central locking. All entry can be controlled by the lock/unlock buttons on the keyfob.The car comes equipped with NATS - Nissan's immobiliser.
Some good Fog lights built into the Gti Bumper.Drivers Airbag! Passenger should use Pillow (not provided).
No… it's not a rhetorical question, YES you should.
Should you get one??
Bare in mind that with the new(er) model having been out since 2000, and with no Gti variant available in that more curvy shape, then good Gti's can be hard to find. Be patient and if you find the one that's for you….. "All you wildest dreams will come true"*.*Ok so maybe not but, it'll make you smile!
On a sad day in May 2005 I eventually sold the car to, as fate would have it, a 21 year old Glaswegian fellow. I replaced it with an Audi S3, which cost me a lot more to buy, costs me a lot more to run and really isn't that much better than my old Nissan Almera Gti, when it comes down to it. So in summary I'm an idiot for ever selling it!
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