Unexceptional Classics

Unexceptional Classifieds: Nissan Almera GX Saloon

by Antony Ingram
29 March 2024 3 min read
Unexceptional Classifieds: Nissan Almera GX Saloon

Price: £2,000
Mileage: 42,000
Condition: Positively radiating unexceptionality
Advert: eBay

It’s not always easy finding the perfect unexceptional car. Frequently we have to rule out examples of cars we’ve featured once or twice before (Escorts, Cavaliers, and Rover 200s have all had plenty of airtime already), and other times nothing really stands out.

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But this Nissan Almera saloon virtually writes itself. Not only have we not had one before in this series, but in bright red, and proudly displaying the original wheel trims, it’s as close to perfect as we found this week.

The Almera had the not-so-difficult task of following up the Sunny in Nissan’s range. Save for one or two notable performance models, the Sunny was virtually the definition of automotive white goods, at least outside of Japan and in its later iterations. The ‘N15’ Almera appeared to be more of the same, visually at least, with a shape perhaps most kindly described as inoffensive, and the kind of interior you might use to describe a car interior in an encyclopaedia.

Nissan Almera Unexceptional Classified 3

The so-so shape hid quite a special chassis though, helped in no small part by Nissan choosing to fit a multi-link setup at the rear, as it had done on the Primera. What worked well in the larger car also benefited Nissan’s Escort rival, and in GTi form particularly it’s one of the hidden handling gems of the 1990s.

Nissan offered the Almera in three-door and five-door hatchback formats, and as a four-door saloon – like the one you see here – with 1.4, 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol engines, and a 2.0-litre diesel. The first-generation Almera was replaced in 2000 by a curvier ‘N16’ model, before it and the Primera, neither of which made much impact on the market, were collectively replaced by the Nissan Qashqai in 2007. Wonder what happened to that one?

Nissan Almera Unexceptional Classified 5

This 1.6-litre GX is the slowest and most kit-shy format you could buy the saloon in. Hatchbacks started out one trim level lower with the Equation (the equation presumably being to ‘solve for GX minus one’) and with the 87bhp 1.4 16v, rather than the 98bhp of the 1.6 16v. Nissan promised 0-60mph in 11.1 seconds with this car’s manual gearbox, and 31mpg combined, which is a reminder that smaller and lighter 1990s cars weren’t always that economical.

The car for sale on eBay is a real vision of the decade, when bright red paint was still one of the best-selling colours, and when car manufacturers, Japanese ones selling in the UK market especially, thought nothing of trimming the seats in a material that resembles your granny’s three-piece suite.

Outside the Almera saloon looks a bit like an AI-generated Primera, with the same details but slightly wonky proportions courtesy of its hatchback base, while the cabin, seat trim aside, is all severe and quite shiny black plastic, from the dash top to the enormous airbag boss, to the gearshift gaiter that looks like you could use it to unclog a toilet.

The mystery of how it’s managed to survive from 1997 until 2024 is revealed by the first owner keeping the car garaged for 25 years and maintaining a full main dealer history, both of which are basically the Unexceptional Classified dream. The MOT history’s pretty good too, and a credit to its two previous owners.

Nissan Almera Unexceptional Classified 2

A credit too to the seller, from whom an asking price of two grand doesn’t seem bad when you consider what people are now asking for much ropier late-model Escorts and Astras. The only thing we’d really be tempted to do is remove the tinting from the rear windows, which doesn’t really suit either the 1990s era nor the base-model vibes.

This is exactly the kind of car we like to see at the Festival of the Unexceptional – a cared-for example of an otherwise rare, unloved, and under-appreciated car from the past.

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