I USUALLY do not revel in driving subcompact vehicles in the past, thinking that the offerings at that time were so dull that they never put anything technologically new to the table. One such vehicle was the Nissan Almera, which features an interior that is seemingly made of plastic bottles.

All my disparagement was erased by Nissan this time, as the Japanese automaker gave the 2022 Almera model with a sharper looking suit, and a host of new tech to go with it. Nissan's V-motion design motif is prevalent on the front fascia, extending from the hood to the grille and to the black accents on the bumper, complimenting well with the sharper looking headlights. The side profile is clean, with a line that extends and aligns to the door handles, as well as the rear. The overall design package was well thought out that it really shines under sunlight, especially with the black test unit loaned to me for review.

The test unit, an Almera VL N-Sport, comes equipped with matching front and rear bumper extension, 16-inch wheels, light-emitting diode fog lamps, as well as silver accents, which compliments the new design and gives off a premium feel.

The improvements extend to the inside as well, and it is such a pleasant place to sit. Old Almera owners will notice that it now lacks the rear air-conditioning vents, but in exchange, you get a larger trunk space. While the 2022 Almera still uses plastic for most of the trim, you do get a lot of soft touch materials this time around, complete with stitched black leather seats. The front seats, while it is supple to the touch, is enough to keep the driver and passenger bolstered. The rear is the same story as well, and they are soft to make the rear occupants comfortable despite the upright seats. You can also fold down the rear the rear seats for better cargo space. Sound is also properly insulated as well, thanks to new windshields and sound deadening materials on some areas of the car. The leather seats and sound insulation can mean one thing for the Almera; Nissan has focused on comfort for both the passenger and the driver, especially on long drives, and it shows.

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Before I talk about how it feels, let me run through the engine specs — a turbocharged 1.0-liter three cylinder engine. Power may be meager at under 100 horsepower, but having a smaller engine allows for a lighter vehicle, better fuel efficiency, and performance. Power is immediate the moment you step on the gas from idle, thanks to its 160 Nm of torque at 2400 rpm delivered by the CVT transmission.

Overall, it was very pleasant to drive, thanks to its immediacy in power delivery; and the handling — while it may not be the tautest — feels enjoyable to the point where it's not too much effort.

For better efficiency, an idle start/stop feature comes as standard, but not recommended on a really hot day. The air-conditioning system shuts down the instant the engine stops on idle, which means you're stuck in traffic with a fan blowing on your face. Thankfully, the air-conditioning is cold enough that it stays cold longer. This feature effectively lightens the car and positively impacts fuel efficiency. I managed around 11km per liter in the city and nearly 20 on the highway during the review.

Safety features are also a plus on the Almera, as it comes with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring with rear traffic alert, 360-degree camera, anti-lock braking system, as well as six airbags. The 8-inch NissanConnect infotainment system allows for Apple CarPlay support, as well as Bluetooth and USB, though I wish Android Auto is included in the system as standard.

While it may be a tad expensive in its segment at P1,098,000, the 2022 Almera does offer a lot more bang for the buck, and it is a huge improvement on quality, looks, and is laden with technology over the previous model years. What Nissan has offered to us this time, is something exciting for the subcompact segment, as well as for the brand.