The Almera failed to turn around Nissan's flagging fortunes and dull image, but it proved utterly reliable - an important consideration as a second-hand purchase.
The Almera hit the local market in the first quarter of 2001 with lots of fanfare and a series of high-profile advertising campaigns.
But off the bat, Nissan made its first mistake - only the 1.8i five-door hatchback was available at launch, retailing at R138nbsp;850, which immediately hindered its chances against the wide model proliferation of its competitors.
The Almera was graced with advanced features such as Nissan's Valve Timing Control and its Direct Injection System, but the 1769 cc four-cylinder 16-valve unit was slated due to a lack of performance sizzle and a raucous, unrefined character.
Similarly, the rated outputs of 84 kW of power at 5600 r/min and 158 Nm of torque at 2800 r/min were nothing to write home about, producing somewhat lethargic responses with an unexciting 0-100 km/h time of 12,1 sec and a 192 km/h top speed.
Road-holding was at least on a par, if not slightly above, the class average, but it was let down by excessive road and tyre noise, conspiring with the engine racket to produce a less-than-perfect quality to the driving experience.
The second half of 2001 finally saw the range being expanded with the release of five sedan models, ranging from the base-level 1.6 Comfort (R99 995) through to the 1.8 Elegance (R150nbsp;877). A 1,6-litre automatic was also included in the line-up (R131nbsp;607), although all three cut-price 1,6-litre versions did without ABS brakes and featured only a single airbag.
Power for the 1597 cc unit was rated at 81 kW at 6000 r/min, with an accompanying torque peak of 137 Nm at a fairly high 4000 r/min, yet it delivered relatively decent performance in this segment - in fact its performance figures were on a par with the 1,8-litre version, while offering the benefit of lower fuel consumption.
Towards the end of 2003, the Almera received a cosmetic make-over, with a much more modern front-end appearance along with a series of other detail changes both inside and out, with prices having gradually progressed to between R127nbsp;950 and R180nbsp;950.
The option of a body kit followed, and was aimed at giving the Almera a sportier and more aspirational image, but it failed to transform the car's lacklustre sales statistics off the dealer floor - the surprisingly good and regular top-15 rating on the national sales charts were almost entirely attributed to rental purchases.
Its appeal for the rental market was no fluke, and although the Almera wasn't graced with any upmarket status or performance image, it had proven to be an exceptionally reliable car in every respect with solid attributes in terms of comfort, space and dependability.
This alone now makes it one of the most sensible used car purchases around - particularly if you're looking for dog-reliable and affordable transport that will deliver years of hassle-free low-cost motoring.
The Almera bowed out in August 2006 with the debut of the Tiida, but sadly once again Nissan seems to have missed the boat by producing another dull and uninspiring, yet technically proficient, new contender in the compact segment.