After all, who can fault the concept? A car the size of a lower medium vehicle, but with space enough for five adults and a shedful of luggage, is bound to appeal to the masses like me who have children and an active lifestyle to support.
Say what you will, the Vauxhall Zafira still leads the pack in my mind purely because it offers seven seats - the closest contender is the Fiat Multipla, which boasts six. But the others all boast varying degrees of practicality and driving pleasure, which brings me nicely to the latest addition to our test fleet, the Nissan Almera Tino 2.2D SE+. I took over the keys to the car with just 300 miles on the clock and two weeks on, I'd liken the Tino to the curate's egg - good in parts but pretty rotten in others!
Firstly, the good parts. The Tino is pleasing to look at and easy to get in and out of, with its high roof and large doors. Inside, the dash is stylish and the seats - although slightly on the small side in the squab area - have proved comfortable after a four-hour return journey to Derbyshire. In the back, the three seats all fold and pull out in the usual mini-MPV fashion and in addition to the acres of luggage space, the Tino features two nets which will hold things in a treat. This car is a top-of-the-range model and comes loaded with standard goodies such as driver, passenger and side airbags, alloy wheels, air conditioning, CD multichanger, electric sunroof, and ABS.
Our test model also has a satellite navigation system, but you'll have to wait until another tester takes over the car for a report on this feature. As a committed technophobe, I refuse to go through the months of training it will inevitably take before I can use it and will stick to my trusty £4.99 map book, even if it does have the M25 drawn in with crayon!
But seriously, what cost-conscious fleet manager would possibly sanction this £1,500 option, knowing that the money spent will never be reclaimed at selling time? However, my colleague Mike Roberts disagrees.
So far so good, but back to the curate's egg. The Tino's particular rotten bit focuses on the engine - a 2.2-litre turbodiesel that suffers from appalling turbo lag. Below 2,000rpm, the engine seems to have barely enough power to pull the car along and although things get better as the revs rise, the driver will always struggle to try to squeeze an acceptable amount of power from the motor. Try nipping quickly out of a busy junction and you are likely to end up needing a change of underwear.
Common rail technology has brought diesels forward with such a jolt but this technology is not paying dividends under the Tino's bonnet. One would imagine that with Renault taking over a large chunk of Nissan recently, it would not be beyond the bounds of possibility to give this car one of the French maker's 1.9dCI engines.
Until something along these lines happens, I couldn't recommend this car for fleet use. If your drivers insist, offer them a Tino with a petrol engine instead.