It's a measure of the attention to detail that has gone into the new Almera. In its drive for a fresh identity in the fleet market, Nissan has taken its competent but rather bland lower medium contender and completely rethought it. Gone is the staid styling and lacklustre image, replaced by a smart-looking new car that strikes right at the heart of the fleet sector. Though the engine and model choice isn't as wide as in some manufacturers' ranges, the initial line-up covers most fleet needs: 1.5-litre 90PS and 1.8-litre 114PS petrol units are assembled in Britain, while the new direct injection 2.2-litre 110PS turbodiesel is built in Spain and offers extended service intervals - up from 6,000 miles or six months to 12,000 miles or 12 months - and impressive combined economy of 49.6mpg. Petrol engine intervals remain at 9,000 miles. The diesel claims a useful low CO2 emissions output of just 152g/km, which puts it right in line for the forthcoming emissions-based BIK tax rules.
Three and five-door body styles will be complemented by a four-door saloon later this year, while the Tino mini-MPV, which is based on the Almera platform, will debut before the year-end. There are six trim grades - E, S, Sport, SE, Sport+ and SE+ - with prices starting at ú10,700 on-the-road for the 1.5 E three-door and rising to ú16,200 for the 2.2TD Sport+. 1.8 models come with a choice of manual or automatic transmission, while the cheapest diesel, the 2.2TD S five-door costs ú13,600. Tested here is the 1.8 SE five-door, at ú13,900 on-the-road.