The Almera was introduced in October 1995, replacing the Sunny. It kept all that car's virtues (reliability, ease of ownership) and added one surprising element of its own; driving enjoyment.
This was new to Nissan's family hatchback buyers and they took time to adjust. Rather quirky looks meant that conquest customers were not as numerous as Nissan hoped. Early buyers had a choice of three or five-door 1.4 or 1.6-litre petrol engine hatchbacks in either Equation, GX, Si, SLX or SRi trim levels. There was also a single GX-spec 2.0-litre normally aspirated diesel.
A four-door saloon was added in May 1996 with all three engines and GX or SLX trim. A few months later, the flagship three-door 2.0-litre GTi hot hatch arrived. There were plenty of special editions - Tempo, Groove, Action, Activ, Muzic, LE, Ambition and Invitation - but none are worth more than the entry-level models on which most were based.
A revised Almera was announced in May 1998, but it wasn't much different. There were clear front and rear indicator lenses plus a GTi-style look for all models. Inside, there were slight revisions to the trim and a revised dashboard. The SRi version was dropped.
An all-new Almera was launched in March 2000. Unlike the previous model, which was designed and built in Japan, the new range was developed at Nissan's Technical Centre Europe in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, and built alongside the Micra and Primera at the Tyneside factory together with the new 1.5 and 1.8-litre petrol engines. The new 2.2-litre turbodiesel is sourced from Nissan's Spanish factory. There are three and five-door hatchbacks with E, S, SE, Sport, SE+, Sport+ trim.
In August 2000, a mini-MPV version, dubbed the Almera Tino, was launched, using the hatchback's 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol engines, plus the 2.2-litre diesel. Trim levels were S, SE, SE2 and SE+. A special edition Activ version of the 1.5 3-door hatch was launched in January 2001.