The Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai this weekend, and also in Pattaya the end of the dreaded Songkran festival. This national ‘sport’ kills around 600 participants each year. Songkran that is, not the Grand Prix.
A few weeks ago I tested the new Nissan Teana, and was very impressed with the vehicle. This week, Khun Ju of Pattaya Automobile Co. (on Sukhumvit Road, about 50 meters past the Ambassador City and on the same side) offered the Nissan Almera, seeking my opinion on the Teana’s smaller brother.
Mind you, Nissan has an unrivalled propensity for finding nonsensical names. Remember the Nissan Cedric of 40 years ago? Or the recent Nissan Tiida? Or even the current Juke and Sylphy? Just where do they get these names? A quick search turned up the fact that “Almera” is of Arabic origins and means Princess. Hardly an attractive name, but is it an attractive car?
This Nissan Almera is derived from the Nissan March eco-car, which was released a couple of years back. The Almera is also considered an eco-car, and is thus restricted to the 1.2 litre engine from the March. (In Malaysia the Almera has a 1.5 litre engine, not being restricted by the Thai specifications.)
Direct competitors in the B segment to the Almera in the marketplace include the Toyota Vios and the Honda City.
The first impression one gets of the Almera is one of size. It is not a small car and is generally larger than its rivals in the B segment.
Almera: 4425 mm (L) x 1695 mm (W) x 1500 mm (H), wheelbase: 2600 mm
VIOS: 4410 mm (L) x 1700 mm (W) x 1475 mm (H), wheelbase: 2550 mm
City: 4415 mm (L) x 1695 mm (W) x 1480 mm (H), wheelbase: 2600 mm
The exterior styling is a matter of personal taste. The front is quite pleasant with its Lexus-like grille, but I cannot connect with the “ironed” slab sided rear panels. Doors are of good size and entrance and exit are easy. The steering wheel is also adjustable in height, and it was possible to get a good driving position. The seats were also comfortable.
Not only does it look full-size from outside the car, once settled in, the interior is very large and the five seats are not at all squeezy. From the inside, it does not feel like a small car in any way. Even with the driver’s seat racked way back, there was ample room for the rear seat passenger’s legs.
One of the first items to learn to accept is the Idle-Stop system. This ingenious electro-trickery turns the engine off when sitting stopped at traffic lights, resulting in improved fuel consumption figures. But then lift your foot from the brake pedal and the engine re-starts and away you go. Initially when stopped and finding a large bus each side of me and another hovering over the rear bumper bar made me pray that it would restart, but after the first few times I began to accept that it would work, and prayer was not necessary.
With only a 1.2 litre 79 BHP engine the Almera is no drag-racer, but the engine is not at all fussy and is adequate both in city driving and open road, returning around 20 km per litre of gasoline. With a 40 litre tank this works out as a distance of 800 km per tank.
The CVT transmission is exceptionally smooth and never seems to get confused as some automatic transmissions can do, and the gear changes are seamless.
The steering is light at parking speeds but gets progressively firmer as the speed increases. It is very easy for a woman to park the Almera.
It is very quiet in operation, and comfortable, has a cavernous boot and ideal for the weekly supermarket expedition.
There are six models, with the base S (manual) at B. 433,000.
E (manual) B. 464,000
E (CVT) B. 498,000
EL (CVT) B. 532,000
V (CVT) B. 572,000
VL (CVT) B. 608,000
Dislikes: Not too many, particularly when you look at the price. Even the top of the line model as tested is only B. 608,000 and has ABS, EBD and BA. However, I would like a central console with arm rest, and the top models should have daytime running lights. There are only two airbags, and considering the amount of electronics already in the Almera, side curtain airbags should not be too difficult to incorporate at the design stage.
Features I did like included the very simple to operate air-conditioning as opposed to drop-down menus. The GPS was clear, though it was a trifle annoying having to “agree” to the terms of reference every time before setting off. However, it is one of those developments it is hard to imagine being without.
Looking at the B segment, the Almera is by far the cheapest and is certainly worth your investigating. It does have the smallest engine and is exceptionally economical. On the other side of the coin, it is the least powerful amongst its rivals, but to be honest, do you need Formula 1 acceleration in Pattaya’s congested streets. As long as you can outrun the busses, what more is needed, and especially looking at the purchase cost which ranges from B. 433,000 base model to 608,000 top of the line.
The best advertisement is always word of mouth and I found one owner in my office. His was a top of the line Almera and he had owned it for 12 months, and was effusive with praise. He found, as I did, that it was a very pleasant and comfortable motor car. His only recommendation was to lower the tyre pressures by a few psi to enhance the comfort, and again I would agree, but only by around 2-3 psi for safety reasons.
Test car supplied by Pattaya Automobile Co., a new Nissan dealership with all the infrastructure required for sales and service.
Address: 222 Moo 2, Sukhumvit Road, Tambol Najomthien, phone 038 255-800.
The figures have been released from the organizers of the motor show, with the top 10 not holding any surprises. Toyota, as usual, sold more than anyone else, and in fact 25 percent of all sales went to Toyota, almost twice that of Honda, the next in line. Here are the sales figures:
However, of even more interest were the figures from the more expensive end of the marketplace:
Aston Martin 7
I must say I find 10 RR’s surprising, particularly against only three Bentleys, a much more superior car in my books. From all these, I will have an Aston Martin DB9 and play James Bond’s all day. No mention in these statistics of MG, as they were not taking any orders, their presence being purely to test the market.
James Bond, I presume!
The Super 1 Racing group is promoting its second meeting at Bira this weekend. It seems a mixed bag of categories, but there will be the usual groups of sedans and pick-ups I am sure. We will be taking the Retro Escort with its newly rebuilt shock absorbers fitted overnight, so we will use the meeting to tune the chassis.
Last week I asked what car had this in the design brief - carry two large peasants wearing clogs and 100 kg of assorted goods to market along unpaved roads and drive across a ploughed field with a full load of eggs without breaking any? The answer to this easy one was the Citroen 2CV.
So to this week. What important motoring aid exploded and killed a policeman in 1869?
We have just gone from winter to summer, and with the change of seasons comes some different pathogens. The Summer cough is one of them. Have you had the summer cough yet? If not, think yourself lucky, just about everyone else has had it. And it isn’t one of those coughs which goes away in a couple of days, patients are saying it takes at least a couple of weeks. Or even longer.
There are many reasons for epidemics such as these, and most occur with the change of seasons, hot to cold, cold to wet and so forth, but with the vast majority, the common carrier of the bug is the human race. This time we can’t blame an innocent mosquito!
Yes, we are the ones who go to work and spread our germs to the office, exploding an aerosol of potentially debilitating diseases into the air, every time we cough. This is the commonest way of transferring the bugs, by what we call droplet infection. Every droplet capable of carrying thousands of microbes, each one looking for another human to infect. You. Or even me. In our household, my young son brought it home from school, passing it on to his elder sister and now to his mother. Thank you so much, Evan.
The latest bout has been a form of URTI, which is our acronym for Upper Respiratory Tract Infection. This is inflammation of the bronchus, that part of your breathing tube to the lungs before it splits to become the right and left bronchus. The medical name is therefore “Bronchitis”. The clue is in the ending - “itis” which generally means inflammation and / or infection. Thus you can get Appendicitis (inflammation of the Appendix) and Pharyngitis (inflammation of the pharynx), Laryngitis (inflammation of the larynx) etc., etc., you get the picture.
Infection and irritation of the breathing tubes is, as we said in the beginning, very common. The most usual predisposing cause is, however, our old friend cigarette smoking! If you don’t believe that cigarette smoke is irritating, try letting cigarette smoke waft into your eyes and see how they will sting and water. Your Sinuses and Bronchi do just the same! Once the irritation begins, the mucosa becomes swollen, and it becomes easier for the germs to take a hold.
With Bronchitis, it generally begins as a slight irritation deep in the back of your throat. There can be some soreness as well, even on swallowing. Unchecked this develops into a ‘productive’ cough, with loads of gunk being coughed up, which we refer to as ‘sputum’.
One of the signs and symptoms your doctor will want to know is, “What color is your sputum?” This gives us a chance to see if your cough is from an irritation or infection. If you are bringing up large lumps of yellow or green glue then you have an infection, but if the mucous is clear then you probably do not harbor a nasty little bug in your throat. If however, the sputum is red and bloodstained then you may have burst a little blood vessel in the throat - or of course, this could be an early sign of lung cancer but don’t panic yet!
If the sputum you are coughing up is thick, green and gooey, this is fairly suspicious of a bacterial infection, and sometimes we will attempt to “grow” the bug to identify it. No, this is not for germ warfare, it is just so that we can feed the tracheal bug some different antibiotics to see which ones exterminate the bug best. This is a much more accurate way of choosing the correct antibiotic, than selecting ones by the pretty color they are on the pharmacist’s shelves.
If you have gone over a week and your cough is showing no sign of letting up then it really is time to line up with all the other coughers at the outpatients department. Just make sure you can describe the color of your sputum!
I should have mentioned that if you are a smoker, the chances of the cough lasting longer are much higher, as well as being more likely to catch the cough from someone else.
I have a soft spot for MG. I have owned several models (TC’s and TD’s), followed by MGA and MGB. MGA was the first car I ever raced, and my MGB was raced by me under the Leyland banner and they claimed it to be the fastest MGB in the world in 1971. I can even remember my MG Car Club number. I am an MG man!
Well we learned that I bungled the date of the GP last week, writing it was April 21, when it was April 6. Sorry!
We also learned that Formula 1 can still produce the goods (even if some of the parameters are ‘manufactured’). The race at Bahrain was one of the best seen for many a year, with a tight field (and more on that later) and plenty of passing (and more on that later as well).
Another win for Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and a well deserved one at that. He took the lead from grid position 2 and held it all the way to the chequered flag, despite several moments of side by side racing with team mate Nico Rosberg. With another 1-2 for Mercedes, Red Bull can see the championship slipping away already.
Force India must be shaking hands with themselves for choosing Mercedes power for 2014. Six out of the top 10 with the three pointed star in the tail. Perez claiming third is a great boost for Force India, but he was lucky that Hulkenberg had an ERS problem at the end, as he was certainly quicker than his team mate.
Fourth outright from 13th grid slot and besting the current world champion is on Ricciardo’s CV after Bahrain. Ricciardo was the driver of the day/night without a doubt. The Finger will have trouble with the likeable Aussie in the 2014 season.
The Williams duo of Massa and Bottas (Mercedes power) are spearheading a resurgence for the Williams team after a few years in the doldrums. Massa is surprising everyone (other than himself) and is still showing plenty of tiger.
Ninth and tenth at the flag for the once unbeatable Ferrari team, despite two former world champions in Alonso and Raikkonen, is not good enough. Raikkonen had a lack-luster evening, and once more I think he will be the only driver in history to be sacked twice from Ferrari. Luca Montezemolo was in Bahrain to witness the lack of performance, and even left early. Heads will be rolling at Modena, by the time you have read this.
Spectacular roll by Gutierrez (Sauber), after being given a helping hand by Maldonado, who was given a stop-go penalty and five grid spot demotion for the next GP. He deserves a stop-go for the rest of the season. He does not deserve a GP seat. He will already have cost “Lotus” the sack of gold he brought with him to buy his seat for the season.
Now, despite the fantastic close finish, it should be remembered that the field was artificially closed up by the advent of the safety car 10 laps from the end. This allowed Rosberg to get on the tail of Hamilton, and brought the Force Indias and Red Bulls together and within striking distance. Now factor in the ERS power boost and DRS assistance on selected straights and these all help to produce the close racing we saw in Bahrain.
Finally, I read that Hamilton has now equaled the number of GP wins recorded by Fangio. This is a rubbish statistic. In Fangio’s day there were only around seven or eight GP’s each year, not 18 as there is today. If you wish to compare today’s crop of drivers with Fangio, then look at the percentage of race wins and poles. Fangio won 46 percent of the races he competed in and was on pole for 55 percent of his races and on the front row for over 90 percent of them. There are none of today’s pampered drivers even close to that.
The next GP is April 20 from China. Telecast is at 2 p.m. Thai time.
The two most powerful and fastest mid-engine sports models from Porsche have uprated engines and the excellent PASM chassis in the Boxster GTS and Cayman GTS.
The Mitsubishi PHEV (plug in hybrid) claims an official combined fuel consumption figure of just 1.9 L/100 km. That will make it one of the most frugal vehicles for sale anywhere. That is less than half of the Toyota Prius fuel consumption, and much less than the Lexus RX450h or the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid SUVs.
I saw one of these last year here in Pattaya for the start of the Asian Cross Country Rally. Entered by a private team (“Two and Four Motor Sports”), backed by Mitsubishi Motors, the sole Outlander PHEV finished 17th overall with no failure: quite a success for what was essentially a standard car - including the Twin Motor 4WD plug-in hybrid electric drivetrain, as well as the Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) system - the only modifications being the regular cross-country racing routine of upgraded shock absorbers and springs, roll cage, underfloor protection, exhaust and snorkel duct, etc.
Owners can plug the Outlander hybrid into mains power to charge up its batteries before a journey. Fully charged, it runs for around 50 kilometers on battery power alone - easily enough to account for the average drive into work or school.
The pair of electric motors with a combined 120 kW output use zero fuel for journeys around town, though its petrol motor will cut in when brisk acceleration or highway speeds are called for.
That 2.0 liter, four cylinder engine can be used to power the car on its own, or to charge up the batteries in a similar fashion to GM’s Volt which uses its petrol motor purely as a generator.