This is big news. The new 2020 Nissan Almera has been launched in Thailand, and is making its ASEAN debut with a 1.0 litre downsized turbo engine. That’s not all, because Nissan has also included active safety and driver assist tech such as autonomous emergency braking, blind spot assist, RCTA and an around view monitor on its entry level sedan. Not something you’d expect from the brand, but here you go.

Replacing the 1.2L (the Almera is an eco car in Thailand, hence the 1.2L cap) engine with 79 hp/106 Nm is a 1.0 litre three-cylinder DOHC turbo engine with 100 hp and 152 Nm of torque, the latter available from 2,400 to 4,000 rpm. The HRA0 engine has its compression controlled by a DC motor and features mirror bore coating tech that helps with durability and heat dissipation. It’s mated to an Xtronic CVT gearbox with D-Step Logic mode and power goes to the front wheels.

Nissan’s decision to go the downsized turbo route isn’t so much to be a tech pioneer, but for the Almera to comply with Thailand’s Phase 2 eco car rules, which require cars to have at least 23.3 km/l fuel economy, 100 g/km of CO2 emissions max, and Euro 5 compatibility (Phase 1 eco car: 20 km/l, 120 g/km, Euro 4). The upcoming next-gen Honda City will also have 1.0L turbo power.

Given that there’s no such requirement for the rest of ASEAN, and Malaysia, it remains to be seen if we will get this higher tech engine or the tried and tested naturally aspirated 1.5 litre HR four-pot, the 1.6 litre version of which also powers the Versa (same car, different name) in North America.

Speaking of the Versa, this B-segment sedan was first revealed in April in the US. It’s an all-new car, riding on the Common Modular Family (CMF-B) platform shared with the new March and Renault Clio.

The new Almera is significantly more dynamic looking than the car it replaces. Nissan’s signature V-Motion front end is flanked by strong LED signatures, which are repeated at the back. Moving to the sides, the new Almera may wear sharper styling than its bulbous predecessor, but the shape is still of a very spacious compact sedan. The design highlight on the profile is the visual connection between the side daylight opening with the rear screen, bisecting the C pillars in the process.

The sedan is 4,495 mm long and 1,740 mm wide, with a wheelbase of 2,620 mm. For a benchmark, the current Honda City – a very spacious car – is 4,442 mm long, 1,694 mm wide and has a 2,600 mm wheelbase. The Almera is guaranteed to be spacious, continuing the trend.

The interior has seen big change too; there’s a new “Gliding Wing” dashboard lifted from the Kicks crossover. The interior is modern in design and appointments – there’s a slick-looking part-digital meter panel (seven-inch digital tacho and multi-info display, analogue speedo), an eight-inch touchscreen head unit with Apple CarPlay and synthetic leather front-facing dash panel with contrasting colour and stitching, Mazda 2-style.

In Thailand, the new Almera comes in five trim levels – S, E, EL, V and VL – priced from 499,000 to 639,000 baht (RM68,603 to RM87,851). The equipment spread is relatively generous. The super basic S – which by the way doesn’t come with a radio or even caps for the steel wheels – is equipped with Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), Hill Start Assist (HSA) and dual airbags.

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Two steps up is the 559,000 baht (RM76,842) EL, which introduces alloy wheels, steering buttons, in-glass antenna and keyless entry/push start. More important is Intelligent Forward Collision Warning and Intelligent Emergency Braking (AEB). Next up is the V, which further adds on LED headlamps and DRLs, side mirror turn signals, auto air con, the part-digital meter panel and Intelligent Around View Monitor (360-degree bird’s eye view) with Moving Object Detection.

The range-leading Almera VL tops it up with LED fog lamps and side plus curtain airbags (total six, rest of the range gets just two, which is strange given the relatively generous specs elsewhere), blind spot warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA). It’s available in six colours and there are some cosmetic and utility options – see the brochure scans above.

There you go, an all-new Almera that looks much better, comes with a modern powertrain and even good safety tech – will we get all of these here? What’s certain is that it’s already been spotted in Malaysia and will be coming in the near future. What do you think of Nissan’s long-awaited B-segment challenger next to the Honda City (soon to be replaced) and Toyota Vios?