In Malaysia, there are currently three models that are likely to be on the watchlist of most car buyers looking for a B-segment car. These include the Proton X50 and Honda City, which were launched back in October, and joined by the Nissan Almera Turbo that went on sale earlier this month.

While the City and Almera are direct competitors, the X50 caters towards those who favour SUVs instead of sedans. Nonetheless, these are the “hot” cars in the current climate, with prices that somewhat overlap one another: Almera (RM79,906-RM91,310); X50 (RM79,200-RM103,300); City (RM74,191-RM86,561).

Deciding between the three is largely dependant on what you prefer and your budget, but that’s not the focus of this post. Instead, we’re comparing the servicing costs of the models mentioned here, so you are well informed before putting your money down on any one of them.

Before we begin, some disclaimers. Firstly, we’ve already made a comparison involving the City and X50 before, so the only thing new here is the addition of the Almera to the picture. Secondly, the Almera’s service interval is shorter at 7,000 km/six months, compared to the other two that have an interval of 10,000 km/six months.

Given that we typically compare service costs up to 100,000 km or five years, the Almera over 98,000 km (the closest to 100,000 km) runs up to seven years, two more than the City and X50. We’ll also mention service items that are required beyond that point, or are recommended by the carmaker.

Referring to the total maintenance cost over five years alone, the Almera is significantly cheaper than both the City and X50. The reason for this huge discrepancy is because the Almera comes with five times free service that covers parts and labour, applicable to the 7,000-, 21,000-, 35,000-, 49,000- and 63,000-km mileages.

This isn’t offered with the other two, although they do come with five times free labour service – only applicable to the first 30,000 customers for the X50. This omits the labour cost for major services, which helps the keep ownerships cost down, as the Almera’s free service only covers engine oil changes, windscreen washer refills and cabin filter replacements.

So, over five years, the Almera is certainly cheaper to own, but if we compare costs over mileage, things are a little different. Up to 98,000 km, the Almera is costlier to maintain compared to the City, but is still cheaper than the X50.

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Both the Almera and X50 use fully-synthetic engine oil, while the City gets semi-synthetic lubricant as standard. However, Honda customers can request for fully-synthetic oil for their City, which brings up the price to RM130.80 (including drain plug gasket), to a grand total over 100,000 km/five years to RM3,830.81. Even with that, the City is still the cheapest of the lot to maintain, although by a smaller margin.

Looking at the individual tables, the City requires fewer engine oil filter changes compared to the Almera and X50, which require a replacement at every service interval. The X50 sees its engine air filter changed the most at five times, but it’s only three times for the Almera and City, with the Nissan sedan having the lowest part price.

Similarly, over 100,000 km, the Proton SUV requires the cabin filter to be swapped out five times, compared to four times for the Almera, and three times for the City – although the overall difference in cost is just a few ringgits.

As for transmission oil, Nissan recommends new CVT oil every 84,000 km or 48 months, whichever comes first. Meanwhile, the X50 only replaces its DCT oil at the 90,000-km/54-month mark, whereas the City’s CVT needs new lube at the 40,000-km/24-month intervals. At a cost of RM413.75 (including the plug washer and before labour), the Almera is the priciest when it comes to transmission oil replacement, followed by the City and X50.

Of the three cars, the Almera and X50 are powered by turbocharged three-cylinder engines, but the latter uses regular spark plugs – three of them – that are changed more frequently every 40,000 km/24 months. The Almera’s platinum spark plugs cost more, but are only changed at the 98,000-km/84-month mark, while the City uses four iridium spark plugs that are swapped out at the 100,000-km/60-month mark – the costliest out of all.

Other notable mentions include fuel filter changes, which happen every 20,000 km for the X50, but the City only gets a new one at the 140,000-km/84-month mark, with nothing of the sort for the Almera. Nissan also recommends a coolant change for the Almera at 98,000 km/84 months, while the City does this at 200,000 km/ten years, and the X50 at 60,000 km/36 months.

Other service items not stipulated in these tables include the Almera’s drive (serpentine) belt – the engine uses a timing chain – which Nissan recommends to be replaced (if necessary) every 28,000 km or 24 months at a cost of RM151 (including RM14 labour). Other recommended services include wheel alignment (RM30) and balancing (RM35) every 21,000 km or 12 months.

Nissan also quotes RM387 (including RM42 labour) for front brake pads and RM412 (including RM63 labour) for rear brake shoes, although these items will only be replaced upon inspection and if deemed necessary. The City uses a timing chain and the maintenance schedule doesn’t include a drive belt, while the X50 needs a new timing (RM195.16) and drive (serpentine) belt (RM112.89) at 110,000 km/66 months.

As usual, servicing costs are just one aspect of vehicle ownership, and there are plenty of other things to consider. General wear and tears items like tyres are a good example, which would be cheaper for the sedans mentioned that have wheel sizes ranging from 15 to 16 inches, while the X50’s alloys are between 17 to 18 inches in size.

The braking system on the Almera and City also employ two discs at the front and drum brakes at the rear, which would be cheaper to maintain compared to the X50’s four disc brakes. There’s more, as given their differing body styles, the cost of tinting and coating is typically less for sedans, and this also extend to car washes, which is something that follows you throughout ownership. The frequency and distance of travel will also impact how much fuel you use.

Looking at the tables, the City is indeed the cheapest of the three to maintain over 100,000 km, but there’s more to add to the conversation. Yes, if you own an Almera and use it heavily (high mileage user), you’ll be visiting the service centre more frequently given its shorter mileage service interval.

However, if you’re the the sort that usually services your car based on the time interval (every six months, as in you drive less than 7,000/10,000 km in the time), the Almera will prove to be the cheaper to maintain by quite a margin, up to the five-year mark.

It’s also important to keep in mind that these costs are spread out over the years, so in the end, the difference isn’t that significant. Be that as it may, it’s good to have some understanding of maintenance costs and their importance when buying a new car.