If you ask literally anyone in the Philippines what is the most popular car out there, they’ll probably say the Toyota Vios, and they’d be right. Several years ago, Toyota introduced the subcompact sedan to the market, and it remains the brand’s best-seller to this day. Equipped with a lot of value, it continues to run rings around the competition in terms of sales, and many brands have tried to take away some of its market share throughout the years with some success.
The latest brand to step up to the plate once again is Nissan with the 2022 Almera. It’s a classic David and Goliath story, the only difference is that David used to be an ugly duckling, and it seems like he’s packing way more than just a stone and a sling to slay the fierce industry giant. As such, we’ll be comparing what the two nameplates have to offer, namely the Nissan Almera N-Sport and the Toyota Vios GR-S. Let’s go head to head and see which is better.
You’re probably tired of seeing the Toyota Vios by this point, so other rivals have been hard at work trying to get the next icon out to the market. We’re fans of the Vios, don’t get us wrong, but after seeing one day in and day out, every day on the road, it gets a bit old. However, Toyota did an amazing job to make the otherwise plain sedan stand out. Yes, it does come with LED headlights, but what top-of-the-line model doesn’t come with one nowadays? Also, did we mention the standout body kit?
Nissan, however, is firing back with its sportiest Almera to date. While we were quick to write off the old model for being a little too drab, this new model really hits the nail on the head in terms of design and is now one of the more desirable subcompact sedans in this regard. The model that we’re comparing is also the N-Sport, which is essentially Nissan’s in-house OEM plus offering similar to the GR-S variant of the Vios. LED’s dominate the front end, and so too on the rear.
The Almera is 5 mm longer, and 10 mm wider than the Toyota, but the Vios is taller by 15 mm. That means that it’s about dead-even when it comes to size. Though, the Almera does enjoy a longer wheelbase of 2,620 mm, in comparison to the Vios’ 2,550 mm measurement. Also, if you’re sensitive to the bottom of your car scraping, the Vios will give you better ground clearance, though not by much since it has 140 mm in contrast to the Almera’s 135 mm. That being said, it seems that the Almera should win this, and you’d be right. With an all-new design, it’ll wow onlookers even as a base model without all the trimmings. The Toyota Vios GR-S wowed us when we first saw it, but if takes the top of the line model in order for it to have that effect. Without much effort even in the lower trims, the Nissan Almera takes this round.
Winner: Nissan Almera
Interior and Technology
Toyota has stuck to its tried-and-tested interior layout. We’re all familiar with how this cabin looks like, as it still retains the sturdy plastics and the overall design of even the third-generation model. While it’s not one-to-one, it’s still a common sight especially for those that frequently see the inside of the subcompact sedan. However, the GR-S wants to change that notion a bit. Instead of the standard analog and calculator display gauge cluster, Toyota’s GR division outfitted it with a small TFT screen to help elevate the information display for the driver. On top of that, you get Alcantara-like material on the seats for the GR-S trim. These seats are well-bolstered and have been very supportive, something that we enjoyed while driving it. You also get a spacious boot in the rear with 326 liters, which is just enough for most things.
Meanwhile, in the Nissan camp, the Almera receives a classier interior, not like the Vios GR-S which has more of a sporty feel. It’s a bit of an understatement to say just how much the Nissan has changed. If you look at the before and after photos, it’s night and day. Every surface is now more refined in the new Almera. There are more premium-looking materials in the cabin, and you also get leather. If the Vios GR-S has a younger feel, the Almera is much more grown-up. Its gauge cluster also doesn’t look like an addition, instead, it feels right at home in the dashboard of the Almera.
Toyota learned a lot going into its lineup for 2021, and now most of its cars get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. However, the biggest limiting factor, is actually just how small the screen is on the infotainment system. At just under 7-inches, 6.75 to be exact, it ends up looking diminutive compared to the more modern systems that are present in other cars. At least you get a 6-speaker audio system that does its job well enough.
However, once you’re in the Nissan, one of the first things that you will notice is the 8-inch advanced touchscreen display audio that is also mated to 6 speakers in the cabin. This is a much better system compared to what Toyota put in the Vios. It also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and is more vibrant than the Toyota unit.
To be fair, Toyota’s design is notably dated. It’s seen a lot of action, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but Nissan pulled out all the stops in order to compete, and we can appreciate that effort. So without a doubt, the more impressive of the two will have to be the Nissan Almera.
Winner: Nissan Almera
It’s no surprise that the Toyota Vios is one of the safest cars in the industry, thanks to the brand’s special care and attention about its customers. Toyota made the move in the past to improve the safety kit in its most popular model. Now, you can get a Toyota Vios with at least three airbags in the cabin and top-of-the-line offerings come with up to 7 for added levels of safety in the event of a crash. On top of that, you are assured that the Vios can stand up to the tortures of a motor vehicle crash, as tested with the ASEAN NCAP. After the test, Toyota walked away with a five-star rating. As for more active safety features, you get ABS with EBD, as well as brake assist, vehicle stability control, and ISOFIX tethers.
While the Vios is busy setting the standard in the subcompact market, move over to the Almera and you will find that Nissan isn’t willing to settle for the standard. That being said, it comes with the same standard that the Vios comes, sans one airbag, but in its place, you get Nissan’s suite of Intelligent safety features which include a 360-degree around-view monitor, forward collision warning, intelligent emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and hill-start assist. Toyota’s equivalent of this can be seen in the Toyota Safety Sense package, but that’s not found in the Vios, at least not for now.
Needless to say, but the Nissan Almera takes this round once again.
Winner: Nissan Almera
Here’s where things can get a lot complicated. The Toyota may have more power under the hood, one more cylinder, more displacement, and more “speeds” in its CVT, but it has less torque than the motor found in the Almera. Still, it’s a tried and tested 1.5-liter or 1.3-liter unit that comes with a lot of support after the sale. Not to mention that Toyota still manufactures the Vios in the Philippines, so you shouldn’t worry too much about parts availability. That being said, if you want the best in the lineup, expect up to 105 hp and 140 Nm of torque. Not blazing-fast figures by any means, but still enough to get the job done.
It’s a wonder what turbocharging can do to a car. Even if the Almera is down on displacement, having only one liter’s worth in the engine, it’s still able to put up a fight against the Almera. 99 hp doesn’t sound like a lot, but the torque that the car brings to the table is quite impressive given its size. The motor from Nissan produces 152 Nm of torque, which already outshines the Vios. Similarly, it’s also got a CVT, but the beauty about this engine is that it is a standard addition to the lineup, meaning there is no “Almera lite” version in the lineup. Every model will get this engine, be it the top-spec or the base model.
Though, you can’t really argue with power for power’s sake. Ultimately, it will depend on your preferences. If you want the turbo kick while you drive, then the Almera seems like the obvious choice here. Though we cannot deny that Toyota’s engine is holding up quite well even compared to the turbocharged car, and it gets a 10-speed CVT to boot, though we’d argue that that’s a bit overkill, numbers are still numbers, so this category ends in a tie.
Surprisingly, you can get a non-white Toyota Vios GR-S for P1,020,000, which is great because the red color pops so well. In fact, the Vios is the more affordable model of the two. Prices dip considerably low as well if you stake a claim for a 1.3-liter variant, but it’s not as potent as the value proposition that Nissan has in the lower trims.
Now, Nissan is definitely on the money when it comes to the Almera. It’s one of the most affordable turbocharged cars you can get on the market today, and it even comes with a 5-speed manual transmission to boot. It, however, is considerably more expensive than the most affordable Vios and a bit pricier than the top-spec GR-S. At P1,098,000.
So the Vios should take this category. It’s more affordable than the Nissan at both the high-end and the low-end.
Winner: Toyota Vios
It’s no surprise that the newer model trumps the older one. Seems like Nissan set their sights on the Vios and really hammered down until it knew it could win against it. There is no shortage of wins for the Almera save perhaps for the price. Hey, adding a lot of kit to a car costs money, and sadly the Almera is considerably more expensive than the Vios.
However, it still looks like a great deal. Being under a million and a hundred grand is pretty sweet considering you’re getting Nissan’s newest model with all the trimmings. The added tech and safety features on top are also well worth the extra cost that you pay over the Vios. Like we said earlier, Toyota set the standards, and Nissan didn’t settle.