Modern cars are all about technology instead of automotive performance

You know what they say about Chinese cars these days—how they are more about tech features (like in-car infotainment systems, for instance) than car-centric merits. Well, I suppose their competitors from other countries—including and especially Japan—have no choice but to fight back and offer the same toys in order to get the attention of buyers.

I say this while attending the test-drive event for the new Nissan Almera. If nobody informed me about what the affair was for, I would have assumed that it was an occasion to welcome a new smartphone, not a subcompact sedan. There were a lot of unfamiliar faces who, I later learned, were content creators in the infotech beat. In fact, one of them introduced himself to me: He used to work for a mobile-phone brand and he met me when I was working for a car magazine. The guy now maintains a website (or is it a blog/vlog?) that focuses on gadgets (while being employed by a telco).

Half of me is happy that we have more people producing content about cars—the more, the merrier, as we say—but the other half is also sad because the motoring beat that I grew to love is no longer the same. Not complaining, just to be clear. This is the natural progression of things, I guess. In the past, colleagues used to talk about horsepower and torque and handling and steering and weight distribution; now everyone talks about…phone integration.

Again, I’m not dismissing this as a bad thing. I’m just missing the good old days. Or maybe I’m just truly old.

Whereas the main highlight of a car event used to be a slalom or braking exercise, this one for the 2024 Almera put the spotlight on NissanConnect Services. Which told us that the Almera is now so personalized that no car thief can steal it from us; that we can turn on the air-conditioning system even before we enter the cabin; or that the days of finding our vehicle in a crowded parking lot are over.

The car, in other words, is now connected to the Web. Thanks to an app and a connection to Nissan cloud servers, you will never lose track of your Almera. Best of all, a customer support will be able to reach you during emergencies—like when you get stranded in the middle of nowhere or if you suffer a cardiac arrest.

Key features include safety and security (like speed or curfew alert), convenience (like remote horn and lights), and ease of ownership (like driving and journey history). This is good for when you manage to deploy your airbags—the system will automatically send an SOS emergency call—but also bad if you’re the type that doesn’t want the itinerary to be divulged to the wife.

Of course, I understand why carmakers are now concentrating on these things. Transportation is no longer about traveling from A to B. It’s about the quality of life. Who really cares about acceleration when there is no more available stretch of road in the city?

If you’re interested in a new Almera with NissanConnect Services, know that this top VL variant costs P1,149,000. No, this car still won’t be able to give you career or love advice, but at least it can give you the impression that it listens to your rants without telling your boss or your crush.


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