Tino it is to love it; BILL CAVEN tests Nissan's small but perfectly formed contender in the ever-growing lifestyle car market.
THERE were blank looks all round at the mention of the words Almera Tino.
What was it? An Italian crooner to rival Latin swinger Ricky Martin? A luxury liner offering cruises to the Med? Or maybe a decent bottle of Spanish plonk on special offer at Asda?
The answer is, in fact, D: None of the above - as I'm sure the Nissan fans among you will be well aware.
It's the latest lifestyle vehicle to rival the Renault Scenic, Daewoo Tacuma, Citroen Picasso and Vauxhall Zafira.
Having been caught with their pants down in the MPV stakes by Renault, rival car companies are playing catch- up with their versions of the ideal family-friendly vehicle.
And while many car makers are coming into this sector late, they do have the advantage of being able to come up with some fresh ideas in storing all the necessary clutter that goes with family motoring.
Nissan have a strong track record of rising to a challenge and it would appear, at first glance anyway, that they have endorsed this wholeheartedly with the Tino.
The five-door hatchback stands considerably taller than the rest of the Almera range, providing the Tino with a better panoramic view.
In some respects its shape is a cross between the Scenic and the Picasso. Nicely sculpted at the front end and with a nifty sloping bonnet, the Tino benefits from a huge expanse of glass throughout.
And the curvaceous finish at the rear wouldn't look out of place at a motoring Miss World contest.
All-in, the imaginative design creates cabin space verging on Hampden Park dimensions. It seems to stretch and stretch with an abundance of both head and leg room.
Muted two-tone colours on the fascia, together with a matt black finish atop the centre console lend a rich feel.
Careful thought has gone into the design of the instrument panel. Its compact dimensions house the speedo, rev counter, fuel and temperature gauges.
The controls for the window-wipers, front and back, and the lights and indicators are found on stalks at either side of the steering wheel.
Heating and air-conditioning switches are in the centre console below the CD sound system which is high up, making it easier to operate on the move.
THE obligatory cup-holders are here in force - four of them in the front - plus an enclosed box to hide away sunglasses or CDs.
In the back, the three seats are shaped for comfort, with two trays attached to the back of the front seats in case you need to have a snack or let the kids draw.
Open up the rear door and you are faced with a massive luggage area with nets down the side to prevent smaller items rolling about in the boot area.
Versatility, of course, is the name of the game and the rear seats can be folded individually or removed to increase the car's capabilities.
Our test-drive Tino was powered by a two-litre engine that was purposeful rather than spectacular. Smooth and refined even at high speed, there was also no evidence of excessive wind or road noise inside the cabin.
The five-speed manual gearbox was also efficient and allowed you to build up speed without too much of a struggle.
Pushed flat-out the Tino is capable of 112mph and will sprint away from a standing start to 62mph in just over 12 seconds.
More importantly the car, despite its size, was kind on the juice, with a combined fuel economy of almost 40 mpg.
With a price tag of [pound]16,800 for the SE trim level, the Tino offers plenty of kit for the money.
There are more electrically-powered goodies than you'll find at Comet. But whether Nissan have done enough to lure buyers from the market leader, the Scenic, only time will tell.
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|Publication:||Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2000|
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