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Nissan Sunny review

S. Muralidhar | Updated on: Oct 12, 2011
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After a slow start and many years of offering just imports, Nissan's presence in India underwent a marked change after the launch of the Micra. But despite the acceptance of this smart small car, there is nothing very sunny about the sheer volumes that Nissan manages in a market as big as this.

Starting from the Micra at the lower end to the XTRAIL, Teana and the 370Z at the other end of the price spectrum, Nissan has had a trio that covered the range. But, two missing links in the portfolio remain – one an affordable sedan and the other a premium sedan to take on the likes of the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic.

The affordable sedan is the key though for Nissan to clock some decent numbers and also for it to have a rub-off effect on the small car. The new Sunny will attempt to do just that – fill the portfolio gap and keep buyers interested in the brand.

Though it might be new in the Indian market and Nissan might have chosen to build this generation of the Sunny on a platform that is based on one that is already here, this has been an iconic car that has been popular over many decades.

The current Sunny is the 10{+t}{+h} generation of the model and this time around, Nissan has kept the car focused squarely on markets like India, China and Thailand. That could also be the reason why Nissan has chosen to give the Sunny a more approachable premium image and a more practical, user-oriented design philosophy.

Design details

Walking up to the Sunny during my test drive of the new model I am able to recognise Nissan's signature in the new car's design. In fact, there is a considerable influence that the design of the larger sedan – Teana – seems to have had on the Sunny, especially at the rear.

The new Sunny's platform borrows and is based on the same V-platform that has earlier been used for the Micra, too. However, there is none of the Micra in the new Sunny in terms of parts sharing and technology. The familiarity with Nissan design in the new Sunny comes more with the choice of front end design and the overall stance of the new sedan.

The new Sunny's design is a bit gawky overall because of its over-raised stance and relatively small 14-inch wheels. But, there is a lot to appreciate in the Sunny's design when you look at it with the eyes of a potential affordable sedan buyer. Large, almond-shaped or bug-eyed headlamps nearly grab your eyeballs at the front. Good illumination should have been one of the objectives.

An inverted trapezoid bonnet grille with prominent chrome lipping and the Nissan logo in the middle, and a large airdam are both integrated into a huge front bumper that rises all the way to reach up to the level of the shoulder line. Again here, easy repairs and replacement must have been one of the objectives.

From the side, the new Sunny's generous proportions become more evident. Also, there is just the hint of the Sunny's design being cab-forward (more suitable for hatches). But that is only when you view the front half. The roofline swoops down at the rear and almost gives the Sunny's design a coupé-like feel. The short stubby boot lid adds to the coupé feel, but it also hides a cavernous 490-litre storage space.

The rear of the Sunny is the designed more tightly. Peeled back, swept on to the sides tail-lamps, a tight boot lid with an integrated spoiler lip and a compact rear bumper are the highlights. Depending on the variant, more chrome bits like in the grab type door handles, fog lamp rings and rear lipping etc., are part of standard fitment.

Practical priorities

The exterior design has been kept simple overall and the door panels are bereft of any curvy lines save the straight shoulder line. The focus on practicality also shows in the way Nissan designers have kept the A-pillar thin and ensured better visibility. It also shows in the way the rear door cuts deep into the C-pillar and ensures that entry and exit into the rear seat is effortless.

The new Sunny's design also focuses on maximising space inside the car. Though it shares the same wheelbase with a couple of other sedans in the segment, Nissan designers have managed to get more space set free for rear legroom and kneeroom. For example, by reducing the amount of space lost to the body panels, insulation and seat position, as much as an additional 90mm of space has been increased in the cabin.

The new Nissan Sunny's doors open wide making it inviting and easy to step in. One look and it is obvious that there is considerable room in the cabin. Even with the front seats pushed all the way back on their track, there is still enough room for me to sit without my knee scraping the rear of the front passenger seat. The shoulder space in the Sunny should be the same as in the Micra, with the width being almost the same as the latter.

The driveline tunnel is there, but since it is only like a mild bump, it will not intrude upon the leg space provided for rear passengers. With a fairly large glass area at the front and rear, the Sunny's cabin is well-lit and…sunny in the afternoons. But, one innovative and low-cost addition that could keep rear passengers comfy is the circulation fan with two vents to ensure even distribution of cool air. Situated between the two front seats and just on top of the centre tunnel are the two vents and fan control knob. With a vent at the rear of the unit facing the main aircon vents on the dash picking up the cool air, rear passengers will now be able to get an even share of cool air. The owner won't be the one sweating under the collar in the Sunny.

The inside story

Talking about the interior of the Sunny, the sense of déjà vu struck me again since the dashboard layout and centre stack design is almost identical to the Micra. The most obvious carryover is the circular automatic air-conditioning controls. The steering wheel is another, though in the Sunny there are the additional steering-mounted audio controls too. The integrated music system and steering controls are part of standard fitment on the top XL and XV variants only.

The interior of the Sunny also has an overload of storage spaces. The rest of the dash is very Micra-like and except for the top variant which has some fabric door trim, the other variants also feature a sea of plastic all around, though the quality of plastic used and the finish quality is above average for the segment. The seats are comfy and the driving position is good. Fabric quality and type used for the seats also give them a unique feel.

Under the hood

The Sunny is being offered with a 1.5-litre DOHC petrol engine that has been picked out from Nissan's HR family. The 1,498cc, four-cylinder unit has been chosen for its ability to offer frugal performance. It has been loaded with low friction technologies to optimise performance and efficiency – such as valve timing control, low friction drive for valve train and oil pump operation, a straight exhaust layout and optimised cooling of the cylinder head. Combined with optimised gear ratios for the gearbox, the new Sunny's engine is said to be capable of delivering a mileage of 16.95 kmpl.

The engine generates a respectable 99PS of peak power at 6,000 rpm and a peak torque of 134Nm at 4,000 rpm. However, the engine is no tarmac burner, because much of the power is available only in the low and mid rpm bands.

Mapping and tuning the engine with fuel efficiency upper most in the mind has obviously meant that top end performance has to be compromised a bit. There is considerable amount of power available between 2,000 rpm to 3,500 rpm, so there won't be reason to complain in city traffic. On the highway, at cruising speeds, I found that incremental power was being delivered slower. The five-speed manual gearbox is a delight to use and the shift quality of the short throw stick is excellent. Finally, the fuel efficiency number might be the more important yard stick for most buyers in this segment.

The new Sunny has been built on the fairly rigid V-platform. The chassis is inherently dynamic, but some of the potential to ensure that the car offers an engaging driving experience is lost due to the over pliant suspension set up. An independent front end has MacPherson struts with coil springs and a compact torsion beam rear axle are both tuned to enable the Sunny to glide over bad patches and speed breakers and it did that very well during my test drive.

A final word

The only problem is that like in any other such set up it leads to a compromise in driving dynamics. Though there is no lurching or pitching during standard driving conditions, the Sunny doesn't exactly feel comfortable when it is pushed. The raised stance and pliant suspension means that you can't really throw it into corners with confidence. But that said there is nothing the Sunny can't really handle which the average buyer in this segment is going to put it through.

The new Sunny is loaded with a lot of safety tech like driver's airbag, ABS, EBD and brake assist even in the base ‘XE' variant. There are also other features like the warning lights for door ajar and headlamp on that is offered even in the base variant. But, there are other simple additions that you will have to purchase at the time of taking delivery if you are buying the lowest priced XE variant (Rs 5.78 lakh ex-showroom, Delhi). These could range from something as basic as covers for the steel wheels to the customised music system.

The sweetener in the deal for the new Sunny is still the price ranging from Rs 5.78 lakh to rs 7.68 lakh (ex-showroom). But, a diesel engine will be sorely missed by buyers, who have by now come to like and expect diesels from Nissan. The Sunny does, however, represent excellent value for a buyer looking to upgrade to the affordable sedan category.

>muraliswami@thehindu.co.in

Published on October 12, 2011
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