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Comparison Nissan Sunny vs Toyota Etios - Brothers at arms

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In the silver corner is the Toyota Etios, the cheapest car to be built by the world’s second largest car manufacturer (apart from the Liva). It’s built to certain specifications – be cheap, serve the purpose and justify the T badge on the grille.

In the red corner is the new kid on the block, the Nissan Sunny, based on the Micra’s V platform and designed to follow what every other new Sunny over the last forty years has done – be spacious, no-nonsense and deliver practical motoring.

 

In essence, these are family cars with the sole purpose of serving their masters well and providing years of hassle free motoring. Joy, here is a very different connotation from the one expressed by the owner of, say, a Ferrari 458 Italia. Yet, this is exactly where the action has shifted to, after years of being bombarded by new hatchbacks (and we will continue to be). The question is, which one of these Japanese, inexpensive sedans is the one you should be driving every day? Answers start from here.

 

STYLING

Neither car is a styling guru’s wet dream; functionality takes the top step of the rostrum here. The Sunny does elicit some not-so-warm responses, some finding the boot integration ‘rather weird’. Others found the general proportions a bit of a mismatch. Yet you will find the 490 litre boot to your liking, as well as the the amount of space inside, but more on that later. The large headlamps actually light up the road well at night too – you are starting to get the practicality point now, aren’t you? Weighing in at 1,027 kg, it isn’t too heavy either, following the platform to its original purpose.

The Etios may appear to some as a more stylish Logan, but it’s just the more balanced design here. From its smiling chrome grille to its silver accents, the Etios tries to hide its inexpensive antecedents using plastochrome and what have you, with some success. The 595 litre boot is the largest on a mainstream sedan in the country – it’s even larger than some luxury cars that cost over 10 times more! But importantly it weighs just 930 kg – that’s featherweight by saloon standards.

 

INTERIORS

Both cars have great room on the inside. While the Sunny has space for four, unlike the Etios’ five, it does have a smidgeon more legroom and knee-room. The Etios’ rear bench may be good for three persons, but it doesn’t have the kind of rake nor back support that the Sunny has to offer. The Sunny has just an ever so-slight lack of under thigh support, but on the whole, it wins the rear seat competition.

Move forward and the win is even more outright. There is not much to complain about the Etios’ fit, but finish leaves a lot to be desired. Enough has been said about the quality of plastics in the Etios. We’re tired of saying it and hopefully Toyota is attending to it. Mind you, the car may not show any signs of rattle nor squeaks early on, but the extent to which the Etios has undergone cost cutting is appalling. In places where plastic trim is usually expected, you are greeted by metal. Or in some cases, exposed sound deadening foam. It’s unfathomable how a company that prides itself on quality couldn’t find ways of keeping costs in check without making it painfully evident. There’s also the sheer lack of features. Sure, you get safety kit like airbags and ABS on the top three trims, but what explains the lack of a seat height adjuster or even electrically adjustable rear-view mirrors, especially when a majority of the competition sport them? The audio unit on the V trim that we tested here has tiny speakers at the front that lose the battle in trying to drown out road noise and wind roar. Of course, the audio unit itself is far too basic to be truly appreciated.

Borrowing the dash from the Micra, the Sunny is decently finished, but it’s the level of kit that will leave you smiling. From the automatic climate control to electrically folding and adjustable rear view mirrors to the comfort fan at the rear (that ensures better circulation), the Sunny is more loaded than some more expensive cars. It even gets a start-stop button and keyless entry as standard, features that have been borrowed from the Micra. The other new bit is the instrument cluster, which feels quite rich. Like the Micra, the dashboard isn’t one unit but a combination of several parts which does mean that panel gaps are not perfect in some places. But it’s the perceptible quality that takes it to the head of the class here. Whether it’s the indicator stalks or the quality of buttons, the Sunny feels more premium here.

 

POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE

Let’s do some math here; 88.8 bhp and 930 kg translates to a power-to-weight ratio of roughly 95.4 bhp/tonne. Consider 97 bhp and 1027 kg and you have 94.5 bhp/tonne. That should mean performance numbers that aren’t too different, right? Or so it should be.

If the Etios needed redemption, it has found it here, in the performance ring. The 1.5-litre motor is not only rev-happy, the powerband is linear and the torque strong. Floor it and you will reach 60 kph in just 4.9 seconds. By then the Etios snarls and growls, the intake sounds starting to reach a sweet crescendo. The ton is despatched in just 11.47 seconds and while you are not looking, it can do 180 kph with the GPS instruments going into a tizzy. The strange thing about the motor is the way it abruptly cuts out at 6000 rpm, which is a bit annoying. The gearbox is reasonably slick too and the ratios are well-selected to utilise the 13.5 kgm of peak torque, especially since it arrives at just 3000 rpm.

The Nissan Sunny feels torquey from the word go, even though it produces an identical peak torque as the Etios – however, it arrives a good 1000 rpm later. That and the slightly lesser power-to-weight ratio means the Sunny hits 60 kph 0.3 seconds after the Etios. Keep flooring it and as the engine hits 4000 rpm, the note starts to turn rough. While it does reach 100 kph in 11.95 seconds, top speed is not too bad either – we saw 178 kph. The Etios does have better passing speeds, especially when going from say 80 to 120 kph, but the Sunny’s extra horses help it move quicker through triple digits. What hamfists the Sunny is its gearbox. While the ratios are well-selected, just like the Etios, the long throws combined with its notchy nature don’t make it the kind of car you would drive enthusiastically.

Both cars are quite fuel efficient. The Etios, with a reasonably light foot, will deliver 13.1 kpl overall and the Sunny is good for 12.8 kpl for the same cycle.

RIDE & HANDLING

The light kerb weight of the Etios, combined with its peppy motor, really makes it a hoot to drive around corners. Even though grip levels aren’t exactly too high, the Etios is easy to point and shoot around tight bends. There is a smidgeon more feel from the steering, though it isn’t overwhelmingly so.

The Sunny has a far lighter steering, which is good for city use but not confidence inspiring if you want to drive with a bit more zest. There’s also some more body roll while tackling corners, though it isn’t alarmingly high.

Ride quality on both cars is pretty decent too. The Etios is a bit stiff at low speeds but settles as speeds increase. The Sunny’s softer setup gives it a plusher ride, though it does bob around a fair bit.

VERDICT

The comparison did throw up a couple of facts. The first is that the Etios will age faster and is in dire need of a re-think of the equipment and perceptible quality levels if Toyota wants significant volumes from the platform. The Sunny, despite the lack of a diesel motor (which is expected by early 2012) sticks to the Sunny nameplate rather well, but neither car is truly representative of the badges they stand for.

Yet, if we are to stick our neck out, the Sunny has usurped the mantle. It may be priced nearly half a lakh rupees more than the comparable Etios, but it justifies it with better quality, better equipment levels and slightly better engineering. Cars in the entry

C-segment are bought more for practical reasons like space, reliability, efficiency and equipment, rather than how much fun they are to drive, which is the strongest point of the Etios. This makes the win for the Sunny even more easy!

Nissan Sunny
Powertrain
Displacement: 1498cc, I-4, petrol
Max power: 99 bhp@6000 rpm
Max torque: 13.66 kgm@3750 rpm
Specific output: 66.05 bhp/litre
Power to weight: 96.39 bhp/tonne
Torque to weight: 13.03 kgm/tonne
Transmission: 5-speed manual

STEERING
Type: Rack and pinion with electronic power assist
Turning radius: 5.3 m

SUSPENSION
Front: MacPherson strut
Rear: Torsion beam

BRAKES
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Self-adjusting drums
ABS: Standard with EBD

TYRES
(F/R): 225/60 R16, tubeless
DIMENSIONS
L/W/H(mm): 4915/1874/1455 mm
Wheelbase: 2912 mm
Kerb Weight: 1027 kg

ACCELERATION
0-60 kph: 5.20 secs
0-100 kph: 11.95 secs
80-120 kph: 9.3 secs
100-140 kph: 11.9 secs
Top speed: 178 kph
0-100-0 kph: 15.5 secs

MILEAGE

Overall:  12.8 kpl
Price: Rs 5.78 – 7.68 LAKH
Ex-showroom, Delhi

Toyota Etios

Powertrain
Displacement: 1496cc, I-4, petrol
Max power: 88.7 bhp@5600 rpm
Max torque: 13.46 kgm@3000 rpm
Specific output: 59.29 bhp/litre
Power to weight: 95.37 bhp/tonne
Torque to weight: 14.47 kgm/tonne
Transmission: 5-speed manual

STEERING

Type: Rack and pinion with electronic power assist
Turning radius: 4.9 m

SUSPENSION

Front: MacPherson strut
Rear: Torsion beam

BRAKES

Front: Ventilated discs
Rear: Self-adjusting drums
ABS: Standard with EBD

TYRES

(F/R): 185/60 R15, tubeless

DIMENSIONS
L/W/H(mm): 4265/1695/1510 mm
Wheelbase: 2550 mm
Kerb Weight: 930 kg

ACCELERATION

0-60 kph: 4.9 secs
0-100 kph: 11.47 secs
80-120 kph: 8.4 secs
100-140 kph: 14.1 secs
Top speed: 108.1 kph (achieved)
0-100-0 kph: 16.7 secs

MILEAGE

Overall: 13.1 kpl
Price: Rs 4.96 – 7.87 LAKH
Ex-showroom, Delhi