Some people want all-out performance from their cars, practicality be damned. Other people want their cars to be spacious, frugal and a warm and inviting place to be in. If you belong to the former, you could be wasting your time reading this. However, if you are part of the latter, this could very well be the car you’ve been waiting for. So without much ado, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the new Nissan Sunny!
There is no doubting it — the way it looks, it cannot be anything but a Nissan. There are shades of the larger Teana sedan, especially at the rear. It is not a bad-looking car, with its strong lines and pronounced curves at both ends. Sure, it is conventional to look at, but that isn't really a bad thing. And to take a leaf out of Toyota’s book, Nissan has ensured that the styling of the Sunny will appeal to a very large audience. But the bigger story is not its external appearance, but what’s inside.
The Sunny is built inside-out. That becomes obvious the minute you open those doors and get into the cabin. For those who prefer to drive, the smart looking dashboard boasts intelligent design and relatively good quality plastic bits. The steering wheel adjusts for tilt, while the top-of-the-range XV variant gets steering-mounted audio controls, keyless entry and a start button.
Now not everyone wants to contend with the pathetic traffic these days, while some prefer to spend time in the rear seats, especially in a segment like this in India. With the Sunny’s front seats pushed back as far as they can go, there’s plenty of leg room at the rear — enough to cross your legs, as the company claims. It is obvious Nissan has studied what people look for in this category of cars and it has managed to pull it off by clever interior packaging. Oh, and let’s not forget those two fans that blow cool air from the front part of the cabin into the rear, thus improving the air circulation considerably — but remember, they are not rear AC vents, but a clever compromise. However, despite all that wonderful leg room and head room, there’s not much space for the third passenger in the rear seat. Carting four people around in this car should be fine; add a fifth, and it will get a tad uncomfortable.
The 1498cc, 97.6 bhp, 13.6 kgm, four-cylinder petrol motor is great at low and mid-range revs, but anything above that, it’s not exactly a spring chicken. The engine is happiest at around 3000 to 3,500 rpm, its sweet spot. Acceleration to about 110 kmph is near-effortless; it’s just that if you intend to go past that, the engine will take its own sweet time to get there. The gear shift quality is good, while the controls in general are light and easy to use. The brakes are up to the task, but return very little feel. It takes a while to predict the Sunny’s braking, after which you realise that although they’re numb, the brakes do work well enough.
Another facet that makes the Sunny a very practical car is its plush ride quality. Potholes come and go, and only the biggest ones make their presence felt. The well-padded seats also compliment the soft suspension by absorbing most of the vibes before they get to you. However, a softer suspension setup comes at a compromise with the car’s handling ability. Driven normally, the Sunny is composed. But if you really belt it hard around a curve, the car will begin to protest strongly by pogoing through the bend. Honestly, I’d rather have this than a bone-jarring experience every time the car’s wheels run over a pebble.
Although the Sunny is now available with just the petrol-burning motor, with the current soaring prices of fuel, it is safe to assume that a diesel will be available soon enough. But if you are looking for a good family sedan and cannot wait until then, the Sunny pretty much fits the bill. It will seat four in comfort, negotiate the roughest of roads with decent poise and looks good enough to deserve your garage space. Build quality is good and the general feel of the car, inside-out, does justice to the price, which starts at Rs 5.78 lakh for the XE and goes up to Rs 7.68 lakh for the XV (prices ex-showroom, Delhi).
For more on the Nissan Sunny, pick up the October 2011 issue of Business Standard Motoring. The writer was on a media invite from Nissan to drive the Sunny in Chennai