So here it is, at last: Nissan’s second made-in-India product, the new Sunny sedan. The new Nissan Sunny is global car, and will be sold in 170 countries around the world. Indian production will be exported to the Middle East, Africa and Europe. There’s a lot you’ve read about it already, including the fact that it’s based on Nissan’s V-platform, which also underpins the Micra. What it isn’t, is a tacky stick-on hatch with a boot, but an all-new proper sedan instead. For now, the car comes with a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a five-speed manual gearbox. Nissan says the new Sunny is aimed squarely at the mid-size segment, straddling the segment from the Toyota Etios at one end and the Hyundai Verna at the other
Design & Engineering
The new Nissan Sunny doesn’t break any new ground as far as its looks are concerned. It’s a sober, even slightly boring design, which errs on the side of caution. The big headlamps and wide slatted grille hint at its bigger Teana sibling, which is nice in a way. Similarly, the Sunny’s tail lamps too mirror the Teana’s somewhat. The Sunny sports a 2600 mm wheelbase, 150 mm more than the Micra, and by far the biggest in this class. This characteristic, along with the well-packaged interior, makes for class-leading in-cabin space.
The new Nissan Sunny’s suspension comprises conventional MacPherson struts at front with a torsion beam rear axle. This is par for the course, but Nissan keenly point out that the suspension has been tuned for Indian road conditions, which means a raised ride height and longer suspension travel, with different spring and damper rates.
The engine which powers the Sunny is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol, codenamed HR15DE. The engine is assembled in India, although the gearbox is fully imported. Of the rest of the car, upto 90 % of the body and chassis has been localised, and Nissan Motor India Private Limited is working hard to increase the localisation content in the powertrain as well.
Nissan’s development team has reduced the number of parts by rationalising components to achieve lower weight and reduce costs, and this has been aggressively worked upon with both the Micra and Sunny. As a result, the Sunny sedan tips the scales at well below a tonne for the base XE variant. The build quality is good too, and although the doors might not open and shut with a thunk, I’ve seen year-old Micras which have been flogged and still hold together well, with few squeaks or rattles. By that yardstick, the Sunny should hold together well too.
Interiors & Comfort
Step inside the Sunny, and if you’re familiar with the Micra, then you’ll find a lot of similarities in the Sunny as well, notably the centre console and the dashboard ahead of the front passenger. The same ‘greige’ (grey + beige) interior theme is carried over from the Micra too. I wasn’t sold on it then, and it still hasn’t grown on me, but the fact remains is it’s practical, easy to clean and wears well. The front seats are supremely comfy, with perfectly contoured padding. When you corner hard, you might wish you had a little more lateral support, but then this car isn’t meant for that. It’s great for long highway cruises.
The rear boasts amazing legroom. With the driver’s seat adjusted to my 5’10” frame, a 6’4” passenger was comfortable at the rear. Headroom for tall passengers is slightly compromised by the sloping roofline however. Also, under-thigh support at the rear isn’t as good as the front seats’.
The Sunny is available in three variants – XE, XL and XV. The top-of-the-line XV I drove boasts of keyless entry with push-button start, trip computer, integrated music system with steering-wheel mounted audio controls, climate control and electrically adjustable and folding ORVMs. The audio system does not have USB or Bluetooth connectivity, but Nissan says it is evaluating customer feedback on the same, and ideally they should look at including these features as well.
Ergonomically, there are one or two areas where Nissan’s engineers could have given a little more thought. The buttons for the mirror adjustments are small and fiddly, tucked away behind the steering column near the driver’s knees. This makes them difficult to use while on the move. Also, the button for the trip computer is located in the middle of the instrument panel, which requires you to put one hand through the steering wheel to cycle through the read-outs. A more conveniently placed button at the end of one of the control stalks would have been far more comfortable.
In cabin storage is limited to a rather shallow glovebox at the front, and slim door pockets. At the rear, the only stowage space available is a single pocket in the front passenger seat back. The Sunny's rear seat does have a flip down arm rest with cup-holders though, which adds to comfort provided there are only two rear passengers. The wide cabin means that seating three abreast at the rear will be possible in reasonable comfort.
Nissan has come up with an unique improvised solution to improve cooling in the rear of the cabin. A simple blower with two stacked vents recirculates the cool air coming out of the AC vents in front. The inlet for the rear blower is between the front seats. This is a simple yet cost-effective way of improving circulation in the rear of the cabin. It worked quite well in the heat of Chennai.
The new Sunny rides reasonable well, but sharp-edged ruts are audible in the cabin. It settles down really well at speed though, and despite sitting tall on its suspension, does not feel floaty, which is a good thing.
Engine refinement is very good, but if there’s a complaint, it’s with the gearbox, with an audible whine which detracts from the Sunny’s overall refinement. You also sense a slight bit of wind noise around the A-pillar as well as the speeds rise.
Performance & Handling
Now that you’ve gotten an idea of what it looks like and how it feels on the inside, just how good is the new Nissan Sunny to drive? In one word – easy. This car has a very smooth engine and light steering, and the other controls, including the clutch and gear lever are light to use. The gearbox though feels very notchy in its shift action, and feels rubbery through the gate, which is disappointing. The gear lever does not like to be hurried through the ‘box, but its saving grace is that it shifts positively, and I didn’t experience any mis-shifts, even while giving it the stick.
The engine is rated at 99 PS @ 6000 rpm, and 134 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm. Despite both these figures registering on the higher side of the Sunny’s rev range, the engine picks up effortlessly even at low rpms. Drivability is very good and the light controls mean the Sunny will be easy to drive in stop and go city traffic. On the highway, the Sunny cruises comfortably with a full complement of passengers, but you do feel a slight lack of urge for quick overtaking, which requires you to downshift if you want to make a quick pass. There’s no point is revving this engine too much either, as it gets thrashy beyond 5000 rpm. Shifting up at around 4500 rpm is the best way to drive this car briskly.
The steering weighs up well as speeds rise, but don’t expect the same level of feedback as you would in say a Ford Fiesta. However, I found the steering better than in many mid-size sedans, the new Hyundai Verna and Toyota Etios included. The East Coast Road we drove on has no corners to talk of, but there are plenty of staggered barricades. These make for convenient slalom courses, and the Sunny was surprisingly competent through them. You can sense the limits of the car easily, and if you get a bit too adventurous, you’ll immediately find the tail getting slightly twitchy, with a hint of chirruping from the tyres. Personally, I like a car which communicates the limits early on, which makes it more fail-safe.
The new Nissan Sunny gets ABS with EBD as standard across all three variants, with a combination of front discs and rear drums. Stopping power is adequate, but I wish the brakes had slightly more feel, which would help in better brake modulation.
We didn’t have the opportunity to do a full road test of the new Nissan Sunny, but if the trip computer is anything to go by, then this car should put a smile on your face. Despite the numerous stops for photography, with the engine running and the air-conditioner on, and four passengers on board at all times, the Sunny’s trip computer registered 11.2 kpl.
I’m sure if it were a regular highway cruise, the new Sunny would manage much more. ARAI has ratified the new Nissan Sunny’s fuel efficiency figure at 16.95 kpl overall. How this will compare in real world terms will be clear only after a full road test, but with its intelligent gearing and optimised engine characteristics, the Sunny should be more than competent
As with any truly global product today, the Nissan Sunny has been optimised for the most stringent crash tests in Europe, America and Japan. Nissan India has also chosen to equip even the base version of the Sunny with ABS+EBD and a driver’s side airbag. Such an approach has to be commended, considering other car-makers have been guilty of keeping safety last among their priorities. ABS goes a long way in preventing accidents, especially on our typical roads which are often wet or gravel strewn. In such scenarios, compounded by an utter lack of road sense of the majority of road users, ABS can prevent many accidents, and with that, reduce the chances of injury and fatalities. Full five stars to the Sunny here
The Sunny helps put many things in perspective. It’s a car which hasn’t been ostensibly ‘India-engineered’ and isn’t ‘cheap’. It doesn’t try to woo you with sexy styling (although to be fair I find the Sunny a bit boring), and then when you bite, find it lacking in substance. It may scrimp on one or two feel-good touches like USB and Bluetooth connectivity, but Nissan can (and should) fix these, but we’re only nit-picking. The simple fact is the new Nissan Sunny is well built, well-engineered, spacious, very safe, fuel-efficient and very good value for money. The base XE version comes pretty well equipped, and at just Rs 5.7 lakh ex-showroom, makes for shattering value for money. The Sunny is as spacious if not more than most sedans a class higher, and its spacious rear seat and smooth ride make it an excellent car for the chauffer-driven. Nissan has truly produced a great car, and when you factor in the price, it seems almost too good to be true. But yes, it is THAT good.
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