The small car segment in India has continuously been explored and re-explored by manufacturers in the pursuit of having the correct ingredients in their car. While some car makers have found them, others haven’t. But it is the entry level sedan segment that is still to be exploited to its full potential. Nissan has now brought its internationally launched Versa under the Sunny tag to India, in an attempt to make a breakthrough in the segment. Although there are only five cars in the segment, each one has a USP of its own, making it very difficult for a buyer to make his choice. While the Suzuki Swift Dzire is the class leader offering great mileage and a peppy drive with great after sales service, Toyota offers refinement and comfort with its Etios. And let’s not forget the sleekly styled Tata Manza and the highly affordable Mahindra Verito. The question is what does the Sunny have to offer? Is it the segment shaker Nissan wishes it to be? Check for review & price of Nissan cars
DESIGN AND STYLE ;
This is a facelift, so the basic shape of the Sunny is retained. However, the front is where major changes have been wrought, beginning with a new, chromed trapezoid grille and massive boomerang-shaped headlamps. The chrome doesn’t stop at the grille, the new, aggressive bumper is underscored with chrome and the fog lamps also have L-shaped chrome underlining as well. It may get a little too in-your-face for some, but this is not a bad thing, because it is certainly an improvement over the outgoing model’s bland face. The three-quarter panel reveals a new, more angular mirror housing with integrated signals. Nissan hasn’t done a halfway job with these, either: the original signals have disappeared from the fenders. The alloy wheels have a new six split ‘Y’ shaped spokes, but the tyres remain the same size as before. Our test car was shod with JK Vectras instead of the standard Bridgestones it used to be shod with. The roof also exhibits a single change – the long, thin antenna has made way for a rear-mounted shorter, thicker aerial. At the rear, not much has changed. The tail-lamps remain the same, but the rear bumper has changed. The corners get an extra horizontal crease that rises towards the rear. This, coupled with the new matt black underside that cuts into the visible area at the low end of the bumper helps reduce the visual height of the rear more neatly than the previous car’s busy, all-painted triple horizontal creases low down on the bumper. The chrome strip above the number plate on the top-spec variants is now a more complex piece, and under it hides the reversing camera. None of the Sunny’s sheet metal has changed, but it is marginally longer and taller than before. It will also be available with a new paint scheme, a deep metallic purple that appears black until you view it in bright sunlight, when it shows off its true colours. This same paint used to be available on the previous-generation Honda City, and its appeal has not diminished at all with the 2014 Nissan Sunny. Check On Road Price of Sunny
INTERIORS AND SPACE
Nissan had updated the Micra last year and that facelift had transformed the interiors of the car drastically. Similar changes now flow into the Sunny, which also gets a new centre console with piano black finishing. The AC controls see minor changes while Nissan has made heavy changes to the dashboard of the car. The instrument cluster gets a new fine vision meter which changes the way the console is lit, the multi-information display now getting white lighting. Lower variants still get a basic cluster. The steering wheel too has been ditched for a new and sportier unit. The new 3-spoke steering feels much better to hold and doesn’t come across as too big, the audio control buttons having a slick feel. The beige and grey interior has been replaced by an all black interior which looks so much better, invoking a sporty feel inside the cabin.
The rest of the Nissan Sunny remains identical. You get a cabin which truly has acres and acres of space, more so for rear passengers who can sit and stretch like they are in a lounge with 636 mm of legroom, easily class leading. Good headroom, decent under-thigh support (a bit lacking for tall passengers at the rear), two reading lights at the rear (there are four cabin lights), a chiller of an AC (with rear fan vents which pull AC air from the front), all play a big role in ensuring the Sunny is among the best cars in its class to be chauffeur driven in, the airy cabin further accentuating the backseat appeal. Our only gripe with the cabin is the doors don’t auto lock. Nissan has given the Sunny Bluetooth connectivity and the 2-DIN audio system with a 5.1-inch screen is new as well. The top variants (XV and XV Premium) also get reverse parking sensors and a reverse camera. The XV Premium variant is available in two optional packs – Safety Pack adds side airbags while Luxury Pack consists of genuine leather seats along with a leather wrapped gear knob.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
The Sunny’s 1.5-litre, twin-cam, 16-valve petrol motor (codename: HR15) makes a decent 97bhp and 13.6kgm of torque. Down from 1.6 litres as in other markets, this 1.5 also has only one injector per cylinder, as opposed to two. But because it doesn’t have much mass to move, you will find it performs more than adequately. Its 12.6sec 0-100kph time is no match for a Honda City or a Toyota Etios, but isn’t too far off a VW Vento’s and you can see this in the way it drives. The 1498cc motor’s almost ‘square’ cylinder dimensions work at making part-throttle responses peppy and giving it decent mid-range and top-end power. The best bit about this engine is how well it pulls from low speeds, which makes city driving quite a breeze.
Power delivery is quite linear all the way to the 6500rpm redline, but isn’t as smooth or willing to be revved as, say, a 1.5-litre Honda City motor. It gets quite thrashy past 5000rpm and the Sunny works best when you upshift early and use the engine’s good part-throttle responses and excellent low-rpm performance to get you to speed. It’s easy enough to maintain cruising speeds, and overtaking doesn’t require too much downshifting.
The five-speed manual gearbox has a well-judged set of ratios, but the gearshift feels a bit notchy and there’s a fair bit of transmission whine as well. However, the clutch is light and this takes some effort off the gearshifts.As for fuel efficiency, it sipped a litre to travel 11.5km in the city, and 16.4km on the highway, and that’s better than a Honda City.
DRIVING DYNAMICS ;
The front MacPherson strut and the rear torsion bar suspension set-up works well for the Sunny and is a blessing on the kind of roads found in India. It is very forgiving and can take on any pothole or bump without sending you straight to the first spinal cord clinic en route! This works against the Vettel types who would seem to be all at sea with the car wallowing in the high speed corners but then there is always the 370Z and the GTR for this lot. Excellent ground clearance is another major attribute for our terrain, yes, urban and rural and thanks are also due to the 185/65-R15 tyres (ours was the top-of-the-line offering which has this size rubber while the other two versions make do with 185/70-R14 Bridgestones) for the fine poise and the ride quality. Among the other positive attributes of this big ’un in a very competitive segment poised for take-off is the fine and comfortable driving position with ample all-round visibility coupled to a very light yet precise steering. Both of these make themselves felt and count when gliding through traffic on our city roads despite the obvious girth of the vehicle.
One area where the Sunny scores is its fuel efficiency. The light weight and moderately powerful engines mean that the Sunny is not particularly thirsty. Nissan India claims the diesel Sunny manages 22 km/l in test conditions and the petrol CVT is close to 18 km/l. Of course, real world figures are lower, but oour experience has been that the Sunny really is among the most fuel efficient mid-size sedans in the country. . VERDICT ;
The Sunny has always been the stepson of the segment, recommended to those who want value rather than features or snob value. No more, not with the features list that is now available with the Sunny. Nissan has gone for a relatively safe strategy and not offered a top-spec petrol (yet), instead preferring to promote the diesel. If Nissan manages to keep the 2014 Sunny within Rs 20,000 of its predecessor, it will make an extremely strong case for itself if you’re looking for an alternative to the segment’s usual picks, the Honda City and Hyundai Verna.