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?
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.
SPACE AND COMFORT ;
Nissan’s marketing department conducted customer clinics around the country, and another recurring demand was for leather seats; not just leather seat covers, but properly sewn leather upholstery. And so, Nissan now offers leather seats on the XV and XL CVT variants.
The dashboard has been spruced up too, with the new centre console borrowed from the new Micra hatch, including the piano black trim. The dashboard has been reshaped in some areas, to make it look less rounded, with a few flatter surfaces intended to give it more dynamism. A new, stylish steering wheel with steering-mounted audio and phone controls has been incorporated too. Unlike the earlier iteration of the Sunny, which had neither USB connectivity nor Bluetooth, Nissan has chosen not to leave anything out. This car completely dominates its segment when it comes to interior room; so much so, that Nissan engineers proudly proclaim it has as much interior room as a BMW 5 Series. Leg room and head room are truly class-leading, and the revised rear seat makes it the best mid-size sedan to be chauffeured in. The seat cushioning feels a touch firmer than before, and the seat squab itself is half an inch longer to afford better under-thigh support.
ENGINE AND GEARBOX ;
The Sunny sports an all-new 1.5-litre gasoline unit putting out 99PS at 6000rpm and producing 134Nm of torque at 4000rpm. The engine is not just exceptionally smooth in delivering power, but also quite peppy and makes the car fun to drive. The initial zest and thrust of the engine however doesn’t continue for long and over 3000rpm it seems to run out of breath. The displacement-power ratio is in accordance with what is expected of a 1.5-litre powerplant but the car fails to be a mile muncher and is not really something that one would call fast, but then again, in this segment it doesn’t even need to be. Although the engine is remarkably refined, it lags behind in terms of performance. Cabin noise has been kept to a bare minimum and you really have to strain your ears to get any kind of audible hint that the motor is running. As much as we enjoyed the well-tuned engine, the five-speed manual gearbox was a major disappointment in our test car. The ‘box was not just notchy, but also imprecise to the extent that we had to work a wee bit harder in order to slot the car in the desired gear
Performance isn’t really the most important attribute for a car in this segment but as mentioned before this is one place where the Nissan Sunny will mildly disappoint those looking for a little spunk in their drive. In our instrumented tests the Sunny accelerated to 100km/h from standstill in 14.84 seconds which is more or less o par with all its competitors. Keep that right pedal pressed and the Sunny feels stressed as it lumbers on to its 164km/h top speed. While all that may be decent, where this Nissan lacks is in mid-range grunt – throttle up from 60km/h in fifth gear and you’ll take 26.73 seconds to get up to 100km/h. The Sunny’s front discs and rear drums are top notch but although the car can be brought to a standstill from 100km/h in 3.5 seconds, unfortunately the brakes of the test car felt much less responsive. However, what this segment needs and as is the most important factor punters look out for is fuel efficiency and here Nissan can hold its head high. This is one Sunny spot which can be taken to the hilt with the car dishing out 12.6kmpl in our in-town tests and 14kmpl on the highway. Many petrol hatchbacks deliver this sort of fuel efficiency so while the hotshot leaden-footed drivers need not apply here, the please-all non-intimidating type can always be rewarded with a balanced blend of performance and fuel efficiency from this Nissan.
RIDE AND HANDLING ;
The Nissan Sunny flaunts an all new 3-spoke leather strapped tilt electric power steering wheel. It is quite light in maneuvering the sedan across the narrow streets and the sedan too responds almost instantly and precisely to the driver’s directions. The tilt steering wheel further facilitates the driver to adjust the steering position according to his/her comfort and convenience. Although, despite all this, the handling is just okayish. There is also a first-grade suspension system with Mcpherson Strut as front suspension while the rear one is Torsion Bar in the Sunny sedan. The manual transmission and the automatic transmission of petrol variants of Sunny touch the 100 kmph barrier from standstill in a mere 12.7 seconds and 12.1 seconds, respectively with a common top speed of 175 kmph. The diesel variant crosses the same barrier in a time frame of around 14-15 seconds with a top speed around 160 – 180 kmph.
SAFETY AND FEATURES ;
The Sunny XV is well equipped, with features like keyless entry, power windows on all four doors, electrically folding mirrors, a CD player, climate control, ABS, EBD, driver and passenger airbags and alloy wheels. The lower XL isn’t too bad either; you still get the CD player, power windows and all the safety kit, but it does without the alloy wheels, which otherwise add a much-needed dash of flair to the design. Both the XL and XV get an interesting feature – a rear seat air-circulation fan. The vents aren’t directly connected to the air-con but help circulate cool air faster.It’s the base XE that is poorly equipped. It doesn’t even get wheel caps and the hard, black interiors make it better suited for taxi duty. But even this basic model comes with ABS and a driver airbag.
There is no doubt in the fact that the Nissan Sunny facelift has definitely improved a lot in terms of its appearance while its upgraded interiors provides a much more premium feel inside. The diesel engine now returns an impressive fuel efficiency which will definitely attract lot of attention. Overall if you are looking for a spacious cabin with quality interiors and are not at all worried about the performance bit of your sedan then the Nissan Sunny won’t disappoint you at all.