First Drives

12 June 2014

First Drive: New Nissan Sunny

The best chauffeur-driven budget sedan now gets sharper looks, attractive cabin and additional features...

Devesh Shobha
Car image

Those who own a Nissan Sunny will vouch for its roomy cabin and overall ride comfort. But when it comes to styling, the humble Japanese sedan doesn’t really score very high, especially when we have the likes of Hyundai Verna as the point of reference. Nissan is well aware of this and is making an effort to sort things out as far as its visual appeal is concerned. And that brings us to the Nissan Sunny facelift that will hit our showroom very soon.

So what’s really new in the 2014 Nissan Sunny? We have that and many more questions answered right here.

The basic question, what’s new with the Sunny?
Since this is a mid-life facelift, there are a few styling tweaks inside and out, which starts with added chrome on the exterior. Nissan wants the Sunny go a bit higher on its premium scale and it believes this to be the best way forward. So you get an altered facia with wider grille, new headlamp design that’s swept further back into the fenders, altered bumpers with different housing for fog lamps, new outside mirrors with integrated turn indicators, new alloy wheel design and a slightly longer rear bumper.

How about the cabin? Any surprises in here?

Oh yes, there are a few things to talk about the interiors too. The moment you step into the cabin, the circular theme of the earlier car is missing. And we aren’t complaining. We like what the designers have done with the altered dashboard styling with reworked centre console, new instrument cluster and a brand new steering wheel that takes a lot of inspiration from its flagship Teana. Good thing, no? Another thing worth mentioning is the feature list that gets more ticks than before. You now have a nifty double-din touch screen audio system with Bluetooth connectivity, reverse camera with parking sensors, piano black inserts for the centre console, steering mounted controls for audio and telephony, and a better finished gear stick.

That sounds good. Anything else that I should know about?
As far as new bits are concerned, we are afraid that’s it. But you need not worry about the cabin as there wasn’t much that we didn’t like to begin with. The seats are well-cushioned and comfortable for long drives, the quality of materials used in good, it comes with safety features like ABS and dual front and shoulder airbags and still continues to get the best in the business rear seats. Yes, that rear seat – with the amount of leg space and comfort it offers – can easily put some of the entry-level luxury sedans to shame. And that is its strongest asset.

Does anything change mechanically? What are the engine options available?
No, Nissan hasn’t really tinkered with a formula that has worked well for them, which means there are no changes under the skin. The suspension setup that has worked so well in the past has been left untouched, and that promises stellar ride comfort on all road surfaces. We can’t emphasis enough on how well Nissan has mastered the art of filtering out the road imperfections and offer a ride that’s difficult to match for its immediate rivals.

And as far as engine options go, Nissan has gone ahead with an unchanged line-up of 1.5-litre petrol and diesel motors. So there’s a 1498cc petrol motor that pumps out 98bhp and 134Nm of torque when teamed with a 5 speed manual gearbox. There’s also an automatic variant with a CVT gearbox which gets 100bhp of max power. As for the diesel, it’s a 1461cc unit good for 85bhp and 200Nm of torque, married to a 5-speed manual gearbox, sending power to the front wheels. Nissan says they have carried out very miniscule changes to the diesel motor which has resulted in a fuel efficiency figure of 22.71kpl, up by 1kpl than before. The petrol engine doesn’t get any such magical updates and the company claims it will run 16.95kpl and 17.97kpl in manual and automatic guise respectively.

Cool. We tend to have short memories, so could you also remind us how is the Sunny to drive?
We are well aware of your shortened memories and that’s the only reason we flew down to Andamans and tested the Sunny facelift to get you all the information you need.

Lets start with the diesel. It’s a frugal unit that works great both in the city and highway conditions. The smooth and precise gearbox with short throws don’t really call for constant shifting as the motor is extremely flexible and responds well to part-throttle inputs. Sporty intentions are met with some reservations though. A greater chunk of power is available in the mid-range and if you keep it boiling at the right rpm in the right gear, the diesel motor is a treat to drive.

On the other hand, the petrol CVT needs some getting used to.

What do you mean by that?

Chill, we are getting there!

You see, in an era when carmakers are coming up with latest technologies to make conventional torque convertors and dual clutch automatic gearboxes as quick and efficient as they can, Nissan is one of the few manufacturers who still persists with a CVT ’box. Not to say that’s a bad thing. Nissan has brought in quite a few changes to the way its fourth-gen CVT works and it promises to offer a hassle-free drive in the city while being lighter on the pocket. But that is possible only when you are fully aware of how to drive a CVT.

Would you mind teaching us that too, dear TG?

Oh sure, why not. The CVT technology wasn’t meant to be driven aggressively. Remember, Nissan wanted its petrol cars to be more efficient and that’s the reason why they have brought in the CVT. Which means the CVT doesn’t really require a shove of the accelerator pedal every time you want to extract some power. Gentle dabs to the pedal are all that you will ever require to extract the best out of this CVT. Part-throttle responses are met with expectedly surge in power and the petrol motor will willingly build up speed in a progressive manner.

But if you decide to go a bit rough with your right pedal inputs, the results may not be as expected. You see, while driving a CVT, when you shove the pedal with all your might, the rpm needle will instantaneously rush to its redline and sit there for eternity. Things will get louder inside the cabin and the decibels won’t match with the corresponding increase in speed. Although the rpm needle may be nearing its redline of 6000rpm, the engine doesn’t gather speed ferociously but will continue to build speed in a progressive manner. And that sometimes does make it tricky to pull out an overtaking manoeuvre. While dealing with a CVT, you need to plan you moves in advance and always try and be gentle with the throttle inputs to get the maximum benefits.

CVTs suit cruising more than outright performance and that’s what the Sunny is all about, isn’t it.  Although it has a good steering feel and a faultless drive, the Sunny is best enjoyed from the comfort of the back seat and rear AC vents. While the manual variants are for those who prefer to be driven around in traffic more than being involved in a road rage, those who want to get behind the wheel but aren’t great fans of changing gears every 100 metres in city traffic, the CVT makes a good buy.

Talking of that, how much does it cost and when is it getting launched?
Well, the company is tight-lipped over its price tag but we can confirm that the Sunny facelift will be officially launched in the first week of July. Nissan now wants to pitch the Sunny as a more upmarket sedan than before and keeping that in mind, we expect the prices to shoot up substantially. Make that Rs 8 lakh for the base petrol to Rs 10.7 lakh for the top-end diesel, estimated on-road, Mumbai.

And in our opinion, that’s a good deal if you are looking for something that’s reliable, hassle-free and comfortable to move around.

The numbers
1498cc petrol, 98bhp, 134Nm, 5M, 16.95kpl
1498cc petrol, 100bhp, 134Nm, CVT, 17.97kpl
1461cc diesel, 85bhp, 200Nm, 5M, 22.71kpl

The cost
Rs 8 – 10.7 lakh, estimated, on-road Mumbai

The verdict

A much needed facelift gives the Sunny a fresh lease of life. It looks sharper, feels more premium and continues to be as comfortable as your living room. It’s a no-nonsense sedan that you can’t really go wrong with.

Tags: nissan, sunny



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