Car Specification

18 March 2013

Review: Nissan Sunny Automatic

The Sunny goes automatic and Nissan claims it’s smoother and more efficient than before. We go behind the wheel to test that claim...

Devesh Shobha
Car image



The Nissan Sunny has been one of the star performers for the Japanese carmaker in India. It comes with decent petrol and diesel powerplants, and the spacious cabin is second to none in the segment. It’s got a comfortable backseat ride and a Mercedes E-class rivaling rear legroom which made it favourite as a chauffeur driven car. So what could Nissan have done to make its sedan more popular amongst the self-driven population? A V6 diesel or a V8 petrol can do wonders, no? But that’s not on Nissan's agenda as they want to make their cars greener than before. And their latest generation XTronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), technology is a step in that direction.

You would argue, an automatic gearbox and better fuel economy aren’t an ideal match. We did too. That’s when Nissan threw technical jargons at us, like ‘pulleys with steel belts’, ‘continuously varying gear ratios’, ‘self-adjusting drive pulley’, ‘ratio flexibility’, and more. What they actually mean is that the advances made with the fourth-generation CVT technology have resulted in the Sunny CVT being smoother and more efficient than before. Nissan claims that the Sunny CVT returns 17.97kpl, which is 20 per cent more than the manual variant, but surprisingly 1kpl less than the Renault Scala CVT. It would take a thorough test to get the real world economy figures, but for the rest of the claims, we took the Sunny CVT for a spin under the hot Chennai sun.

Similar to the recently-launched Scala CVT, the Sunny automatic is powered by a 1.5-litre petrol motor churning out 99.6bhp and 134Nm of max torque. From the onset, the Sunny was never an intimidating car and the latest CVT goes well with the sedan’s easy-going nature. It feels comfortable while being driven in and around the city. Power is available as soon as you tap the throttle pedal and it marches ahead in quite a linear manner. It has a strong bottom-end and decent mid-range punch, and the part-throttle responses are quite impressive. What’s not impressive is its outright performance on the highway. Everything stays smooth till 2000rpm, but as you try pushing the motor harder, it gets stuck around the 5500rpm mark and the engine gets quite vocal. It’s best to drive the Sunny CVT with a light foot as that’s when it feels at home and be more efficient too. For instance, it can hold up to 80kph with the motor spinning at just 1250rpm, although it would take a while before you reach that speed. But try pushing the motor to 5500rpm, it feels strained, things get too loud in the cabin, and it doesn’t accelerate with the intensity you would expect it to.

A slightly heavier tap of your right foot can help you overtake those slower vehicles, but when you wish to outdo a fast-moving car, the gearbox takes its own sweet time to respond to your throttle inputs and you may find this tricky at times. Sunny CVT also comes with a Sport mode where the engine revs to higher RPMs before things start to settle down. It helps when you are constantly overtaking vehicles and are in need for sharper responses from the ’box.

The Sunny’s light steering wheel is best for driving around the city, but on the highways you do feel the need for a heavier action and some more feedback. As for the ride, sharp bumps do filter into the cabin at city speeds, but as you go faster, the Sunny settles down to a flatter, more comfortable ride.

As for now, Nissan plans to launch the CVT variant only in the XL trim, by the end of April. This would help them price it competitively. Considering the Scala CVT is pegged at Rs 9 lakh, it could only be better for the Nissan version of the CVT sedan. A top-end XV automatic variant is in the pipeline, but it won’t be launched anytime soon. The Sunny CVT makes a good case for itself, offering ease of driving, decent features, comfort and space, and good fuel economy. Sounds a lot like the stuff most Indians need. Now only if Nissan gets the pricing right.

The numbers
1498cc, 4cyl petrol, 99.6bhp, 134Nm, CVT, 17.97kpl (claimed), 185/70 R14, 1040kg, 490L boot, 41-litre fuel tank

The verdict
The Nissan Sunny automatic may not be exciting or involving to drive, but what it promises is ease of driving, better fuel efficiency and a hassle free city commute. It’s not bad on the highway, although the limitation of its CVT box is quite noticeable here. We are told the pricing would be very close to the existing XL variant and if that’s achieved, the Sunny CVT is a worthy alternative to the manual variant.

Tags: renault, nissan, scala, sunny, sunny automatic

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