Practical and roomy, the well-priced Nissan Sunny has a lot going for it

Forty-five years is a long time by automotive standards, but that's just how long the Sunny has been around. Google the name and you will see a long line of cars that have found a staggering 16 million owners over the years.

This 10th-generation Sunny is quite radical by Nissan's standards — it's nothing like its compact, square predecessors. It is Nissan's global car, designed to meet the needs of the people of every one of the 170 countries it will be sold in.

Built at Nissan's Oragadam plant near Chennai, 85 per cent of the Sunny's components are locally sourced. It's not surprising, then, that Nissan has got the price spot-on. The entry-level XE comes in at a positively impressive Rs. 5.78 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), but it is extremely basic. The reasonably well-equipped XL costs Rs. 6.88 lakh and goes on to Rs. 7.68 lakh for the bells-and-whistles XV. At these prices, the Sunny faces extremely stiff competition, starting from the Toyota Etios to the Honda City.

It's hard to believe that the Sunny is based on the same V platform as the Micra. It looks quite different from its hatchback sibling, unlike the Etios and Vento saloons which are essentially booted versions of the Liva and Polo, respectively.

There's no denying the Sunny is a big car and that's largely because of its class-leading 2600mm wheelbase, which is a massive 150mm more than the Micra. The Nissan ‘Caaar' advertisement is pretty apt, then. The space between the front and rear axles is so big, you'll have to go all the way up to the Toyota Corolla to find a match for it. The Sunny's generous dimensions and splashes of chrome give it a mature look, and from some angles it looks like a mini Teana. However, like the Micra, the Sunny is replete with soft lines and some nice detailing, but it's not enough to get your pulse racing. In fact, there are some awkward bits to the styling too — like the rear, which has a massive and ungainly overhang. The flipside is that it houses a 490-litre boot which is well-shaped with a wide opening to swallow all your luggage and more.

The best thing about Nissan's V platform is its astonishingly light weight — the Sunny tips a mere 1,027kg on the scales, despite its size.

The rest of the Sunny is pretty standard midsize saloon fare. It uses independently suspended MacPherson struts up front and a non-independent torsion beam axle at the rear, with anti-roll bars at both ends. Braking is via ventilated discs in the front and drums at the rear, and steering is via an electrically assisted system. The XE and the XL come with smaller 14-inch steel rims, while the XV comes with 15-inch alloys. The Indian-spec cars also come with a rough road package that helps improve ground clearance.

The Sunny's cabin is phenomenally spacious and Nissan proudly says that there's enough room for rear passengers to easily sit cross-legged. True as this may be, what it fails to mention is that thigh support isn't so generous. Sure, you can use all that legroom to stretch out and get comfortable, but even then your thighs are a bit off the seat. The front seats are very generous, however, and finding a decent driving position is easy enough – all variants get tilt-adjust for the steering and the XL and XV get driver's seat height adjustment.

The cabin is a pleasing, inoffensive place to be. The light grey fabrics and plastics do a lot to brighten the cabin's ambience and there's loads of headroom, thanks to a roofline that doesn't drop too sharply.

A lot of the Sunny's interiors are borrowed from the Micra. The basic dashboard is the same, notably the climate control unit, gearlever, door handles, doorpads and the area around the glovebox. The only differences are in the dials, which are chrome-ringed and look much smarter, and the upper part of the centre console.

The Sunny XV is well-equipped, with features such as 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.

The Sunny's 1.5-litre, twin-cam, 16-valve petrol motor makes a decent 97bhp and 13.6kgm of torque. 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 very smooth. 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.

Sunny is primarily a family car, meant for sedate driving. In this respect, the light, extremely twirlable steering and easy controls make it a stress-free car to drive in the city.

As for the ride, it is jiggly at low speeds and not very adept at handling sharp bumps, and you can feel the suspension thump through the light body. However, as you go faster, it settles down to offer a consistent ride. With a low kerb weight and a tractable engine that has been tweaked for fuel efficiency, we would have been surprised if the Sunny was anything other than very fuel-efficient. It sipped a litre to travel 11.5km in the city, and 16.4km on the highway.

But what's holding the Sunny back from realising its true potential is a diesel engine. That's expected in January next year and will add to the Sunny's practical character.

Keywords: Nissan Sunny

RELATED NEWS

MetroplusJune 28, 2012