Decent fuel economy and convenient auto gearbox apart, the Nissan Sunny Automatic is an ideal daily commuter, writes Nikhil Bhatia

Since its launch in September 2011, the Nissan Sunny has become quite a favourite in the entry-level saloon segment. And for good reason. It’s got a fuel efficient diesel engine and plenty of space on the inside, especially in the rear, making it popular with those who prefer to be driven rather than drive. And now, Nissan has launched a CVT or continuously variable transmission-equipped automatic version of the petrol car.

The transmission is Nissan’s X-TRONIC system that was recently also offered on the Sunny’s sister car, the Renault Scala. This fourth-generation CVT uses two pulleys with a steel belt running between them and an auxiliary planetary gear set that helps further widen the range of ratios. Nissan also claims this arrangement makes the X-TRONIC gearbox 10 per cent smaller and 13 per cent lighter than conventional CVTs, apart from bringing with it a 30 per cent improvement in friction. The ARAI-tested fuel economy of the Sunny CVT is a class-leading 17.97kpl.

 Driving the Sunny in Chennai’s early morning rush and then on the scenic East Coast Road towards Puducherry, we found the transmission well suited to the characteristics of the engine with notably less of the rubberband effect usually associated with CVTs. When ambling in town or cruising at 80kph, the transmission keeps engine speeds within the 1200-2000rpm bracket for best efficiency. Part throttle responses are good too with a linear build of power from the 98bhp, 1.5-litre petrol motor. As a result, overtaking slower traffic isn’t much of an effort. If there’s a negative, it’s at full throttle, where revs are held at 5500-6000rpm (for max power) and make the engine sound loud and strained. We haven’t tested the Sunny automatic for performance just yet but going by the Scala automatic’s 0-100kph time of 12.11 seconds, it could be among the faster automatics in the segment.

On all other counts, the Sunny automatic is the same as the petrol manual car. Driving dynamics aren’t engaging but the average city driver will have little reason to complain. Grip levels are good and the light steering is a plus when making your way through traffic.

The car’s high speed manners are also fairly good with a composed ride though sharper edges do make their presence felt, more so at city speeds. The front seats offer adequate cushioning and are very accommodating as well. Rear seat space remains a highlight although the seat itself could offer more by way of thigh support.

 We also wish Nissan would add a splash of colour to the smart but overtly grey cabin that tends to look a bit dull. Nissan will initially sell the Sunny automatic in a single XL variant which gets power windows, central locking, electric mirrors, keyless entry and go and a rear blower, but no alloy wheels. While pricing is not out yet, we expect the Sunny automatic to cost in the region of Rs. 8.7 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

 The Sunny is a very practical option for the average Indian car buyer. Aside from the potentially decent fuel economy and convenient auto gearbox, which make it ideal for the daily commute to the office, there is enough space on the inside to hold the entire family.