Nissan Sunny, when launched was not only the revival of an old brand, but also carried Nissan's aspirations of capturing a significant marketshare in the emerging markets. The numbers over the years though haven't been encouraging, if not bad. With the unavailability of a new platform/ generation immediately, a facelift was the obvious choice. When Nissan went ahead and did exactly that, we were invited to drive the new Sunny around the beautiful roads of the pristine Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Launched at Rs 6.99 lakh, the new Nissan Sunny also offers great value.
Ever since its launch, the Sunny was appreciated for its best-in-segment leg room and practicality. Later, the model was updated with an automatic transmission as well and though there was nothing wrong with the car, sales dropped after the initial months of brisk sales. The same held true for all of Nissan's products in India. While strategies were being reworked, in February this year, Nissan India announced that it is severing ties with Hover Automotive India, its partner for distribution, marketing and sales of Nissan cars in India.
With all aspects of business now under its control, Nissan is hoping the new Sunny increases its consumer appeal, given the number of changes it has received in multiple areas. Does the new car succeed at delivering the expected? Read on to find answers.
The Sunny was originally designed to be a practical and comfortable car and that intent is evident in its design language. A number of changes now make for an identifiable freshness. Conforming to its global design, the front now greets onlookers with new headlamps, which resemble the larger Teana and the 370 Z to some extent. A new bumper also houses a larger grille with generous amounts of chrome outlining it. The fog lamps too get a chrome accent. The generous splash of chrome though is only available on the higher variants of the Sunny range.
Given the fondness of Indians for chrome, potential customers should be impressed by the new changes. To us the front came across as sportier than the outgoing model with a higher upmarket feel. At the rear too, the boot lid gets a chrome line, below which is a new bumper that imparts a sporty and wider look. The radio antenna too has now been moved from the front to the rear of the roof. While the rear changes may not be evident instantly, they do help the car's overall streamlined design. Other additions include ORVMs with integrated turn indicators and 12-spoke alloy wheels.
The long wheelbase of the Sunny, while lending a large look to the side profile, does take away some of the design co-relation between the front and rear. Most people though aren't going to mind this, as the doctrine of "bigger the better" continues to work well in India. With the new Sunny, Nissan seems to have touched upon some of the key expectations of consumers.
Overall, the new Nissan Sunny with its design looks to be a premium product within its segment, which is an important point for many buyers. It looks more matured and should help make a better impression on the customers walking into a Nissan showroom.
On the powertrain front, not much has changed as the company retains the units from the outgoing version. The diesel engine though has been re-mapped to offer slightly more power and higher fuel-efficiency. Nissan claims the new diesel Sunny to deliver 22.71 km/l, slightly more than a kilometer from the older version. We got a chance to drive the petrol engine variant with the Xtronic CVT and the diesel variant, which is available only with a manual gearbox.
The HR 15 petrol engine develops about 98 hp @ 6,000 rpm, when paired to a manual transmission, with the output going up to about 100 hp @ 5,600 rpm in the case of the CVT being mated to the engine. With the torque rated at 134 Nm @ 4,000 rpm, the low-end pulling power is adequate regardless of the transmission type. One of the first thing users of the older Sunny will notice is the quieter cabin, which is a result of improved NVH. Nissan engineers have improved the insulation in areas beyond doors, as a result of which the effect is significant.
Overall performance of the engine is acceptable and allows for an easy driving experience daily. This could be different though if you happen to opt for the CVT variant. The unit exhibits the common 'rubber-band' effect of CVTs quite evidently, wherein a sudden throttle input generates quick increase in engine rpm, and even more dramatic increase in sound with no corresponding increase in velocity. One needs to wait for what felt like a couple of seconds before the speedometer starts following the tachometer momentum. The CVT is best suited for city traffic, where it would greatly lower driving effort but out on highways or on winding roads it lacks the overall significantly quicker response found in the Honda City's CVT, which is equipped with a torque converter.
The diesel engine is the one that impressed us more due to its overall balanced nature. The Renault-sourced K9K dCi 1.5 l engine develops about 85 hp, which sounds less but is covered up by the 200 Nm of torque. Turbo-lag is ignorable and pulling from low-speed is a smooth process. The engine's slightly higher output has been achieved through optimised mapping with the mechanicals remaining unchanged. The diesel clatter is audible in the cabin but is lesser than the older version owing to the NVH improvements. Performance is adequate and won't give consumers reasons to complain on their daily commutes. The manual transmission rows freely between gears and a light clutch adds to driving ease.
Overall, the engines offer acceptable performance but aren't the reason for buying the new Sunny. The key reasons why you would buy one are explained hereon.
Into the cabin of the new Sunny, it's easy to spot some of the changes such as the piano black finish carried from the Nissan Micra. In line with the exterior changes, the interior too has been spruced up to offer a more upmarket feel. The steering wheel has been redesigned and is now leather wrapped and offers significantly better looking steering controls than the outgoing model. In case of opting for the higher variants, one also gets leather seats, a two-din audio system and reverse parking camera.
When it comes to space, especially at the rear, the Sunny outscores even some luxury sedans costing over five times its price! Rear passengers are bound to appreciate the space at their disposal, which is not limited to legroom but also covers headroom and shoulder room. While the back support is good, the thigh support demands more attention, but not to the extent of causing any discomfort. Chauffeur-driven owners will find it hard to look at other cars if space is their priority.
As the engine performance suggests, the Sunny's dynamics are equipped to satiate the needs of commute. Ride quality is quite good, making the rear seat a comfortable place on the roads we encounter in India. From a driver's perspective, the Sunny is easy to manoeuvre in traffic despite its extra length. The long wheelbase and the soft suspension do not make for a case of driving hard as there is evident body-roll along with a reluctance to change directions quickly. The steering seems to have been added with some weight in comparison with the earlier model but the feedback is vague. Overall, the car handles well for those occasional emergency situations but doesn't provide an engaging driving experience.
As consumers increasingly demand for safety features, Nisan has taken the right step by bolstering its offering in this space on the new Sunny. One of the two new premium packs brings in two additional side airbags in the car, which is still not a common feature in this price segment. The other premium pack offers leather wrapped seats. Even on the basic and middle variants, driver airbag and ABS is standard offering. The top variant, sans any packs, gets dual-front airbags. The packaging in safety by Nissan deserves appreciation in India, which has one of the most unsafe traffic globally.
At the end of the second day of driving the new Nisan Sunny, we were impressed by the thought that went into planning the new car. The engineers have been able to address most of the shortcomings of the older car from a mass-market perspective. The new comfort & convenience features, better safety, more appealing design and the massive space at the rear make the new Sunny a much better car than earlier.
Nissan is offering eight variants to choose from, translating into a wide spread of price range for consumers. By the time you read this review, Nissan would've announced the prices of this car. If key requirements include rear seat space, good ride quality and everyday practicality, the new Nissan Sunny could be a good choice subject to its price-competitiveness.
Text & Photo: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah / Arpit Mahendra