Before the Nissan V-platform sedan came out, there was a lot of speculation about its probable name. Some said that it could be the Versa – the name Nissan gave the V-platform sedan in the US – and some hinted towards ‘Almera’ as it was classy enough for a sedan that would take on the likes of the Verna, Vento and City. However, Nissan stuck to ‘Sunny’, a name that has been the Japanese carmaker’s pride for over 45 years now. It was a name chosen back in 1966 through a competition in Japan where 8 million people voted in to give the car a youthful, vibrant name. We took it on a spin from Chennai to Pondicherry to find out if this definition makes sense for the tenth generation of the Sunny that’s now come to India.
We have already established that the Nissan Sunny is based on the V-platform. It is the same platform that underpins the Micra. But before you discount the Sunny as a mere Micra-sedan, let’s get a few facts straight. The Sunny boasts of a 2600mm wheelbase, which is up by 150mm over that of the Micra. At 4425mm, the length of the Sunny is substantially longer too, allowing for a large boot and an elongated front end. These increased dimensions have given the Sunny tons of cabin space, however, when you look at its profile, the small car to sedan conversion is evident. The rear overhang is a bit too pronounced for my liking. So is Nissan’s incorporation of the ‘Bangle-butt’ and the sloping roofline, which gives the boot-lid too much elevation as compared to the bonnet and the shoulder line.
But apart from this imbalance, the rest of the car looks quite sober and the large glass areas give an overview of the roomy cabin inside. The wheel wells look well-nourished with the 15” alloys on the top end XV variant while the bottom variants get 14” steel rims. Nissan has taken the pains of painting the insides of the wheel-wells in body colour to give the car a more wholesome look.
Look at the Sunny from the front and it can be mistaken as a bigger Swift DZire in a passing glance. The Sunny is bulbous, with its curvaceous bonnet, eye-shaped headlights and a shoulder-line that starts at the bottom of the front bumper and outlines the front wheel arches to highlight the car’s organic lines. Upfront is the trademark trapezoidal Nissan grille which gets black slats and a chrome outline for a premium touch. The higher variants get fog lights with black surrounds.
The rear end of the Nissan Sunny looks massive. It has the design flair of the Nissan Teana and the ‘Bangle-butt’ does give the boot an executive look. The swept back headlights look classy and make the similar taillights on the Swift DZire look so 20th century. Nissan, however, has made minimal use of chrome on the tailgate, even on the top end variant. The only chrome you’ll see is on the Nissan emblem and the ‘Sunny’ and variant monograms.
Overall, the Nissan Sunny’s curvaceous design gives a fresh choice amongst sharper-designed cars like the Vento, City, Fiesta and Etios, without being generous with the too many organic lines like the ones seen on the new Fluidic Verna.
So, how does Sunny feel? Let’s start with first act of getting into the car. The door handles on the Sunny feel quite clumsy and produce an uninspiring metallic clunk on operation. Thanks to the big doors that open out wide, ingress and egress is easy even for tall and generously endowed individuals. Get into the driver's seat and you'll see the curvaceous theme flowing into the cabin as well. Closing the door produces a gentle thud, which adds a premium and solid feel to the car. While the driver's seat can be adjusted for height and reach, the steering is adjustable for height only.
The instrumentation on the Sunny is quite simple - with the clocks 'printed' on a flat, matte panel - you don't get the 3D instrumentation like the City or the chrome garnished clocks like the Vento. The Sunny's instrumentation has a blue backlighting like the Verna, but uses sober luminance to make things comfortable for the driver. The instrumentation also incorporates a small LCD for digital readouts of the odometer, trip meter and real-time fuel economy indicator. The centre console is un-uniform - it borrows the circular climate control unit from the Micra to go with the circular air vents, door handles and the push starter but then there is the rectangular audio head unit and central AC vents do not match anything else in the car. We wonder if the folks at Nissan decided to play potluck with the design units.
The plastics feel low-rent as compared to the competition - use of soft plastics could have addressed this issue better. The grey colour scheme on the dashboard plastics tends to reflect in the windshield when driven in harsh daylight, another downer. The Sunny also loses out on storage spaces - you get a tiny glove compartment, two cubby holes below the centre console, only one seat pocket and two can holders on the rear seat armrest; there are no door pockets on either doors and no storage spaces for the rear seat passengers.
However, the rear seat is still the place to be in the Sunny. With the increased wheelbase over the Micra, Nissan has managed to pack in oodles of cabin space into the Sunny. Even with the front seats completely retracted there is plenty of knee room at the back. What I miss though is adequate thigh support and foot space. The seat cushioning is spot on, nevertheless and proved quite comfortable on our 200 km long journey from Chennai to Pondicherry. I also like the inclusion of rear fans for the rear seat passengers. Do not mistake these to rear seat AC vents though. They act like the CPU fans in your desktop computer and merely re-circulate the air better within the cabin. A clever addition, that.
With only two head-rests on the back bench and paraphernalia intentioned, the Sunny is an ideal chauffeur driven car for two. But if a fat features list amazes you more than sheer comfort, then you have got to look elsewhere.
Crank up the Sunny and the HR15DE engine quickly settles into a silent idle. This engine belongs to the same family as that of the Micra's 1.2, but instead, displaces 1498cc. The petrol mill puts out a decent 100 PS of power at 6000 rpm and 134 Nm of torque at 4000rpm. The peaky power and torque means that the Sunny is slightly sluggish when trotting around in city traffic. The midrange and top end and significantly meatier but the HR15DE doesn’t seem too eager to rev, especially in the current state of tune. The climb through the rev-range is slow as compared to other naturally aspirated cars in the Sunny’s segment. The engine has a lovely note though and lack of insulation on the hood only means that you will pushed to rev the Sunny harder when you hear the grumble.
In the city, the Sunny is as smooth as a feather. The steering is light and so is the clutch. The gear shits are smooth. But if you are a performance enthusiast, then the Sunny won’t cut the cake for you. Like on the handling front for example, the Sunny exhibited a fair amount of body roll on the few curves we encountered on the Chennai-Pondicherry highway. If pushed hard around tighter twisties, I’m expecting the Sunny to break a sweat even with the grippy tyres it comes with. But for the sort of ride comfort that the Sunny offers, the body roll is comparatively minimal. The suspension swallows most undulations in the road without any drama and exhibited no thudding even on some broken sections of the highway. On the open stretches, the Sunny is very stable and quite too.
Though the hood doesn’t have any insulation, the cabin is protected well from the outside world. There is hardly any road noise creeping into the car and when running below 3,000 revs, there is no engine noise either. The Bridgestones on the top end XV are a tad more silent than the 14” J K Tyre rubber that the XL model comes laden with.
The Sunny will incorporate ABS with EBD and airbags on all the three models. However, the brake bite on our test car was spongy and not very confidence inspiring. But Nissan says this would be fixed on the final models. Therefore you’ll have to wait for our full fledged road test to know the braking times, their efficiency and of course the acceleration and fuel economy figures.
The Nissan Sunny’s USP is its generous cabin space. It also has a decent feature list ranging from the push-button starter on the top end variant to the ABS+EBD and airbags which come standard on all variants. But in spite of the space and array of creature comforts, the ultimate deciding factor for the Sunny will be its price tag. With no diesel engine under its hood, yet, the Sunny will need a great sticker price to take on its petrol rivals like the Vento, Fiesta, Verna and more importantly, the Honda City.
Click here to browse through the entire specs, variant and features list of the Nissan Sunny for India