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Nissan Sunny - More car, per car

Snapshot: Nissan updates the Sunny with useful new features and improved interiors. Things are looking bright for midsize sedan buyers

After having focussed most of their energies on the Micra facelift and Terrano SUV last couple of years, Nissan is all set to bring back the Sunny sedan on the car buyer’s radar. The Sunny which was launched in 2011 managed to get good sales numbers initially but sales seem to have tempered down largely due to the arrival of fresher rivals. Nissan now hopes that the updated looks will bring back much needed buzz around the Sunny brand, which will translate into better sales. Well, that’s the plan atleast!

Exterior
In its bid to make the car look more upmarket, Nissan have gone overboard on the use of chrome detailing. The grille and fog lamp housing gets chrome surrounds. There is also a new headlamp design, its peeled back look makes the car’s face look similar to the much more expensive (but now defunct) Teana. At the rear the top-end version gets a huge chrome strip at the back and a new tail lamp design, which looks classy. The side profile remains unchanged, the top versions come with a new set of alloy wheels. Overall, the car looks sleeker, well balanced and posher than before.

Interior
The Sunny’s cabin is the last word on interior space in its segment. The rear seats of the Sunny not only offer the best space in its own class, the Sunny can actually trump more expensive cars in this area. There is no dearth of leg-shoulder or headroom inside this car.   

Nissan has made plenty of useful changes as well. The steering wheel is all new. It now houses easy to operate telephony and stereo controls on it, replacing the circular ones on the last car.The beige theme is still present along with the circular design language but addition of the piano black finish on the centre of the dashboard looks classy. The gauges haven’t been changed and look sharp and easy to read. The 490-litre boot adds to the practicality and makes this one of the best cars for airport transfers. The top-end versions get leather seats and leather-covered gear knob, and a new two-DIN audio system with Bluetooth and a display screen which doubles up as a display for the reversing camera.

Engine, performance and gearbox
The car comes with two engine options. A 1.5-litre diesel DCi with 85bhp and a petrol 1.5-litre unit with 98bhp. The petrol we drove came with a CVT-automatic while the diesel was a manual. The CVT feels effortless to drive around town and just a hint of throttle is enough to get it going. The petrol engine feels very responsive even from low revs making this an effortless car around town. You also get an ‘L’ mode on the CVT, which means the engine holds onto the revs longer. This mode is ideal for climbing up the hill when you need more torque or when coming down one since it helps with engine braking. However, when you push the car hard, the CVT’s rubber band effect lets the engine down. The revs rise along with a lot of noise but there is little in terms of the speeds building up.

The diesel is one of the most refined and responsive units at this price point. It feels alert from as low as 1,500 rpm making it a good car for driving in the city. It’s a free revving engine and revs all the way to 5,000 rpm. The good part is that the engine feels very relaxed and quiet even at higher revs making the cabin a pleasant place to be in. The gearbox on the Sunny diesel is pretty good too. Its slick enough for most users and has a light throw. The clutch is a bit heavy though and a dead pedal is missing, which is a gross oversight that Nissan should address soon.

Ride and handling
The Sunny isn’t a sporty handler and those looking for driving thrills will have to look elsewhere. The steering wheel weighs up well and offers decent feel but it’s not direct. Still handling is predictable and safe. The Sunny’s suspension is nicely set-up and has a nice cushioning ride at slow city speeds, however, the suspension does make a loud ‘thud’ each time it hits a big patchwork road. On the highway the car remains very stable and the ride quality is reassuring as speeds build.

Safety and equipment
In terms of safety you get dual airbags along with ABS with EBD (electronic brake force distribution)and BA(brake assist). You also get remote keyless entry. Rear parking sensors and start-stop button come as standard kit on the top-end cars.

Competition
The Toyota Etios sedan comes close on interior space, ride comfort and performance but simply can’t match the Nissan Sunny on stylish looks or ease of driving in the city. 

Summary
It’s hard to fault with the Sunny’s interior space. It should appeal to those who want upmarket looks and features at a relatively affordable price. Nissan seems to have got a nice mix for itself.

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