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Sunny diesel: the backseat driver’s car

autos Updated: Mar 02, 2012 02:17 IST
Sumant Banerji

Nissan is one of the few car companies around to show restraint and refrainedfrom making a sedan out of its small car. Its entry in the mid-size sedan category with the curiously titled Sunny is anything but a Micra with a boot. When it was launched in the middle of last year, however, the Sunny had a major missing link — a diesel variant.

Nissan has filled that gap this year. The Sunny has been making waves for bringing space back into a car, so is it the new benchmark in its segment? We find out.

Clearly the USP of the car, and one that the company uses unabashedly. This is not a small sedan and one does not need to look at the rear to figure it out. The stately look can be partly attributed to the fact that the Sunny debuted in China, a country where size matters — for sedans. Though based on the same V platform as the Micra, the externals are closer to the upmarket Teana, Nissan’s most expensive offering in India. Everything with the car is large: a wide grille, bulbous head lamps, exaggerated wheel arches... The rear is not as appealing as the front, though. Bright colors like red and blue suit the Sunny better than the traditional silver grey or white. It may not be a head turner, but it does stands out.

It is here that shades of Micra start creeping in. From the instrument cluster to the centre console, the similarities are in your face. The steering has a nice chunky feel to it. The highlight however is the abundant leg room at the rear. Spacious enough for three adults though headroom is at a premium due to the sloping roof. The list of equipment is long and handy: rear AC vents (rare in this segment), standard driver-side airbags (a Renault Nissan alliance philosophy), a cavernous 490-litre boot — next only to the SX4 and Etios... Against it: dated look, lack of colour contrast, a few ergonomic niggles (no rear-door bottle holders, for instance, and a pint-sized glovebox).

Drive and handling
The diesel Sunny is powered by Renault-Nissan’s favourite 1.5 litre K9K engine that also does duty in the Micra and the Pulse. So the engine is not new per se, but it has been reconfigured for such a large saloon, developing over 20 bhp more power and 40 NM more torque than the one doing duty on the Micra.
However, the turbo on it is a low-performance, fixed geometry type unlike the competition (Verna, Vento...) that are more power-packed. You don’t have to wait for the turbo to kick in: power is available very early on. But floor the pedal, and the engine begins to feel strained. The suspension is on the soft side for riding comfort, which is nice, but handling suffers as a result. It sure is not happy taking on bends and curves.

The Sunny gets a range of over 800 km on a full 41-litre tank, par for the course. In the city, the range drops substantially, but it’s still frugal vehicle. Nothing to complain here.

The petrol Sunny, when it was launched, baffled us with its pricing. At under R6 lakh, it really hit the sweet spot and confused the buyer as to whether it was a entry-level sedan, or premium. The diesel has no such qualms.

A starting price of close to R8 lakh means it is on par with the likes of the Verna, Vento and SX4. It has the best legroom in the segment and a very sorted ride quality. Cons: it is more a city car and does not match up to its competitors’s performance.

Also Nissan is not a badge to brag about yet, and the servicing aspect remains suspect.

Maybe the company thought it could command a premium with diesel, but we think the price is something of a dampener. If you are more the driver than the passenger, look elsewhere. Else, this offers everything you would need — minus the “badge value”.

Sunny side up: Nissan vs the rest