When Nissan launched its sedan Sunny in 2011, it wanted to sell its size - and so we saw the numerous television advertisements that had the Sunny owner asking his chauffeur to bring in the "caaar", the word drawn out like the extended body of a limousine. The idea resonated with the public, and Sunny became Nissan's biggest success in India, accounting for almost two-thirds of all Nissan cars sold in the country. But with sales slowing down subsequently, the Japanese car maker had to think of infusing new life into the car. And thus we have the 2014 version of the Sunny.
For its launch, Nissan ignored Europe and other usual venues. Instead, the Sunny's new face was unveiled at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. There in the backdrop of the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, the revamped Sunny created an instant impression with its large, swept-back headlamps and an aggressive bumper.
The Sunny's credentials as a practical car have never been in any doubt but a serious rejig was indeed needed for this Plain Jane. A nip and tuck was surely in the offing because one of the main reasons why the Sunny faded into the background after making initial ripples in the market was its lack of visual presence in a crowd of youthful looking cars.
The new Sunny may still not be a show stopper, but it certainly makes you want to give it a second look. And when you do, you notice the changes. The front grille bulges out a bit now and is more in your face. The bumper has been given larger and more prominent air vents. The fog lamp area comes with a chrome streak which gives it the pseudo look of an LED cluster. Cheap thrills, yes, but it doesn't look shoddy at all. The Sunny now has a more premium sedan presence, thanks to the re-shaped tear drop headlights adding to its chiselled looks. Though the rear lamps remain more or less the same as in the earlier version, the wraparound bumper and chunky chrome band above the number plate add panache. Nissan has garnished the Sunny with more cosmetic features - like the ORVMs with turn indicators and new 15-inch alloy wheels for the top-of-the-line diesel variant.
Inside, the Sunny justifiably brags about its cabin space. The rear passengers continue to enjoy class-leading legroom that embarrasses many luxury cars. The interiors have been spruced up, with the centre console getting an all-black colour. Conveniently, the new 2-Din music system comes with Bluetooth connectivity. The leather-wrapped steering wheel with a prominent triangular aspect and the chrome-finished buttons impart a rich look to the car. Nissan has made sure that there is very little trace of its hatchback, the Micra, in the sedan. And since the Japanese company has not fiddled with the dimensions of the Sunny, even shopaholics will have a task filling up the 490 litres of boot space.
The Sunny retains the 1498 cc petrol and 1461 cc diesel engines. The former also comes in a CVT option. With 100 bhp at 5600 rpm, the petrol variant offers a decent pick up and has enough power to overtake road hogs in the city. When climbing an incline, however, its punch tends to falter. The petrol engine feels slightly stressed out trying to coax additional power from the engine. The diesel, on the other hand, is a smooth operator as it delivers uninterrupted linear power. There is no annoying lag or abrupt gushes of power. The 5-speed gear box's ratio is on the shorter side, so you end up shifting the stick more frequently than you would like to. The diesel engine's rattle and hum are barely audible when you drive because Nissan has reduced the Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) levels in the cabin with better insulation. The diesel variant's innards have been recalibrated and Nissan claim its mileage has improved by a litre to give 22.7 kmpl. The petrol CVT variant returns 17.97 kmpl.
The Sunny never had razor-sharp handling capabilities, and this remains true of the new version. The Sunny focuses more on comfort than on the ride. The suspensions are on the softer side, and so the car tends to wallow on uneven road. On smooth macadam, there aren't too many complaints about the ride quality. Also sharp turns leave you with the feeling that the car is not planted on the road. Deal with this by easing the foot off the gas pedal.
The new Nissan Sunny has many things going for it - it looks more contemporary, has unsurpassed cabin space and boasts spruced-up interiors and equipment. As a family car, it is value for money.
NISSAN SUNNY PETROL/DIESEL
Power: 98 bhp @ 6000 rpm (petrol manual)/ 100 bhp @ 5600 rpm (petrol automatic)/ 885 bhp @ 3750 rpm (diesel)
Torque: 134 Nm @ 4000 rpm/ 2000 Nm @ 2000 rpm
Boot space: 490 litres
Starting price: Rs 6.99 lakh (petrol)/ Rs 7.99 lakh (diesel, ex-showroom, Delhi)
Arup Das is Features Editor at AutoX