Automobile manufacturers have been organising new car launches and media drives in the most exotic of places, across the globe. From the Swiss Alps to the Moroccan desert or the streets of Miami --- pretty much every nation has been part of some new car drive itinerary or the other. Trying to outdo competition, most companies hunt for virgin locations, ignoring the breathtaking landscape lying unexplored closer home. Like the golden beaches of the Andamans, where we drove the 2014 Nissan Sunny.
Nissan Sunny is an accomplished sedan, but is one of the more under-rated cars in India. It is well engineered, has plenty of cabin space and comes with a couple of frugal engines. Perhaps, the only thing the current generation Nissan Sunny lacks is that, it doesn’t offer anything extraordinary in terms of design or features. It misses that flair that would make the sedan standout among its towering competition, which include stalwarts like the Honda City and the Hyundai Verna. And this is exactly what the company intends to fix with the upgraded 2014 Nissan Sunny.
When we landed at the Port Blair airport, the cool breeze came as a respite for the otherwise muggy weather. We headed straight to the 2014 Nissan Sunny which was waiting at the airport to be test driven by us. Just the way I like it, there’s no time wasted in exchanging pleasantries, as the product is expected to do the talking for itself.
The first impression that I got looking at the 2014 Nissan Sunny was that it had got a completely new face. More eye-catchy than before. It follows the company’s new design language, which is seen on the new Nissan Micra and a host of Nissan’s other international models. The tear drop headlights make way for new signature boomerang shaped ones, and a more prominent chrome front grille. The larger grille and wide air damps create a visual 'X' on the front design, giving the car more character than before. The new front bumper has new fog lamp which come with chrome highlights, adding to the bold styling of the sedan.
Not much has changed in profile of the 2014 Nissan Sunny. It still is a large car. Most variants get new 12-spoke Y-design alloys which make the car look sportier than before, and ORVMs now feature integrated turn indicators. At the back, the facelifted version gets reprofiled with wrap-around taillamps and a sleeker rear bumper which also creates another visual 'X'.
Stowing away my rather large suitcase in the spacious 490-litres of boot space I took over the driver’s seat, to realise that the cabin had a familiar design. It’s now light grey in colour and the choice of material and accents had changed for the better, making it look more modern and attractive than before. The dashboard has got brush metal highlights and the centre console has been given piano black finish making it more visually appealing.
There’s a new steering wheel with new audio controls and is wrapped in leather to give the interiors a premium look. Depending on the variant, the 2014 Nissan Sunny facelift also gets 2-DIN audio system with a 5.1-inch display. Other features include rear parking camera, Bluetooth connectivity and AUX and USB ports.
Most of the buttons and knobs have the right feel and are easy to get used to. My only displeasure is that the steering wheel only adjusts for height. Highlight of the Sunny has always been the excellent cabin space it offers, especially the rear knee-room and head-room. This continues unchanged on the 2014 Nissan Sunny making it arguably the most spacious sedan in its class.
The changes are mainly cosmetic and the powertrains remain pretty much untouched. The Nissan Sunny facelift is available with the same 99PS, 1.5-litre petrol and 86PS, 1.5-litre diesel engine options. Both the petrol and diesel engine come mated to 5-speed manual gearboxes; the petrol motor though is also offered with a CVT.
Nissan executives claimed that the Noise Vibration and Harshness (NVH) levels have been reduced on the new car. And rightly so, it seemed to be better insulated and the diesel clatter hardly filters into the car’s cabin now. The best aspect about the 2014 Nissan Sunny diesel 1.5-litre dCi is the smooth manner in which the power flows. Unlike, other turbocharged oil-burners, the dCi does not have that sudden spike of power when the turbo spools in, and power delivery is extremely linear.
It also pulls well from lower revs and the smooth surge continues till almost 3,500rpm, before the motor starts to feel stressed and begins sounding gruff. It is best to surf the engine's torque wave by shifting up early. The clutch feels slightly heavy, but the gear throws are smooth, precise and well spaced out. Nissan claims to have optimised the diesel engine by changing the ECU calibration, which help the 2014 Nissan Sunny return slightly better fuel efficiency of 22.7kmpl; an increment of 1kmpl over the older model.
Being a light car also helps in improving the fuel efficiency of the car. But, the downside here is that this Nissan doesn't feel as planted as the competiton; it feels nervous over bad patches of roads. But on flatter roads the sedan felt more planted and despite being loaded with four adults and their luggage, the 2014 Nissan Sunny did not bottom out even on harsh road bumps.
The car comes with a light steering which would make parking even in the tightest spots, a breeze. The handling is also tuned for comfort. Although the steering does weigh up with speed, it is not very communicative to please enthusiasts. Clearly, the 2014 Nissan Sunny has not been designed for the performance craving petrol-head and is targeted at the chauffeur-driven majority.
The new model will be launched next month and is expected to be priced about Rs 30,000 more than the existing model, which retails between Rs 6.68 lakh to 10.11 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai). The 2014 Nissan Sunny is an improvement over the outgoing model, but still lacks the solid feel that most of the European cars have to offer. The bold new design, addition of chrome and new features has made the sedan stand out in the crowd. For the money, this large sedan is definitely a better buy than many compact-sedans which are priced close to it.
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