Nissan created a fair size sensation when it launched the Sunny back in 2011. This big-on-the-inside car delivered plenty of roominess for the money, and initially customers loved it. The Sunny’s run of success, however, was short lived. More attractive and better equipped new cars overshadowed its core strengths and Nissan’s strictly average service setup did it no favours either.
Now Nissan is doing all it can to reclaim lost ground. The company has taken distribution and dealer development back from independent company Hover, the new feature-rich Sunny has been specifically tailored to meet the requirements of Indian car buyers, and Nissan is likely to offer the car at a really attractive price as well.
It certainly looks more interesting, with its Teana-like headlights that go deeper into the bumper and more prominent Nissan grille. The chin of the car has been tidied up as well, with a bit of chrome around the fog lights that adds to the more grown-up look. The rear of the car is better looking too. A black ‘splitter’ has been used to break up the mass of that large 490-litre boot, and the Sunny gets new tail-lights and alloys as well (the car in the pictures is the mid-spec CVT variant, so it misses out on the alloys and some of the design flourishes).
There are even more changes on the inside; in fact, it’s an all-new approach. The 50 shades of grey interior is gone, and in its place comes one that is a lot more luxurious and interesting. You no longer feel you are sitting in a base-spec car as the new leather-wrapped steering, chrome-lined dials, piano black centre console and silver accents lift the ambience if the cabin considerably. The higher versions get leather seats and leather-covered gear knobs, and a new two-DIN audio system also provides Bluetooth and a display screen for the reversing camera. Also really nice are the steering-mounted audio controls that are finished in chrome. Built very differently from the regular plastic fare, they too lend a touch of class to the cabin.
The Sunny also has a shocking amount of room in the rear. Shoulder, head and especially legroom are segment transcending, and it feels so roomy and airy, there is absolutely no feeling of being cramped. The back seat is a bit short on thigh support, but otherwise feels really comfortable, and the feeling of space is present at the front of the cabin too. What also works well on this car is the ride quality. The Sunny absorbs the bumps and dips in the road quite easily and even really bad patches only cause some amount of juddering; so now it’s even better for being chauffeured around in. There's also noticeably less pitch from the car.
What the Sunny isn’t, is a great driver’s car. The light steering and soft controls are all very well if all you want to do is negotiate traffic, but try and drive the car briskly and you will be disappointed. The suspension and tyres don’t exert much grip on the road, handling is loose and laid back, and there isn’t much in the way of feedback from the steering either.
There are no mechanical changes to the car, so the 98bhp, 1.5-litre petrol CVT we are driving feels just effortless and responsive when you tap the throttle. This is great for cruising around. Ask for more performance, however, and you will be left disappointed. The CVT’s rubberband effect makes its presence felt, and the motor strains and sounds loud until the performance catches up with the stretching transmission. The 1.5-litre diesel is a bit better, and does appear to have been tuned differently for the facelift. There’s very little lag in town, the engine pulls well from low speeds, and there's more response in the upper end of the powerband as well. But the spike in power you associate with diesels is just not there, so it is best to keep shifting early. The diesel, however, is pretty refined and the cabin insulation appears to have been improved as well, so it's a fair bit quieter than before.
Now nicer to look at, better equipped and more luxurious on the inside, the very spacious new Sunny delivers a lot of car. And priced just Rs 30,000-40,000 more than the outgoing car, you’re not paying a huge premium for the upgrades either. It may not be sporty or fun to drive and it may not be as mainstream as its other competitors either, but if you are looking for comfortable, spacious, well equipped, and relatively affordable mid-size sedan, this could be it.