Nissan's all-new Versa is an all-new entry level saloon that's built on the same ‘V’ platform as the cute-looking Micra. The all-new car is a tailor-made assault on the surprisingly similar requirements of car compact saloon buyers in the US, China and even India. Since the Versa name belongs to Maruti in India, Nissan has chosen to badge it the Sunny here.
The Sunny is built to make an impression. It looks quite large, especially when viewed from the rear three-quarters, with its big boot, long wheelbase and massive cabin. It’s closer in size to something like a Civic or a Laura; compact it is not. Although based on the same platform as the Micra, the Sunny looks nothing like it. Only the Nissan badge appears to be common.
‘V’ for Versatile
Clearly, Nissan’s new ‘V’ or versatile platform can accommodate both compact and medium-sized cars. Platform cost saving aside, Alliance partner Renault shared parts, know-how and even helped with sourcing parts for the Sunny. The platform uses 20 percent fewer components and has knocked 100-odd kilograms off the scale.
Style and space
The Sunny doesn’t look boxy or cheap. Long flowing lines, a beautifully crafted nose and an elegant rear section mean the new Sunny actually looks very attractive from many angles. Sure, the stubby nose means some of the proportions are a bit odd. And from the rear it looks like a baby Nissan Teana!
The Sunny boasts of a Corolla Altis-sized wheelbase and that translates into a lot of room on the inside. In fact the comfy backseat has more legroom than a Mercedes E-class! The drooping roofline, however, means that you sit slightly lower than is ideal and the backrest is leant back a bit. And the front seats, if anything, are even more comfortable, with thigh support and side bolstering both very impressive.
Nissan has tried very hard to make the cabin look upmarket as well. The chrome-ringed dials, the silver accents on the steering wheel, and the Micra-like chrome door handles give the ambience a bit of a lift. Overall plastic quality and fit and finish are also up to expectations. A few cheap plastic bits like the air-con controls and window switches do exist. And at 420 litres, the boot is pretty large.
The US-spec Sunny comes with a new-generation 1600cc petrol motor. Producing a useful 109bhp, it makes more than sufficient power, and initial responses to the throttle are very good too. For the Indian market, however, the Sunny will come with a smaller 1.5-litre petrol developing 107.5bhp.
The engine feels nice and smooth and there’s enough performance, there isn’t too much grunt in the midrange. Downshift and you’ll find there’s plenty of punch in the top end, but the motor does get a bit vocal. On the gearbox front, the CVT is surprisingly good, with very little rubber-band effect present and the ability to hold engine rpm in the sweet spot. Meanwhile the five-speed manual has a crisp shift and is both light and effort-free to use.
Despite a bit of pitter-patter at low speed due to stiff damping, the Sunny’s ride quality is excellent especially once the car is up to speed. Road noise is reasonably well contained for a car of this price, bump absorption is first rate and because of the long wheelbase there isn’t too much pitching and bobbing either. It really does ride like a big car.
Also impressive is stability and handling. The Sunny tracked straight and true even at speeds as high as 140kph, with only a light grip needed on the wheel. Nissan has also done an outstanding job with the brakes. The electric power steering is both accurate and well weighted, unlike many such systems. Although, the Sunny is nice to drive and does everything you ask of it, it’s not a car that encourages you to drive it faster.
The Sunny is a car that has almost everything Indian customers want. It looks large and attractive on the outside, is extremely spacious and comfortable inside, rides, performs and drives well and feels robustly engineered too. Nissan will have a more powerful version of its 1.5-litre diesel that powers the Micra on sale soon. With the right price the Sunny has the potential to shake up the competition. Here’s a car worth waiting for.