Scenic, boulder-strewn seaside village of Mahabalipuram was the backdrop for a firsthand experience of Nissan's premium sedan for India, the Sunny. Home for cave temples, sculptures, and monolithic carvings, Mahabalipuram stands testament to Pallava's architectural excellence. And the Sunny, like the sculptures of Mahabalipuram, catches the eye with well-sculpted exterior, with every line carved to perfection.
Sunny's face is attractive and sleek, featuring Nissan's signature grille and jewel-like headlamps. In profile, the Sunny displays a pronounced high running beltline that slopes from the headlamps, with the roof inclines elegantly to the rear, giving it the appeal of a coupé. Out back, the trunk offers a healthy 490 litres of luggage room but doesn't look bulky at all. Thanks to the flowing lines and tail lamps that sweep back into the rear fender, you might even mistake it for the luxury model Teana in a quick glimpse.
Inside, the USP of the Sunny is space, especially at the back seat. It offers chair-like seating that you can comfortably sit with your legs crossed even when the front seats are completely pushed back. One has to agree to Nissan's claim that the interior space matches BMW 5-series or Mercedes-Benz E-class. However, the car has a lot of Micra in it. Apart from the instrument panel, music system and A/C vents on the centre console, everything else is pretty much inherited from the Micra. The dashboard also suffers from granite-hard surfaces and flagrant cost cutting. Moreover, the music system is basic, without USB or Bluetooth support.
However, those minor flaws are overshadowed by the best in class safety features. Available in the XE, XL and XV variants, Sunny offers ABS, EBD, Brake Assist and driver airbags on ALL three variants. The top variants offer passenger airbags, climate control, steering mounted controls and electric adjusted mirrors. Like the Micra, the XV gets keyless entry and push start/stop button and 15-inch alloy wheels.
Another worth-mentioning feature is a two-speed rear comfort fan the pulls cool air from the front cabin and circulates it to the rear seats.
Behind the wheel, the Sunny impresses with its smooth, quiet ride and is adept on a demanding country road. Only the merest flutter of wind noise is noticeable even at 120kmph, and although some road noise intrudes on rough surfaces, it's never a bother. Independent MacPherson struts in front and a non-independent torsion beam at the rear strike a good balance between comfort and control, I felt some body roll at sharp curves at speed though.
The 1.5 litre petrol engine develops 98 bhp at 6,000 rpm and 134 Nm of torque at 4000rpm, which makes it more powerful than many others in the segment. The meaty part of the torque is at the low end of the rev range, making it responsive and easy to maneuver. Gear ratios are, however, not favourable for highway cruising. Shifting isn't smooth either.
Overall, it's hard to think of a box that the Nissan Sunny doesn't tick. But, timing is everything when it comes to successful car launches — so it's going to be sort of unfortunate for Nissan to introduce the Sunny hot on the heels of the petrol price hike. And that gives us more hope for a Diesel variant before long, even though Nissan is mum on the matter right now.