2014 Nissan Sunny Sedan Facelift – CarToq’s First Drive Review

There are two kinds of facelifts in the car world. 1. The teeny-weeny kind of facelift that is only meant to get the news mills rolling for some much needed attention. 2. The more comprehensive facelift that takes customer feedback seriously and adds features to make the facelifted car much better than the outgoing version. The 2014 Nissan Sunny Facelift firmly belongs to the latter school. So there, that’s the one paragraph review for folks in a hurry. For the rest, read on! 

The Andaman and Nicobar isles represent India’s seaward frontier on the east and one would think that such idyllic surroundings are more apt for honeymooners than motoring scribes, but boy were we surprised. Port Blair, which also happens to be the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, is one long, twisty road with beaches, hills and dense tropical forests thrown in for good measure.

In other words, the city has it all, especially if one wants to experience a car across varied terrains. Swinging into the facelifted Sunny diesel sedan on a cloudy Friday afternoon, the first thing that’ll strike you is the new steering wheel. Nissan has given the older steering sourced from the Micra the heave-ho and has used a steering from the larger Teana. The leather on the steering makes the Sunny feel more premium, and this is a conscious effort to make the car feel a lot better right from get-go.

The dashboard gets a once over too, especially the part in front of the left passenger. Although the greige (Grey+Beige) colour theme remains, the facelifted Sunny’s dashboard now looks different and un-Micra like. Nissan has added a piano black finish to the center console, a feature inspired by the Micra Facelift, and also a reverse parking camera whose display doubles up as the infotainment unit. The USB feature that was missing in the older Sunny makes it to the new model. The USB port can also be used as a charging point. So, a data cable is all it takes to charge devices such as cellphones, Sat-Nav modules and MP3 players.

Driving ergonomics on the Sunny have never been a bother and they’re no different in the facelifted model too. The controls such as the wiper and indicator stalks, and the push button start fall easily to hand and finding a comfortable driving position is pretty straightforward.  Talking comfort, Nissan has also worked on re-cushioning the seats and the leather used feels plush. The rear AC blower is retained and so is the recessed layout for the rear seats in the interest of headroom. However, the headroom can still be an issue for taller folks as the coupe like roofline rakes down sharply. However, the airy beige interior trim does its bit to ensure that the Sunny’s rear doesn’t feel claustrophobic.  In the sun down hours, the eagle eyed amongst you will also notice a mildly revised instrumentation console, with the MID unit reading white instead of red.

How does it drive?

Getting a move on, the first thing we noticed was the lightness of the clutch, which was very un-diesel like. The pre-facelift Sunny had a heavier clutch and the facelifted model’s clutch feels more like one on a petrol powered car. Driving about town with plenty of gear changes thrown in just got easier on the facelifted Sunny. Notably, the gear knob gets leather treatment on the top-end Sunny and feels better to hold. The steering is electric assisted and predictably light at parking speeds. Though the steering is small enough to be called sporty, the way the Sunny sedan steers can’t be called that, especially when the going gets faster and twistier.

Throwing the car around the innumerable corners that Port Blair’s roads feature, the Sunny Diesel clearly feels like a car that’s set up to deliver a plush ride for its occupants rather than sharp handling for the driver. Quite fair, considering the acres of leg room and the car’s intended purpose. Overall, the steering feels reasonably precise and weighs up well at speeds of about 100 Kph. We couldn’t go any faster than this given the very twisty roads of Port Blair. Summing it up, the handling at speeds south of 100 Kph felt quite assuring although body roll does creep in when the car is pushed hard around the tighter corners.

A revelation though was how silent the new Sunny Diesel’s 1.5 liter K9K motor was. You must note that most stretches of Port Blair, barring the main streets, are very quiet and even amid the quietude, the Sunny Diesel wasn’t the biggest noise maker. Well, the conversations in car and the nice music wafting from the stereo were. Nissan India’s product planners did elaborate on their extensive work to reduce NVH levels in the Sunny Facelift and these efforts do come through, especially on the refinement levels of the diesel powered Sunny. The Sunny has always been a plush riding car and the facelifted model is no different. The Sunny Facelift’s suspension soaks up road imperfections quite well while being firm enough for the car not to bottom out on the larger imperfections. As we emphasized before, this car, with its immense leg room and plush ride quality, is just perfect for being inducted into the chauffeur fleet.

Engine and Transmission

Moving to the grunt department, the Sunny Diesel’s engine bay houses the familiar 1.5 liter Renault K9K turbo diesel motor. This engine outputs 85 Bhp and 200 Nm, and comes with a 5 speed manual gearbox, whose gear shifts are positive and precise. The engine is smooth even at higher revs north of 4,000 rpm with a note that feels well damped. Driveability is a strong suit of the 1.5 liter K9K motor, and on the Sunny, the engine shines in the low and mid rpm ranges. The motor pulls strongly from speeds of 40-50 Kph in 4th gear and the low end torque really comes shining through. Turbo lag is very minimal and third gear is good enough for ambling around relaxed-ly. The diesel engine ECU comes with an anti-stall function that opens throttle when it senses an imminent stall and this is another reason why the Sunny Diesel pulls cleanly low rpms.  We didn’t take the Sunny beyond 100-110 Kph. So, high speed performance on the engine in the 120-160 Kph range is something we wouldn’t be able to comment on. That said, the previous Sunny Diesel was known to lose steam beyond speeds of 120 Kph and this factor should hold good in the facelifted version as well. Nissan claims a bump up in fuel efficiency, from an ARAI certified 21.64 Kmpl to 22.71 Kmpl, due to an ECU remap.

Design

In the short product briefing we had about the Nissan Sunny Facelift and in keeping with the Father’s Day spirit, Mr. Chikuya Takada, the General Manager of Product Planning at Nissan India, did express a rare, emotional side of Japanese corporate professionals when he reminisced about the way his dad had chosen a 3rd generation Nissan (then, Datsun) Sunny and how he’d refused to buy the fourth generation model as it looked bland. So, the effort with the facelifted, 10th generation Sunny – the current version – was to get a sharper looking design rather than continuing with the bulbous lines of the outgoing model.

To an extent, Takada San and Nissan designers have succeeded as the headlamps get sharply raked, reducing monotony up front. Indians love chrome and Nissan has taken note of this and added a few dollops to the front end. In fact the grille, fog lamp inserts and even the front bumper get generous helpings of chrome and this should please a fair share of Sunny buyers here. Chrome makes a reappearance on the door handles, both inside and outside the car, and even on the boot, where a strip of chrome rounds off proceedings. The lower variants don’t feature this profusion of chrome though.

The profile remains largely unchanged and so do the bulbous lines leading to the boot. However, the alloy wheels get a new design and so do the wing mirrors, which now house the turn indicators. Another subtle change on the car is the re-positioning of the radio antenna to the rear of the roof rather than having it stick out from up front. The Sunny still feels top heavy and there’s nothing much the facelift has done to change that. However, many car buyers do love long cars and the Sunny Facelift could strike a chord with those looking for a “Badi Gaddi“. The Sunny looks every bit of the large XL size that Nissan India fervently advertises with its “Caaaaaar” campaign. Revised alloy wheels and a re-profiled rear bumper on the large and prominent boot round off the Sunny’s bulbous looks. Talking about the Sunny Facelifts derriere, the boot is large and deep enough to gobble up a couple of big suitcases.

Quick round up of the Sunny CVT

We also spent a brief time with the Sunny CVT, a car that is so smooth at idle that you’d be hard pressed to say if its ticking over. Notching the gear shift into drive, the CVT glides ahead very smoothly and as long as you’re taking it easy, the Sunny CVT feels very effortless, almost like a four wheeled Vespa 125. The steering of the car felt heavier than the diesel powered version and was more poised around the curves, and the suspension was as plush as diesel version’s.

The Sunny CVT’s shortcomings become apparent when you need to get going at a fast clip. The CVT gearbox doesn’t like hard acceleration and mashing the pedal produces more whining from the noise 1.5 liter HR15DE petrol engine than rapid forward momentum. A few moments and the CVT rubber band effect later, the Sunny CVT gains decent speeds. Sudden acceleration on uphill sections isn’t something that the petrol motor and CVT gearbox enjoy. Things get perkier in the sport mode though, where the CVT gearbox’s response is more urgent.

Even while on the sport mode, overtaking requires a fair bit of planning in the Nissan Sunny CVT. In a nutshell, the Nissan Sunny CVT is the “Big Easy”, a car that is effortless to drive in and about town as long as your prefer wafting along. Actually, the Sunny CVT can make for a good chauffeur driven car for folks who want an electric train-like seamless yet steady performance and don’t want to be jostled by mundane matters such as the driver shifting gears.

Summary

Nissan India has taken buyer feedback very seriously and the results are evident in the facelifted Sunny. The car is more feature loaded than the outgoing variant and also gets many subtle but effective improvements such as better ride quality, lower NVH levels and better seats. The car will be sold in 8 variants – 3 petrol and 5 diesel. The petrol engined variants are the XE, XL and XL CVT. The diesel variants are the XE, XL, XV, XV Premium Pack 1 and XV Premium Pack 2. Premium Pack 1 adds leather accessories such as seats, steering cover and gearknob while the Premium Pack 2 adds curtain airbags.

Twin airbags and ABS+EBD are standard safety features on the XV variant. If Nissan India can price the Sunny Facelift shortly, the car is capable of doing much better numbers than it is doing presently. Also, the automaker has taken full control of the marketing and distribution functions after worsting Hover Automotive India. This move, along with sharp pricing and better after sales, should give the Sunny Facelift a fighting chance at the hustings. Nissan India will launch the facelifted Sunny sedan in early July.