Nissan Sunny

SUNNY SIDE UP

“Japanese brand puts its new global sedan on Middle East roads”

In various guises, Nissan’s venerable Sunny has been plying its trade on Gulf roads for 40 years. It’s sure been around a long time - longer even than that old Hard Rock Café building that stands like a sentinel to more leisurely days in Dubai or the delightful Chico’s restaurant in Bahrain.

So little wonder the Sunny is Nissan’s highest volume-seller in the Middle East and the Japanese auto maker is number one in the C-segment in the Gulf, thanks to the appeal of the Sunny and Tiida.

The all-new compact sedan from Nissan has had its regional launch kick-started in Dubai with a leisurely run down the Dubai Al Ain highway and back again, stopping for a pleasant graze at the delightful Al Maha Desert resort.

The Sunny is being billed by the Japanese car maker as a “global affordable sedan.” It’s definitely global; around the world it has more last names than Elizabeth Taylor – Sunny, Sentra and Versa just for starters.

Also marketed as an ideal choice for “young families wanting a medium-sized sedan,” the Middle East’s Sunny is built in India. Quality of the Indian product won’t be a lacking – just ask Jag/Land Rover – but it will be interesting to see if there is any resistance from customers.

The Sunny is powered by a 1.5 liter fuel-injected four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission, giving it the potential to become a “projected class leader in fuel economy,” Nissan claims. The latest Sunny is available with four-speed automatic and five-speed manual transmission.

The new sedan will fill a void in the Nissan line-up, following a noticeable push for city-friendly sedans, including the Ford Fiesta and Mazda's 2 but the Accent and Yaris are the ones it could give some serious hurry-up.

Nissan has been operating in the Middle East since commencing operations in Saudi Arabia in 1957 so the manufacturer knows how to screw a car together that resonates with motorists in this part of the world. It has been 10 years since the last all-new Sunny rose over the Gulf.

The grille is new and it will be on all Nissan sedans from now on. The interior is actually quite pleasant for the segment and it’s as user-friendly as can be.

Space up front is great, as it is in the back. Nissan is touting that there is more rear legroom than some mid-size sedans and even luxury cars, but it’s clearly true. The car looms as a first-rate little family sedan. The trunk is quite cavernous for a car that looks a small as it does.

Your tester’s experiences are based on some 214 kilometers on gun barrel -straight highway, some city traffic, flyovers and a tiny bit of heavy-duty dirt stuff. It was a fleeting encounter but I can say that the suspension is well sorted and composed, acceleration is relatively leisurely. I mightn’t have chased any Ferraris off the road but the 1.5 did enough as it squeezed out its 99 hp.

And it’s a treat to report there was little noise intrusion and having a conversation didn’t require yelling over a shamal.

Size and weight have been reduced in keeping with international trends. There’s a new global platform and drivetrain, reducing the size of engine and transmission as well as the number of component parts and platform weight.

The latest Sunny’s front-wheel drive global V platform (for versatile) uses nearly 20 percent fewer platform components and weighs roughly 150 pounds less than its predecessor.

Safety is at a premium and there are plenty of leisure goodies too. The base model gets dual airbags, a trip computer, CD/MP3 stereo with AUX jack, an impressive a/c and ABS with EBD. The optioned up vehicle throws in 15-inch alloys, Bluetooth, rear comfort fans, keyless entry, parking sensors and quite a bit more. Those rear fans might seem blindingly obvious but they’re first in class.

This is not a driver's car, but you shouldn’t get in expecting to intimidate Seb Vettel at the traffic lights after you come off the causeway in Bahrain. It is a point A to point B vehicle. Nothing more, nothing less. But the Sunny gets full marks for its performance as exactly that type of vehicle.

The Sunny boasts plenty of space in a frugal, practical package. It’s also important not to lose sight of what you’re driving. The Sunny ticks the boxes for what customers need on certain budgets – roomy, reliable, a steady drive and an enticing sticker price. Overall, Nissan has delivered a car that’s easy to live with.

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