The Sunny was originally Nissan's answer to the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Mitsubishi Lancer. Relatively cheap, reliable, simple. These were grocery getting, baby carrying, pleasantly inoffensive shapes lurking amongst the lamppost dotted urban landscape.
How it began: This particular Sunny was originally no different. In fact, in its original form it was the quintessential ugly duckling. It used to be a bland refrigerator-white car with skinny tires. Except it had something a little unusual inside the engine bay which got Imran Aziz to get it. More on that later.
Known as the N16 model (officially offered 2000-2005), this bodyshape existed well into 2009 with light changes to trim. Right now, this particular Sunny is an industrial shade of metallic grey. It's also become a showcase on how restrained customization can turn a typical forgettable sedan into something much smarter looking. It received an aftermarket set of headlamps (set cost him around 11 thousand) with projector lamps and darker surrounds, giving it a little bit of a menace. That's further accentuated by the body coloured, gaping mouthed grill replacing the previous shiny chrome finned version. The thin tiny stock pizza wheels have been replaced with beefier 16 inch Rays rims and Yokohama C-Drive tyres. The whole package is finished off with a set of original ground effects kit from Nismo (around 27 thousand taka). Those bumper spoilers and sideskirts give it a lowered look without actually lowering the car.
It looks different than other N16 Sunnys and when you start it, it also sounds different. It starts off with a belch of dark grey smoke, as if trying to match the paint. A lot of smoke while the engine silently clatters. Eh? Clatter? Typically, these cars either have a 1.3 or a 1.6 petrol engine offering 87-118 hp. This one is a 2.2 diesel with direct injection. From what I could gather, this delivers 110 hp, which isn't much, but the torque is 169 lb/ft. That's quite an astounding amount from a car of this size. In comparison, you get about 122 lb/ft of torque from the 1.6 petrol version. Higher torque translates to a lot of 'pull' at higher gears, so there's no need to downshift when you want to accelerate. Did I mention this is a manual?
Driving impression: The car feels like any other N16 Sunny on the inside. The dull low clatter gives it away and some of the vibrations make it to the inside. You're not fully insulated. It accelerates gradually; there's no drama. Being a diesel, you have to shift up fast to get it moving. The fun comes when you're cruising at 70-80kmph in fourth and you press the accelerator. The car simply pushes on without you needing to downshift. It's a bit of a lazy car for lazy people. The clutch action is smooth, the seating is high, so it's perfect for tooling around the city. And the diesel means fuel cost is easier on the wallet.
How does it compare to petrol N16s? Most of the Sunnys found here are autos. A week ago I tried out a couple of 2005 models with both 1.3 and 1.6 engines. The petrol engines are smooth compared to the 2.2 diesel. You can hardly tell it is there. The 1.3 with a manual actually feels like it is accelerating as fast as the 1.6, which had an auto. But load up the cars with people and you start to feel the difference as the 1.3 struggles to move quickly. As for ride characteristics, these are family cars, meant to comfortably glide over potholes. They bump and thrash a little bit, but that's expected. The cars lean a lot into corners. The 2.2 I tried had slightly stiffer cornering which is probably due to the Ultra Racing strut bar attached (five thousand taka).
Bottomline: simple mods can make a huge difference to the way a car looks and feels.
Why Should You Go For An N16 Sunny?
These are not exciting cars per se, but they get the job done very well. These cars will ferry you where you need to go in relative comfort. There are a couple of annoyances, one being the window trim. The design catches a lot of dirt and tiny stones, which, over time, badly scratch the side windows as you raise and lower them. This is a problem also faced by Hondas as well. The interior is a little bit on the 'plasticky' side. Stick to the black/grey interior and you'll be fine. Other than that there's not much to worry about.
Where Nissans fall short compared to Toyotas in Bangladesh is the price of certain parts. Everything is available, but some things are at a slight premium. Original A/C compressor, engine MAF sensor, brake master cylinders are pretty expensive in comparison. But then, these aren't parts that go bad regularly.
The engines can take a lot of abuse and gives plenty of warning before breaking down. Government offices use a lot of these cars and they follow very poor service schedules, yet these cars keep running. Inside, the controls are placed within arm's reach, nothing revolutionary, but it's all tried and tested. The car's dimensions are also something you get used to very quickly so it becomes quite easy to ease the bulky shape into tight spaces. Some of these cars were sold through the official dealership as Bluebirds. Let's get it straight: the Sunny/Bluebird/Slyphy are all the same cars with different badging for different locations.
Average prices: We found couple of 1300cc 06-07 models for under 8 lakhs on Cellbazaar. Any higher and you might as well go for a higher end car.