First drive: 2012 Nissan Sunny in the UAE

First drive: 2012 Nissan Sunny in the UAE

The Nissan Sunny was once a leader in the local compact segment, battling the venerable Toyota Corolla and occasionally even outselling it. Heck, most of us learned to drive on that thing, as it was the car of choice for driving schools here. But things changed once the impressive Tiida came into the scene, stealing sales from the Sunny and largely relegating it to fleet-vehicle status, having barely changed in more than a decade. Now that Nissan has decided to dust off the Sunny name and bring in a completely revamped model, keep in mind that it is not playing in the same segment any more.

For one, the Sunny now goes one size smaller, playing alongside the likes of the Toyota Yaris and the Hyundai Accent now. It is actually 55 mm shorter than even the Nissan Tiida sedan, and far shorter than the older Sunny. Interestingly, the next-generation Tiida is coming in a few months, and that car will grow bigger to chase the Toyota Corolla.

The cars coming to the GCC are also now built in India, although it was designed in Japan and is now built in several countries to serve the entire world. However, we have to admit that quality control is rather excellent, as the Sunny had far fewer niggles than the likes of the Chevy Sonic. Of course, there’s no denying that the car looks like a beluga whale and the interior comprises of only hard plastics beyond the fabric seats and optional door inserts.

And yet, we found it to be an astounding car at the GCC launch event. The amount of space inside the car is nothing short of miraculous, especially in the back seat. It offers more rear headroom and legroom than many larger cars. Back-benchers would surely be happier in the new Sunny than in a Chevy Malibu or a Jaguar XF. And to top it off, there are optional rear vents with a speed-controllable fan in them that sucks in some of the a/c air from the front and sends it to the back, sort of like a poor man’s rear a/c. Even the 490-litre boot is apparently the largest in its class.

At the GCC launch event, we drove from Dubai to the Al Maha Desert Resort out in the middle of nowhere for lunch. Expectedly, the Sunny’s 99 hp 1.5-litre engine hardly offered any push with three passengers in the car, revving away freely instead. That is about as much as can be expected from any car in this class.

What it did impress with was the general drive at highway speeds. The engine wasn’t noisy if the throttle pedal wasn’t moved, the automatic gearbox wasn’t ever hesitant, the wind noise was moderate at most but largely low enough to have quiet conversations, while the ride quality itself was mildly firm, but still very pliable and not the least bit tiring. It could be vaguely sporting as well, with somewhat-light steering that is full of feedback, firm brake pedal feel that is as good as most sports cars, and body roll that is noticeable on violent turn-ins but never gets out of hand. It drifts a little in crosswinds and takes a bit longer to brake than we’re used to, but again, it was actually a bit better in these than some of the other cars in this class, such as the Renault Logan or even the older Toyota Yaris.

Our drive even consisted of a brutal “offroad” segment as we headed into the resort, which is surrounded by a desert nature reserve full of Oryx — local deer-like creatures with straight long horns — that darted around alongside and across the single gravel road. Except that the road wasn’t gravel, but it had a solid “washboard” surface that made the car jitter all the way in. Even on that, the ride was easily bearable, although the exhaust can was clunking around a bit.

Nissan kept pointing out the “heritage” associated with the Sunny name throughout this event, even going as far as pasting that on the doors of our test cars. The car has changed completely compared to any Sunny of the past two decades though, and potential buyers would be interested to note that this Indian-built car is going head-to-head on pricing with the Toyota Yaris and the Hyundai Accent, all three topping out at roughly Dhs 55,000. Do not take the “Indian” tag as a mock though, as the car felt more solidly-built than even the Japanese-built Toyota Yaris, which is saying a lot.

Even the basic model gets dual airbags, a trip computer, CD/MP3 stereo with AUX jack, strong a/c, and ABS with EBD. A fully-optioned car gets 15-inch alloys, Bluetooth, rear fans, keyless entry, parking sensors and more. But major omissions include cruise control, sunroof and a USB port, not available even as options. Still, the Sunny is the class-leader now in terms of space, so if you don’t mind the styling and the hard plastics, this is pretty much the only car we can recommend for you in this segment.

What do you think?



  1. Rear A/C vents for this car is a very good thought.

  2. This Sunny is the best sunny ever. Period !

  3. what were the designers thinking ? its ugly as it was in dubai motor show only the loyal review done here can make em loyal sunny fan boys happy

  4. they are hell bent on making ugly looking cars eyesores like patrol then hideous juke-r then this horrible thing. they shud learn from hyundai.

  5. Rear A/C vents for this car are like some kind of gun or rocket launcher type thing. OMG…..

    And of course you can remove the plastic from top and you can use it as Cool Box to make cold water bottles or CANS….. etc.

    Tidda is better then this sunny….

  6. For that price, no complains. Yes, looks aren’t very impressive. But compared to Hyundais this thing is much larger, with more practical space; and rear a/c vents is definitely a plus regardless of what people say. One shall know the benefits of having those while driving in 45 degrees+ heat during summer!

  7. loooks exactly like my butthole

  8. The look is terrible for a 2013 design. The small wheels even makes it look like a cart. But I am sure the fuel economy and reliability are much better than a Hyundai

  9. To those who are complaining about the new sunny!
    List Down the cars which are priced the same, then talk

  10. Get these one, then go straight to Yellow hat for a 17″ alloys, BOOM! you got an Wild Sunny waiting to be unleashed!! Thumbs Up Nissan “realiable” Sunny!

  11. butt ugly car….

    than again people who buy these cars dont care for looks neither of the car or thier own 🙂

    naaa…. hyuanda/kia equavalients are better than this

    • I don’t think so. Compare quality then we can talk.
      And yes, this car is ugly, but hey, if you compared it to Renault Logan for example, you will see this as a pretty car.

  12. I bought this car 3 weeks ago. I am very happy and satisfied with it. efficient fuel and it was extremely smooth on the road.

  13. yaris and Tidda are much better than this sunny , it looks very old design if you see from for away.instead of improvement in sunny i think Nissan is going wrong on side.

  14. nissan sunny korea werry bad
    ihave one ninnsa sunny made korea

    that verry bad

  15. Made in India… LOL !!!

  16. Sunny12 is a superb car.
    u need to drive it once in all conditions.

  17. Sunny is really a very nice car compared to the previous version its boring but back in India its gaining momentum bcoz of its effeciency both in diesel as well petrol.

  18. The new Nissan Sentra, Good looking, elegant style and Amazing performance….

  19. I like this new sunny look & comfort more then Tidda.

  20. The brakes of Nissan Sunny are very not very efficient. One has to pull the brake padel really down to feel any braking effect. Has anybody else also felt the same?

    • Yes, the brakes need to be pushed lower than other cars but I guess it’s more of an ‘idle’ space. Maybe a safety feature so that the brake light is lit before you actually brake to alert the driver behind even before 🙂

  21. This is a one ugly car, I thought. Now that I purchased it, I no longer believe in it. It’s something you grow fonder with over time.

    But I still strongly believe that the rear looks ugly as hell without the spoiler to give you that style 😀

    And the AC vents are SO GOOD. I actually purchased it for the AC. Perfectly suited for the Middle East 🙂

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