Nissan Sunny / Versa / Latio

Debut: 2011
Maker: Nissan
Predecessor: Tiida / Versa (2005)

 Published on 22 Sep 2011 All rights reserved. 

We have not exercised junk rating to a new car for some years – if my memory is correct, the last time was in 2005 when we gave it to Proton Savy. Owing to intense competition, these days car makers could no longer feed the market with rubbish. They have learned how to produce cars cheaply without sacrificing the minimum level of quality, dynamics and specifications. So it is a surprise to see the return of junk rating on a newly launched model, especially when it comes from the maker of GT-R. This car is called either Sunny, Versa or Latio. The former is used in China and India. The second name is used in North America. The last one is reserved for Japan. They replace the outgoing Tiida / Versa.

The fact that the new Sunny / Versa / Latio earns our junk rating is not just by the lack of luck. It was due to cost cutting. Compare with the global B-platform on which the old car was based, the new V-platform (V for versatile) emphasizes on lower production costs, thanks to simplified construction and 20 percent fewer parts employed. Its lower level of quality also allows the sourcing of cheaper parts from cheaper suppliers. The negative impact was first seen on the new March (Micra), which disappointed us last year.

The new Sunny / Versa / Latio is derived from the same platform. Not just that, it is deliberately downgraded. While the old car was noticeably a class above the contemporary March, the new car feels just like a March with a 150 mm stretch of wheelbase and a large trunk added. Nothing less and nothing more. Its unbalanced proportion – with a short bonnet, long trunk, narrow tracks and tiny wheels – fails to hide the fact that it is a small car pretending to be a big one. Its interior is even a carbon-copy of its smaller sibling, with similar low rent hard plastics and cheap switchgears everywhere. Slam the doors and they sound as hollow as the words of our political leaders. The clever sliding rear seat has gone together with the useful hatchback door. What's left is a very basic, uninspiring environment.

To call the jellyfish exterior design uninspiring is somewhat understated. When everybody else are doing striking designs these days (even Hyundai and Toyota), the Nissan is best to be described as crap. It is dull to the extent of hateful. However, what I hate most about this car is the way its creators treated it. Its designers and engineers seemed to have no compassion at all in its making, just wanted to finish the project at the shortest possible time ! They did not put their "hearts" into the job. This is almost a sin in the Japanese culture.

So how does the car feel on the road? Forgettable. Its 109hp HR16DE engine, despite of dual variable valve timing and dual injectors, provide no more than adequate power. Its new Xtronic CVT, despite of wider ratio spread, is still the enemy to refinement. Without suppressing rubber band effect, it tends to wind the engine to 6500 rpm redline at any moderate acceleration, filling the thinly insulated cabin with unbearable noise. Also due to the lack of sound deadening, road noise is equally intrusive, so highway cruising is best to be avoided.

Don't talk about driving fun either. This car is meant to be a basic transport. You can't expect its electrical power steering to talk with you, the soft suspension to return proper body control, or the drum brakes to provide instant stopping. The fact is, few cars drive as bad as it.

The positive side? Nissan said it offers more rear passenger legroom than a Mercedes E-class, a notable achievement for its 2600 mm wheelbase. Another talking point is its price tag, which makes it currently the cheapest car on sale in the USA. Maybe, but without the slightest consideration for quality, refinement and dynamics, the talk of sheer space and bargain price sounds just like what GM did in the past. And that old GM was dead.


Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4455 / 1695 / 1515 mm
2600 mm
1598 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
109 hp
107 lbft
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
1120 kg
112 mph (c)
9.8* / 10.2**

Performance tested by: *C&D, **MT

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Versa / Sunny / Latio

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