Modern automatic transmissions are increasingly defying the traditional traits associated with their archaic forebears. They’re quicker, more responsive, more fuel efficient and in case of the latest flappy-pedal controlled dual clutch variants, are a heap of fun to drive too. The latest to join the fast increasing count of mainstream Indian automatic cars is the Nissan Sunny. The spacious car has always represented terrific value, and with an advanced X-Tronic auto CVT paired with its smooth 1.5 liter petrol engine, it may just offer a comfortable and affordable option to thousands of execs engaged in an agonizing ordeal to drive through the irritating city traffic in the metros.
The new auto transmission, seen earlier on the Renault Scala as well, is a CVT which has been refined and perfected by the boffins at Nissan for enhanced efficiency, smoothness and response and christened the X-tronic. As most of us know, a CVT, or a Continuously Variable Transmission provides an infinite set of step-less ratio changes in contrast to conventional auto transmissions which have a fixed set of gears. Being one of the pioneers in developing the CVT technology for bigger engines, Nissan used its expertise to hone this transmission type for better performance across a range of parameters.
With the X-tronic, one of the biggest achievements has been the expansion of range between the lowest and highest gear ratios. With one of the highest gear reduction ratios in its class the X-tronic claims to deliver fantastic fuel efficiency along with brisk acceleration from a standstill. The superlative efficiency claim of the Sunny is corroborated by the ARAI figures which stands at 17.97 kmpl.
Nissan have made several alteration to the pulley and steel belt set-up for this CVT and employed a high performance automatic transmission fluid to attain better performance. The electronic brain of the transmission system was also sharpened and more advanced hydraulic components were put under its control. In conjunction with the new generation fluid, the system helped the Japanese carmaker achieve about 30% faster shift times when compared with the previous version of the CVT. In addition, the X-tronic has also achieved 30% lesser friction, 13% lesser weight and 10% smaller size as compared with the earlier gen CVT. All this has summed up to quicker response, better efficiency and a tauter, relatively better acceleration feel for the driver.
The primary reason why people in developing countries are increasingly opting for automatic transmissions even with their higher cost is because of the driving convenience they offer. Congested city streets are the proving grounds for a CVT transmission. That’s probably why Nissan organized the media drive event within the city confines of Mumbai, making us drive through the heart of the city during rush hour.
Now Mumbai during peak hours is very capable of making you lose all your love for motoring. The traffic sometimes won’t move for hours, and you run a very high chance of swearing to never drive again. This holds especially true when you have a manual stick and a bothersome clutch pedal to deal with. Nissan’s trick worked, and the only high point of the traffic ridden commute from Renaissance at Powai to Trident at Nariman Point was the absence of clutch pedal and a gear stick.
Quick to get off the mark, and responsive to part throttle inputs at slow to medium speeds, the Sunny X-tronic excels in the slow to moderately paced city traffic conditions. With a light foot on the pedal, the X-tronic auto keeps the revs between a relaxed 1500-2000 rpm even with varying speeds, in a bid to maximize fuel efficiency.
The new transmission is impressive for a CVT as regards part and light throttle. It feels smooth, confident and jerk-free at slow to moderate driving speeds. An easy driving style and modulating the accelerator pedal progressively rewards you with convincing acceleration and good efficiency. However, even with its perceptible advantages over conventional CVTs as regards kickdown time and instant acceleration, don’t expect the Sunny X-tronic to dart ahead as you bury the pedal. The system takes its own bit of time to figure everything out when you command it to change ratios and speed drastically. Stomp the pedal at 1500 revs, and the system takes a moment doing the math and executing the plan. Having said that, the kick-downs are still reasonably quicker when compared to other similar CVTs.
The Sunny X-tronic revels in mild to moderate driving conditions, delighting you by making light work of Indian road and traffic conditions. Under harsh acceleration from slow speeds, however, the engine makes a little more noise than ideal for the corresponding speed attained until the rev needle gets into the power zone. Once rev needle is past 3000 rpm, things are relatively sorted all the way up to the 5500rpm. Not that the Sunny X-tronic cannot be driven hard, but abrupt variations in speed and rev range pose a bit of challenge to the setup.
Apart from the normal drive mode, there is a small button on the drive selector to activate the Sport mode. Pushing the little button makes the system choose a shorter gear ratio and higher revs for any given speed, making the car better equipped for hard acceleration. This comes handy in situations you want to make the most of the gap available ahead. The Sport mode is especially relevant on single carriageways where you don’t have long enough empty stretches to overtake the vehicles ahead with constant oncoming traffic. Also, in Sport mode, for any given throttle input, the engine holds on longer to the revs when compared with the normal drive mode. This makes for a livelier feel behind the wheel, and helps you when you want to drive in a more spirited manner.
The X-tronic Sunny also features the Low mode, which is a common feature on all such CVT transmissions. Meant to offer a low gear ratio, and in turn more torque for any given vehicle speed, this mode offers better pulling power and engine braking in situations such as driving downhill. The Shift Lock Release on the drive selector panel is meant to let you release the car from Park mode when the battery is low or completely discharged.
During our drive, we found the X-Tronic CVT to be noticeably superior to its peers. Of course, it’s not an advanced dual clutch transmission with there being a wee bit of lag between abrupt throttle input and ratio selection. However, comparing apples with apples, it’s ahead of its comparable counterparts by a fair margin.
The Sunny X-tronic is available only in the middle of the line XL variant. Nissan, however, have introduced the proximity sensing keys, Stop/Start button and fog lamps to the XL variant for the X-Tronic. This is a smart move, as keeping the auto transmission only for the top of the line XV variant would have made the car less accessible to a majority of buyers.
Inside the cabin, the class leading rear seat legroom, air recirculation unit for back benchers and comfortable seats remain untouched. Music system, power mirrors and driver side airbag come as standard.
All in all, the Sunny X-tronic most definitely is a superior CVT auto as compared with other similar products in the segment. It’s perceptibly more responsive, practical and most importantly doesn’t affect the fuel efficiency of the car.
With an ex-showroom tag of Rs 8.49 lakh, the XL Auto variant of the Sunny almost similarly priced as the top end XV manual variant.Nissan have very smartly managed to keep the sticker price below the sub 8.5 lakh mark by bringing some features down to the XL variant. At that price, the Sunny would be one of the most economical automatic sedans to own in its segment, making for a compelling buy for daily commuters in metros as well for ladies who want the convenience of an automatic transmission.
Fusing the cost-effectiveness and convenience of a CVT auto with appreciable traits like good fuel efficiency and responsive behavior, the Sunny X-tronic looks like a good product which addresses a crying need without making any compromises. It gets a big thumbs-up from us here at Motoroids.
Price : Rs 8.49 lakh ex-Delhi
Engine Type 4 cylinder inline petrol engine
Transmission Xtronic CVT auto
Displacement 1498 cc
Fuel Type Petrol
Max Power 98 bhp @ 6000 RPM
Max Torque 134 Nm @ 4000 RPM
Mileage (ARAI) 16.9 kmpl
Bore x Stroke 78 mm x 78.4 mm
Compression Ratio 10.1:1
Valve/Cylinder (Configuration) 4
Cylinders 4, Inline