Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
The fully imported Sunny was introduced in early 1979 as a successor to the outgoing Datsun 120Y
model, and to supplement the locally built Stanza which had failed to produce the expected sales figures for Nissan. But following in the 120Y’s footsteps would certainly be a hard act to follow, particularly when the 120Y’s two major attributes were that it was both low priced an inexpensive to run.
In contrast, the Sunny was more expensive to purchase and marginally less economical to run – so the formula for success was certainly not adhered to. Nevertheless the Sunny was in many respects an improvement over the 120Y, offering improved suspension
, handling, appearance, and finish, and it being a distinctly more attractive proposition in the small-car market to many of it’s competitors.
All models (except the manual-only wagon which came with the more powerful 1400cc engine), retained the 1200cc overhead valve four-cylinder engine which powered the 120Y. Performance was about what could b expected from a conventional 1.2 litre engine developing a rather insipid 51 kW at 6000 rpm – although the Sunny demonstrated a willingness to rev hard, reaching 43, 74, and 114 km/h in first, second, and third gears respectively.
Top speed was around 140 km/h, for those brave enough to give the Sunny a good flogging on the open road, traveling slightly downhill and with a tail-wind. This relatively modest performance required the driver to work hard to keep up with normal traffic flow, and punish it hard if wanting to extract anything nearing spirited performance. By contrast, the wagon, with its larger power-plant, was a more competitive starter in its class than the sedan or coupe.
The rear suspension
and ride were improved by replacing the semi-elliptic leaf springs with coils, however unfortunately this did little in removing the rather choppy under-steer common to Datsun’s. The standard recirculating-ball steering
was not really direct and offered very little road feel, although the tight turning circle was well suited to city parking. In fact, normal use in city conditions did not expose any real handling deficiencies, and after all, that is where the Sunny’s were expected to spend most of their time.
The Sunny range was not unattractive, especially the neat functional coupe, though the sedan looked rather like its main rival, the Toyota Corolla. There were no obvious flaws in the finish outside or inside, and in typical Japanese tradition the standard equipment was generous, it including steel-belted radial tyres, reclining front bucket seats, cloth upholstery, trip meter, quartz clock, rear wash/wipe on coupe and wagon, hazard warning lights, and rear window demister.
The instrumentation was also comprehensive; oil and pressure gauges, all warning lights for the handbrake, brake-fluid level, battery
charge, choke, and high beam, however a tachometer
was standard on the coupe only. For those looking for cheap, reliable and somewhat stylish motoring, and who didn’t care about unexciting performance, poor rear leg room, and vague on-centre steering, the Sunny represented a good choice at the time. They are rarely seen on the road today.