Nissan Sylphy 1.8 Test Drive

Sylphy_3  It has been almost 4 months since the 2014 Sylphy was launched in Malaysia, but its road presence here in Penang is almost non-existent. I’ve been reading good reviews about the car and wondered why aren’t there more people driving it, so I made an arrangement with the local Nissan dealer to test it out myself.

The car is available in 2 trims. The base E model lose out to the higher spec VL model on projector headlamps, LED positioning lights, fog lights, integrated LED brake light, auto air-con with rear vents, keyless push-start, display screen with reverse camera, leather wrapped seats and steering, auto-folding side mirrors, and one-inch smaller wheels at 16”.

Everything else in the drivetrain are the same, both using the same CVT gearbox and 1.8L engine, which gives 131 PS and 174 Nm of torque. So theoretically, the E model I tested should drive almost identically to the VL model, except for the thicker tyres. To be honest, I’ve always prefer the less bumpy feel of thicker rubbers, although I must admit bigger rims with thinner tyres looks better.

Sylphy_2Sitting in the driver’s seat, everything seems pretty well built, with all the important controls within easy reach. I especially like the front air-con vents which are placed higher up in the center of the dashboard away from the steering wheel, I hate cold fingers during long drives. One little odd thing I noticed was the hand-brake lever is placed off-center to the passenger’s side instead of nearer to the driver, it just felt weird.

With 3 adults in the car, the 1.8L engine handled things nicely. Under normal driving, picking up speed was smooth and relatively quiet. But when floored, loudness filled the cabin and the lack of acceleration became evident, a typical CVT behavior. A glance at the speedometer showed the needle rising steadily though.

Car enthusiasts will tell you the CVT is rubbish (true under hard acceleration), but for the regular guy looking for an everyday car, it doesn’t matter much, and may even give better fuel economy. It has a “sport” mode too that keeps the CVT in lower ratios to give a slight boost in acceleration, although I didn’t really tested that in my drive.

Sylphy_4The Sylphy is marketed as a family car, and fits that criteria really well. It does what it’s supposed to do without all the flashy stuff. Stability control, 6 airbags and all-around disc brakes with ABS+EBD come standard in all variants, this makes it one of the safest car you can buy at this price point (RM115k for E spec, RM126k for VL spec).

Comfort is also one of the best at this price range. With the wheelbase of 2700mm creeping so close to D-segment territory, the rear passengers get plenty of room to stretch their legs. For comparison, the wheelbase of the Camry, Accord and Teana are all 2775mm. NVH level is kept pretty low, and I dare say it’s one of the best in its class (given you don’t floor the accelerator all the time like a mad man).

Sylphy_1After having drove the Sylphy, I felt the car is positioned quite competitively with the other Japanese C-segments, still don’t understand why its presence is so weak.

Could it be the performance? The Mazda3, which is sold way more expensive at almost RM139k and has about the same safety features, churns out 164 PS and 210 Nm of torque from its 2.0 SkyActiv engine. Handles better too. Launched only a month earlier than the Nissan, the Mazda3 is beginning to pop up like mushrooms everywhere. The Sylphy, still nowhere to be seen. Bear in mind that the Sylphy is by no means sluggish for the daily commute.

Or perhaps it’s the looks. The car looks comparatively tame and boring next to the Toyota Corolla Altis, which was launched only 3 months ahead of the Nissan. The previous generation Sylphy was also known to some as an “uncle’s car”, maybe this perception somehow got passed on.

I’ve already driven the Mazda, but not the Toyota. Maybe it’s time to go check out the Altis and see what the fuss is all about.

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