Greetings from Guangzhou, China! We’re reporting live from Auto Guangzhou 2010 at the gigantic complex that also hosts the world famous Canton Fair. No carmaker can afford to miss out on a Chinese motor show today, even if it’s not Shanghai (GZ is China’s third largest city, KL feels tiny in comparison), so there are still some world debuts to shout about. Mainly from homegrown brands, but Nissan also showed its new Sunny for the first time, and that’s what we’re focusing on here.

“Sunny” is a name that’s right up there in recognition, probably only beaten by “Saga” and “Wira” in Malaysia, and Nissan has chosen this cheerful name for its Vios/City challenger. The Latio, Nissan’s previous attempt, didn’t do too well as an experiment in straddling both B and C segments, and that’s most probably due to its space efficient but unflattering looks. Same recipe here, but some lessons have been learned.

For a small family car, space will always have priority over “sporty looks”, and that’s reflected in the Sunny’s shape. This “baby Teana” looks much sleeker and palatable than the Latio though, and it still provides the latter’s generous cabin room. The footprint is about the same – the 1,695 mm width is unchanged while the 4,426 mm length is up by just 11 mm.

Wheelbase remains at 2,600 mm, which is 50 mm longer than the Vios and 100 mm less than the C-segment Sylphy’s. The Latio is the Peter Crouch in its class; Sunny is less lanky by 21 mm, but still dwarfs over the Vios.

Underneath it all is Nissan’s V platform, as used on the March/Micra. Front struts and a rear torsion beam is expected and the showcar wears high profile 185/65 R15 Bridgestones, the exact same size on the Latio. There’s a full sized spare tyre under the boot floor. Brakes are all discs, with the fronts ventilated. Steering is EPS.

The Sunny is powered by the HR15DE 1.5-litre engine. This modern unit is tuned for economy (up to 5.8L/100 km) and drivability rather than outright power and it makes 112 PS at 5,600 rpm and 139 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. Doesn’t look spectacular on brochures like the Honda City, but that car’s headline 120 PS and 145 Nm is achieved at at a dizzying 6,600 rpm and 4,800 rpm respectively. Transmission options are a five-speed manual and Nissan’s Xtronic CVT.

The Sunny’s March roots is evident in the cabin, which has the supermini’s curvy design and round elements. The dashboard is similar and the March’s unique donut style climate control is carried over, although the Sunny’s centre stack houses square instead of round air con vents.

Also not present here is the March’s integrated stereo, replaced by Nissan’s usual 2-DIN unit as found in the Grand Livina and Latio. The Sunny’s instruments are in a traditional twin dial layout. The steering wheel and gear knob design is familiar too.

The Sunny was mobbed by the crowd, but I did manage to sit in for awhile. Like the Latio (and unlike its rivals), there’s an obvious focus on comfort in the Sunny. That long wheelbase frees up plenty of legroom and the seats are very nicely shaped and sculptured for a budget car.

There’s even a fold down rear armrest with twin cupholders and rear air vents with independent 2-speed control, something even the Teana doesn’t have!

The show car had leather seats that are thickly padded and very cushy (both front and rear), and unlike the Latio, the front seat adjusters return to their normal positions on the outside of the seat. All door handles are in chrome for the “classy” look and there’s a sunroof to cater to the Chinese market.

Speaking of that, there are three trim levels in China – XE, XL and XV – and all except for the base trim gets keyless entry with Start/Stop button and a sunroof as standard. Dual airbags, ABS, EBD and Brake Assist are present across the board.

Sounds like a model that will do well in Malaysia if Tan Chong decides to bring it in or assemble it. Full gallery after the jump!

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