Although the Datsun Pulsar used to be a reasonably popular product in South Africa, Nissan’s subsequent offerings in the hatchback segment (or let’s be more accurate, the “Golf” class) have never garnered much favour. The Sabre and Almera hatchbacks simply failed to “connect” with the local car buyer. But Nissan is certainly not giving up. In fact, with the Nissan Tiida it has seemingly come up with a completely different approach, one that puts the emphasis on practicality and value, rather than sportiness and style. It’s a formula that usually works well for Toyota, but will it pay off for Nissan this time round?
Nissan Tiida ain’t pretty…Design is an admittedly subjective matter, but the general consensus is that the Nissan Tiida lacks aesthetic “charm”. Some comments were far more derogatory. Due to the focus on interior practicality and space, the overall design is rather blocky and squared off, and Nissan’s efforts to endow the Tiida’s box-like shape with some individualism have only really emphasised its awkwardness. It looks reasonably attractive at the rear but it’s safe to say that this is not a car that is going to sell on sex appeal.
The sense of spaciousness is immediately apparent when seated behind the steering wheel, or indeed on any of the seats. There’s vast head room, and rear seat occupants can slide the base of the seat over a range of 240 mm to either improve legroom or to make the luggage compartment bigger. It’s a unique feature in this class, and means the Nissan Tiida stands with one foot in the MPV segment – think of it as a slightly bigger Honda Jazz and you won’t be too far from the mark. Certainly, as with people carriers like the Renault Scenic, there is an abundance of “hidey holes”. But all that having been said, at 289 L, the boot is not massive.
Solid, but unspectacularThe facia’s appearance is very squared-off, and the vast expanses of shiny black plastic do not exactly contribute to Golf-rivalling perceived interior quality. It’s clear, however, that fit and finish is rather good, with the Nissan Tiida proving to be rattle free during this test and, following a good clean at the end of the loan period, appearing as new again, without too many scratches being visible. Here and there you will even notice a bit of flair creeping into the design, such as the metallic-accented instrument bezels.
The Nissan Tiida Acenta specification is reasonably comprehensive and includes four airbags, ABS/EBD, a radio/CD player, electric windows/mirrors, air-conditioning and 15-inch alloy wheels. Unfortunately the steering wheel is only adjustable for rake, but the driving position is not too severely compromised as a result. And although the seats look fairly flat and uninviting, they proved to be very comfortable, even on longer trips.
Good go, lots of rollThe Nissan Tiida is powered by Nissan’s 1,6-cylinder, four-cylinder petrol engine that develops 80 kW and an unspectacular 153 Nm of torque at a high-ish 4 000 rpm. You should therefore not expect fireworks in the performance department. But in truth the Nissan Tiida is very much competitive with its rivals, as the 0-100 km/h time of around 11 seconds confirms. The good news is that it doesn’t feel as sluggish as you may think, pulling eagerly from low down and delivering good overtaking power, too. What helps is the relatively light weight (1 138 kg), and also the ratios of the slick five-speed manual transmission. Perhaps the car’s relative lightness is indicative of a lack of noise-deadening material, however, because the cabin can become quite “boomy” at higher speeds, and road and mechanical noise also start to intrude. The Tiida’s perky performance also does not come at the expense of fuel economy, because the figure of 7,4 L/100 km is not too far fetched.
As is to be expected given the rest of the package, the suspension set-up is very much geared for comfort. There’s good compliancy in the ride, and the Nissan Tiida remains reassuringly composed over bumpy surfaces, but it doesn’t much like cornering. The steering is vague and, due to the high centre of gravity and soft suspension, there’s quite a lot of body roll to contend with, too. We suspect, though, that the target customer is unlikely to find the lack of agility and sharpness problematic.
Nissan Tiida - VerdictIt’s quite often refreshing to see a car of such honesty as the Nissan Tiida. It doesn’t attempt to be “funky” as most modern contenders do, and consequently seems to be pitched almost entirely at conservative, older folk who place a premium on reliability, practicality and no-fuss A-to-B motoring. Buyers looking for that type of car will not mind the Nissan’s lack of style and pizzazz. But we do wonder whether it will pay off for Nissan, who is keener to find more private buyers this time round than with the Almera which was, for all intents and purposes, pure fleet fodder. With the Nissan Tiida, we suspect it will be a case of more of the same.
- Interior space
- Sliding rear seat
- Standard equipment
- Ride comfort
- Dreary design
- Driving position
Engine: 1,6-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 80 kW @ 6 000 rpm
Torque: 153 Nm @ 4 000 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Wheels: 15-inch alloy
Top speed: 190 km/h
0-100 km/h: n/a seconds (11 sec est)
Fuel economy: 7,4 litres/100 km
- Ford Focus 1,6 SI 5-dr : The Focus is a significantly more stylish offering with similar specification to the Nissan Tiida. It may not be as spacious inside, but it’s not cramped either and the ride/handling balance is significantly better. A superior product.
- Toyota RunX 160 RS: The RunX is nearing the end of its product cycle but if you’re considering the straightforward charms of the Nissan Tiida, then the Toyota may be attractive for similar reasons. The RunX remains a nice car to drive, but the big appeal lies in its mechanical integrity and Toyota back-up.
- Volkswagen Golf 1,6 Trendline: As per usual, the Volkswagen is more expensive, but the sophisticated cabin ambience alone goes a long way to making up for it. The standard specification is nothing to write home about, but comfort levels are nevertheless very high. Ride and handling are excellent.