|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Nowadays, creating a competitive compact sedan is perhaps the hardest chore that automakers face today. Shoppers in this segment require a single vehicle that’ll do just about everything for them: get great fuel economy, give a comfortable and confident ride, have a usable backseat with plenty of cargo space, offer an abundance of technology. And at the top-end of the segment, compacts actually face competition from crossovers while at the bottom, they must compete with smaller, often more efficient sub-compacts that are better than they’ve ever been. Further complicating things, this is a segment that’s cut-throat competitive in terms of pricing. The spread is very thin: you have around a dozen models and their countless variants starting from about P 800,000 and capping off at just a little over P 1,200,000. And yet, buyers aren’t willing to cut corners. These 30-something yuppies know exactly what they want and they’re not willing to settle for anything less.
Enter the Nissan Sylphy. Distancing itself from the utter disaster that was the last-generation Sentra (may it rest in peace), the Sylphy is Nissan’s way of starting fresh; creating a brand-new market image that sorely lacked with the Sentra. And it all starts with the looks. Knowing quite well everyone else has ‘sportiness’ nailed down tightly; Nissan instead went for something much refined and stately. The overall silhouette looks elongated giving emphasis towards the Sylphy’s planted stance. The rounded frontend gives it visual height while the bulging character line does the same from the profile. The rear successfully echoes the front but adds that signature touch: arrow-shaped LED tail lamps. The larger greenhouse lends a more top-heavy look, but it’s thankfully balanced by the 17-inch rollers.
This feeling of stateliness is carried to the Sylphy’s interior which is roomy, to say the least. The rear seats, with ample seating for three abreast, is as capacious as you’ll ever get in this segment. Sadly, you only get two headrests and two three-pointed seatbelts over there (the middle guy has to settle for a throwback lap belt). The room upfront is equally large, though perhaps not to the same generous levels as the back. The light-toned interior gives a feeling of airiness, but the sharply raked roofline does rob the driver of usable headroom. Not to mention, the light and dark beige cabin is truly a pain to maintain plus it ages the Sylphy’s interior by at least twenty years. Thankfully, Nissan didn’t even put an ounce of fake wood.
As the top-spec 1.8V, it gets a nice, solid list of interior amenities and creature comforts. Leather comes as standard as does dual-zone climate control (with rear vents), a keyless entry system with push-button engine start/stop, and a Sony 2-DIN audio system with six speakers. It feels like a solid, well put together car with great fit and finish and material choices used throughout. The only gripe is that at P 998,000 it desperately needs Bluetooth. Bluetooth audio streaming is a great bonus, but at the very least, the Sony audio system should have Bluetooth hands-free telephony. If a sub-P 500,000 car has it as standard equipment, a car double the value should consider that standard too.
On the road, the Sylphy surprises with its great road manners. The noise, vibration, and harshness are exceptionally well-managed with only the exhaust note barely audible when accelerating hard. When keeping the throttle steady though, it feels remarkably solid and quiet. Just a bit of wind from the side mirrors would interrupt the car’s quiet-cruise nature. The ride is also as impressive as its NVH isolation giving the Slyphy the feel of a larger, more expensive vehicle. Suspension compliance over potholes is excellent and will only be upset by cracked bits of asphalt or those washboard-like sections near intersections. At the same time, this supple ride doesn’t come at the expense of floatiness or ambiguity. During more aggressive cornering, the Slyphy will tend to lean, but it feels planted and secure.
However, this fine balance shouldn’t be confused with an overly sporting character. It delivers nice balance between ride and handling, but it won’t set the loins of enthusiast drivers on fire. For instance, the steering is overboosted and lacks feedback. At moderate speeds, it does alright but increase either the pace or the complexity of the corners, you’ll soon find the response time between input to reaction a bit too slow.
And of course, the 1.8-liter motor and the Xtronic CVT also play a huge part in determining the Sylphy’s less than sporty nature. With its competitors all moving up to a 2.0-liter displacement, Nissan’s decision to keep the Sylphy to a 1.8-liter mill is down to a global decision (blame China). When not pressing it, the drivetrain is smooth with good power. The transmission’s also tuned for low-end response and highway cruising fuel economy, both of which the Sylphy does well (highway mileage for instance is at an amazing 18.2 km/L). However, for that 10 percent you want to gun it, you’ll only be rewarded by an engine drone coupled with a car that doesn’t have any sense of urgency. Still, if you’re a Point A to Point B driver, the Sylphy’s more than enough, enabling you to squeeze out not less than 10 km/L in heavy traffic. The overall mileage figure is 13.7 km/L which is pretty amazing considering it doesn’t use any fancy fuel-saving mechanism.
Like the Sentra before it, Nissan’s making a play to have the Syphy be the content-per-peso champ of the compact car segment. Only this time, they’re not referring to the tacked on stuff. Nissan has done their homework and has come up with a fresh design that’s engineered to be a solid, spacious, and commendable compact sedan. For as long as you disabuse yourself of any notion that this is an enthusiast’s car, you’ll see the Sylphy score high on people’s hierarchy of needs. It’s refined and confident. Above all, it’s very well priced and packed to work well in the “do-everything” mold that compact car shoppers seem to desire. So while the Sentra has bitten the dust, that chapter’s best forgotten. The Sylphy opens up a fresh new start at Nissan—one that’s actually worthy of your hard-earned money.
2015 Nissan Sylphy 1.8V
|Ownership||2015 Nissan Sylphy 1.8V CVT|
|Body Type||4-door sedan|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Normally Aspired, EFI|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||Inline-4|
|BHP @ rpm||131 @ 6,000|
|Nm @ rpm||174 @ 3,600|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,260|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam Axle|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Continental ContiPremiumContact 2E 205/50R17V (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||No|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||No|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||Yes, Dual|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||No|