Playing to its strengths
Ever since the late 1980’s, Nissan’s entry into the compact car has been the Sentra. This year, however, the new national sales company that is Nissan Philippines, Inc. (NPI), has changed that around and brought in a new name to take up the Sentra’s mantle: the 2014 Sylphy.
Technically speaking, the Sylphy, Sentra and even the Pulsar are actually the exact same car; they’re just known by different names in different markets. This particular generation is the 7th generation of Nissan’s C car and the third car to use the Sylphy name.
Style-wise, you can tell this is leaps and bounds ahead of the previous Sentra 200. Mind you, the Sentra 200 was a decent driving machine, but it just didn’t catch on as it should have when faced with the more popular Toyota Corolla Altis or Honda Civic.
The look of the new Sylphy is indeed striking given that front end, the proportions and the rear. One walk around the 2014 Sylphy is all we really needed to realize that the new model is a well designed machine. Whereas other compact cars are now designed to be as high tech or as athletic and sporty as possible, the Sylphy distinguishes itself by generating an upscale and more expensive look than advertised. Soft but defined curves, purposeful character lines and chrome details blend in to create a design that looks and feels premium. Even the paint finish looks quite premium, though examples that I’ve seen in black look even better.
The 2014 Sylphy measures in at 4,615mm long, 1,760mm wide and 1,495mm tall, making the Sylphy one of the largest in the category that includes the Corolla Altis, Civic, Mazda3, Elantra, Focus and others. Wheelbase is at 2,700mm and the wheels are 17-inchers on this 1.8L Upper variant.
Open the doors and again the Sylphy feels like you’ve bought a car one category higher in price and space. No sporty bucket seats here; just well contoured and premium leather all around. The materials feel of quality. The buttons feel great to the touch. The wheel is great to hold, though the long center cap/horn button does make for some accidental beeping when turning. Everything feels like they’re very well sorted out. Of course the A/C lives up to Nissan’s legendary coolness though I think the 2014 Corolla Altis does have the coolest A/C in the segment; it’s like a freezer in there.
Under that hood is the MRA8DE; a naturally aspirated 1.8-liter engine that produces 131 PS and 174 Newton-meters of torque. The figures aren’t class-leading, but it’s smooth and efficient for its size thanks to Nissan’s X-Tronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
Driving the 2014 Sylphy 1.8L Upper CVT in town is a comfortable and smooth experience. The suspension isn’t revolutionary in the category, but they work very well together and have struts and springs that provide good ride comfort and absorption. The best in class wheelbase also gives plenty of legroom in the back if you wish to have someone else do the driving for you.
There are plenty of trade offs such as the handling and cornering, but then again, the Sylphy is meant for relaxed cruising or comfortable city driving rather than for attacking mountain passes; and that’s perfectly fine.
Fuel economy is pretty decent; in the city the Sylphy 1.8L CVT was able to achieve 8.7 km/l in moderate traffic and 12.2 km/l on the highway. If you were a little more patient on the highway, you can achieve 14.2 km/l.
The best part about the Sylphy is the pricing. This top spec 2014 Sylphy 1.8L Upper CVT costs just PhP 998,000; a rare feat considering how other manufacturers and brands have raised the price points of the top spec versions well beyond the PhP 1M mark.
Personally speaking, I like how Nissan stuck to their strengths with the 2014 Sylphy. There are times that we as enthusiasts really enjoy a good handling car made for the track or winding roads, but most of the time, we just want a comfortable one for everyday driving. The 2014 Nissan Sylphy is just that.