15.4.2009 Nissan Pixo review
With a notable gap in its UK line-up, Nissan has finally introduced a sub-Micra model that delights Iain Robertson, although he wonders if one trick has been missed.
Although there has been enough news coverage of late around the car scene to appreciate that 'small is preferable' in today's economic environment, Nissan has been extraordinarily slow to introduce us in the UK to its tiddlers – despite having satisfied its Japanese market with 'Kei-class' class cars for many years.
Chatting with the company's management team and understanding that quite a few of the models have been little more than re-badged Mitsubishis or Suzukis reveals that Nissan always felt that there was not enough of its DNA involved in its city cars to warrant them being exported to markets other than those in the Far East. Okay. So a possible loss of face is understandable, yet there is so much cross-pollination of models and brands these days that it would scarcely matter to the vast majority of car buyers in the UK, not all of whom are badge- orientated. However, with the latest Pixo (designed for European drivers), you would be hard-pushed to spot any joins.
In fact, the new Nissan Pixo is actually the product of a joint venture with Suzuki, which means that apart from some typical Nissan trim variances and the inevitable grille and lamp configurations, the Suzuki Alto and Nissan's new baby, while not being identical twins, are actually blood brothers. Of course, this is great news for Nissan, which has needed a genuine A-segment (citycar) entry-level product for a long time. That the company is able to undercut its close relative by a healthy £500 should mean that the larger chunk of British sales will reside with the larger brand, while Suzuki will continue to serve the requirements of its niche customers in the usual ways.
The upshot is a sub-compact 5-door that boasts a sub-3.5 metre length, albeit with a longer than expected wheelbase, which helps to provide the small car with the on-road feel of something more substantial. Certainly the ride quality, which has a tendency to be a touch pitchier on this class of car, is surprisingly comfortable; a factor that imbues a higher level of nimbleness and maturity to the sector than some of its rivals.
However, despite being small, the Pixo it will still accommodate four sizeable adults, as long as they are not hoping to head off to the ski slopes or a foreign holiday, without sending on their luggage first. In Nissan trim, there is a choice that follows the company's current thinking. As a result, the entry-level Visia version is still equipped with a CD player, rear wash-wipe, power steering and 14-inch wheels. It costs just £5,995, which means that, while it is not the least expensive small car sold in the UK, at least its hat is pitched into the ring alongside other relative cheapies.
For an extra £750, the Acenta version comes with a few more goodies, including electric front windows (the rears on all versions are simple hinged glass panes), 50:50 split rear seats, front fog lamps and body-coloured exterior components. Whack on another £900 (to take the budget to £7,645) and you can have the Tekna model, which incorporates manual air-con, curtain airbags, stability control and three years' worth of free servicing, roadside recovery and warranty protection. Overall, this line-up represents extraordinarily good value for money.
Powering the Pixo is a 3-cylinder, one-litre petrol engine mated to a snickety little 5-speed manual or a fully automatic 'box, which will be ideal for city traffic. Unfortunately, and this is the trick that Nissan have missed, the baby Nissan does not quite slip beneath the razor-wire to avoid VED (that's road tax to you and me). Had it emitted 99g/km of CO2 from its tailpipe, it would have been a zero tax-rated car; the marketing team could have had a field day. Sadly (I think), at 103g/km, while still appreciably lower than for most cars on the road, it will still cost £35 to tax – I realise it is only £35 but it might have been preferable to have gone the extra hog to remove the onus altogether.
Still, the Indian-built Pixo has a saving grace fuel economy of 64.2mpg (Official Combined). Its interior detailing is neat and tidy, and its around-town manoeuvrability is the stuff of legends; finding a parking slot will be a doddle. Yet, its importance to Nissan, especially as a means to drag down the company's fuel consumption average, to meet forthcoming European guidelines, cannot be understated. Whether customers will feel the same way remains to be seen, but I happen to think that the Nissan Pixo does a pretty good job.
Model tested: Nissan Pixo
Body-styles: 5-door city car
Engines: 1.0 (P3)
Trim grades: Visia, Acenta, Tekna
Prices: from £5,995 to £7,645
In the showroom: June 2009
Review star rating: 4 STARS
Warranty: Three years, 60,000 miles
Iain Robertson © Next Green Car.com 2009
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