It's amazing how many names Nissan has conjured up for its compact saloons in Thailand in the past decades.
Whereas mainstay rivals Honda and Toyota have loyally stuck with the Civic and Corolla badges for all its past and current generation models, Nissan has resorted to over five different monikers.
And it's not because all of Nissan's past saloons had problems in image or sales. In fact, names like the Sunny were hugely successful, if not exactly brimming with huge product essence.
But the decision to forego the Tiida Latio title and boost the Sylphy badge instead for the brand's latest C-segment offering makes good sense, for the former was a vastly flawed product and had an ill-conceived positioning the Thai market.
Engine has good low-rev oomph.
The Sylphy launched in Thailand last week after debuting in China and the US (where it is known as Sentra) and is a proper rival for the Toyota Corolla, unlike the Tiida Latio that struggled to find its place between the B- and C-segments. And if you take a look at the Sylphy's proportions, Nissan is serious in making it the most spacious car in its class. The lengthy 2.7m wheelbase points to highly generous legroom for rear passengers.
Hop into the Sylphy and all is revealed: if you're looking for limo levels of space, this Nissan is the one. In fact, the Sylphy becomes the second Nissan in Thailand to have an exaggerated level of rear legroom after the B-segment Almera Ecocar saloon.
Adding up to comfort in the Sylphy are generous seat pads, although the front perches are a tad hard to sit in. The Focus, the next newest C-segment player in Thailand, doesn't merit a comparison in this particular aspect.
It's just the details that prevent the Sylphy from being the most practical saloon in its class.
Although there's a small opening to the large boot behind the centre armrest, the rear seats can't fold down for extra boot versatility.
Driving environment is filled with both soft and hard plastics.
But if you take the overall packaging into account, the Sylphy is quite an achievement for it manages to mix class-leading cabin space with an exterior design that doesn't shout big on metal.
Does the Sylphy look good, especially after the arrival of the handsome Focus? That's certainly subjective, but we think the Sylphy is trying to attract a different crowd from the sporty Focus (plus the Chevrolet Cruze and Mazda 3).
What Nissan is seemingly targeting instead is the more conservative crowd that would usually opt for the Civic and Corolla, which makes sense because this trio feels more traditional than youthful.
It must be said that Nissan has somehow made the Sylphy look fresh against the country's top-selling saloons.
And it doesn't look as frumpy and rigid as in the Tiida Latio predecessor.
There's a dose of Teana DNA in the Sylphy, particularly with the front grille and C-pillars. Those who are familiar with the Fuga (aka Infiniti M) executive saloon in Japan will also note the Sylphy's similar front wheel arches and rear end.
The Sylphy's interior isn't that flashy, either, with the focus matching that of the exterior. The steering wheel is like the Teana's and the centre console's shape apes that of the front grille.
To sum up, the Sylphy is apparently designed to look and feel like any of Nissan's other existing models _ something that is now happening in many other brands, as well.
Sylphy has best rear legroom in its class.
The Tiida Latio was quite a flop on the move, so it isn't surprising that the Sylphy is a much better car to drive. But whether it's going to rouse the class with sparkling performance and driving dynamics is another question.
That's because Nissan hasn't set its sights on making the Sylphy a driver's car. Rather, it has responded to demands of real-world users by making the Sylphy an utterly easy car to steer and go at sensible speeds.
The Sylphy, for instance, has very light steering, effortless low-end performance and smooth-shifting CVT automatic transmission to please buyers doing the usual daily grind.
The Sylphy is probably the most fuss-free car to drive in its class, with only the Civic and Corolla running close to it.
At this point, many of you may be tempted to stop reading and head for Nissan showrooms. But if life for you is more than just being in the city, then you need to read on.
At high speeds, the steering doesn't feel that crisp. And the apparently low-budget tyres tend to generate noise and vibration, even on properly sealed roads.
In terms of top-end grunt, the Corolla still feels more responsive and spirited. The fact that the Sylphy's 1.8-litre produces a so-so 131hp could explain this.
Nissan may argue the Sylphy has been tuned for economy, explaining that reasonable 15kpl economy. Yet, we found the Corolla to be equally frugal.
Probably the weakest point in the Sylphy is its cornering abilities _ if it really matters to most buyers. The steering is too light, imprecise and feels totally detached from the road.
Despite being a better handler than the Tiida Latio, practically all of the Sylphy's rivals do a better job in the twisties.
Sylphy 1.8 is on the pricey side.
The Sylphy still uses an old-fashioned rear torsion bar suspension, despite its platform (dubbed "B") being updated from the Tiida Latio's.
You might come to the conclusion the Sylphy is then priced to kill, given its mission to please real-world buyers outright. But it isn't.
With prices starting at 899,000 baht (32,000 more for sat-nav and parking camera options) for the 1.8-litre version as tested here, it's the most expensive car in its class in basic 1.8-litre form.
And the Sylphy is not equipped with that many features to make any loud noises. There are no novelties in terms of features, be it on the convenience or safety side. However, Nissan is hollering about the dual-zone automatic climate control system and air ventilation for rear passengers.
This means that you've got to appreciate the Sylphy's positive attributes it boasts on the product side: spacious cabin, easy driving manners and decent fuel economy. If you really must, the top-end model at 931,000 baht is recommended.
The Sylphy, in the end, could probably be the dullest car to drive in the Thai C-segment class.
But, on the contrary, it makes sense to so many buyers in Thailand who tend to think otherwise, as to what a car should really be about.
AT A GLANCE
Styling ................................ 7/10
The Sylphy is designed in a classy rather than sporty manner and comes in line with Nissan's other cars.
Performance ........................ 8/10
The engine and gearbox perform smoothly and effortlessly at sensible speeds and yield pretty decent fuel economy.
Handling and ride .................. 6/10
Light steering makes for an easy drive around town but compromises in more demanding conditions; ride can be jittery.
Practicality ......................... 8/10
The Sylphy has the most spacious rear quarters in its class but falls short on some small details relating to versatility.
Safety kit ............................. 6/10
Merely dual airbags and ABS are just too common. Fifth occupant gets a proper belt but no head restraint.
VERDICT ............................. 7/10
The Sylphy isn't designed to rouse drivers on the move. Instead, it aims to appeal to real-world users demanding cabin space, comfort and easy driving manners. It's not a bargain at 900,000 baht in 1.8 form.
Tyres can be heard and felt occasionally.
‘The Sylphy has light steering, effortless low-end performance and a smooth auto box’
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About the author
- Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor