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2003 Nissan Sunny EX Saloon 1.5
Reasons why I bought this car
This 2003-model car was purchased by my family in 2006, as a Singapore import with 34k on the clock. It's known as the Sentra in Malaysia, Sunny in Singapore and Sri Lanka. The black pre-facelift Sunny in Sri Lanka is pretty rare thus stood out to us at the agent's car lot. Meanwhile, I was learning to drive on the family's 1992 Lancer CB (Malaysians know this as the basis of the Proton Wira). When I got my license in 2007 I periodically drove the Nissan until 2015 when my parents wanted something smaller and automatic. I was also getting married the following year and needed my car. I took custody at approx. 120,000kms, and have since put on another 30,000kms.
Car selection process
I had a budget of: Zero - I was considering purchasing a car in 2016 and my dad gave this to me for free!
It's always better to know the history of a used car than to buy one with unknown provenance, especially as mileages can easily be doctored and crash damage hidden. Since this was the family car and I was involved in servicing and maintaining it, I intimately knew its history. My father meticulously maintained a file of receipts, which I now have and continue to maintain, augmented by a detailed Excel sheet.
I am an automotive journalist by profession - Deputy Editor of Motor Magazine in Sri Lanka and have test-driven over a hundred cars. However, after every test drive and feature, this car has been my trusty, faithful companion who safely brought me home.
I have already done 30000 km.
It's a comfortable car. I haven't done much performance modifications as life and its related expenses got in the way, not to mention my other expensive hobbies such as model trains, die-cast cars, and vinyl records. It rides very smoothly although a suspension upgrade is a must if you are into spirited cornering (which I am at times), else it rolls like a boat, and you just hang on, tyre squeal and all. Despite the torsion beam rear suspension, it lets go later than expected and you can feel the limits approaching before they bite.
The QG15DE engine is coupled to a 5-speed manual transmission and is rated as stock for 105bhp and 143Nm stock. I've upgraded the air filter to a K&N drop-in panel type which I clean and re-oil every year. It's decent enough to lug the 1,100kg kerb weight and gets an 'Italian tune-up' every week. The car pulls cleanly to 100km/h and well beyond. I've changed the rims from the stock steelies-and-hubcaps to five-spoke alloys painted in a custom shade. OEM fog lamps were added too. A shock-sensitive alarm system was fitted after the mirrors and side indicators were nicked around 2007.
Entertainment is taken care of by a Kenwood BT610U single-DIN audio unit which drives JBL speakers and a Kenwood under-seat subwoofer and gels well with my tunes - a diverse array ranging from the mid-fifties to the mid-two-thousands. 3M clear sun control film is applied to the front windscreen and front side windows and helps the powerful AC keep the cabin cool under the blazing tropical sun. A Transcend DP230 dashcam completes the gadget count.
The comfortable and soft ride when cruising is very relaxing
Strong AC impressively chills the cabin
The boot is a decent size and shape
Ground clearance is pretty good and I just sail across bumps and potholes that have newer and lower-slung sedans hesitating
Decent space upfront and nice semi-bucket seats
The fuel gauge and rev counter started playing up and the cluster had to be replaced
Suspension bushings quite fragile and need frequent replacement
Inner axle joints were replaced at 120,000km due to nasty vibration that grew to cover any speed above 50km/h
Few engine sensors had to be replaced (interesting story)
The rear legroom could be better
Fuel Economy approx. 7-8km/l in city and 13-14km/l on expressway at 100km/h
The center console box lid and surround cracks due to the sun
Total Score: 4
Quality & Features: 4
Ride Comfort: 5
Fuel Economy: 3
Price & Cost: 5
This is the story of my journey with a 2003 Nissan Sunny N16 that was the family car handed down to me. I'm an automotive journalist - Deputy Editor at Motor Magazine in Sri Lanka and have tested over a hundred cars ranging from entry-level, Indian economy cars to the latest European luxury barges. Yet, my Sunny has taken me to many of those tests, and always brings me home safely. I've been driving it (mercilessly, at times) since I got my driving license in 2007, and continue to do so in 2021. It's seen me through single life, dating, engagement, wedding and into married life. To many, it's just a regular, humdrum sedan. But to me, it's special because it's been a companion at many joyful and melancholy moments in my life. It's also taught me a lot about car control, dynamics and handling - skills that are essential for an automotive journalist.
I must extend my sincere thanks to my good friend and talented automotive photographer Thilina Piumantha for venturing out at 6 am on a Sunday to photograph my car.
Interesting events that happened to my car
This car has been (and continues to be) a part of my life and I have undertaken many trips in it. My family has traveled to diverse places across the country, into the highlands, national parks, unpaved roads, and coastal towns. I meticulously clean it, polish it and maintain it as best I can.
When I was dating my girlfriend (now wife), this car was an integral part of our courtship. During our wedding time which was in the highland city of Kandy, the car started developing some engine issues - check engine light illuminating, the engine suddenly coughing at low revs and even stalling. My friends joked that she is jealous since another woman has your attention. However, every time the engine stalled, it started again with a crank of the key and worked normally to get us to our destination, never leaving us stranded on the side of the road. Once all the festivities were done, I took the car to my trusted workshop for a diagnosis and the issue was identified - faulty crankshaft and camshaft sensors. Replaced them and all good.
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