New Nissan sedan is comfortable, composed and comparatively gutsy
Mildly spicy Thai Teana The new Teana 2.5 offers a smoother ride and more comfort in the cabin. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

How do you reel in buyers when your car is not nearly as regal-looking as its predecessor, missing two cylinders under the bonnet and, like its main rivals, assembled in Thailand?

For some brands, the answer might well be "pray".

But in the case of Nissan, improved ride and handling, a more comfortable cabin and hard-to-match prices are some counter-propositions offered by its new Teana.

The latest car is about the same size as the previous Teana, a popular alternative to reigning Thai-assembled Japanese executive sedans such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

Its platform is largely unchanged, but Nissan has replaced the rear suspension with a multi-link system with ZF Sachs-designed shock absorbers that incorporate "active understeer control".

The result is a cushier ride and better composure on the road - one up on the previous made-in-Japan Teana, and matching what the car's key competitors offer.

The improvement is most obvious when wheels meet speed hump, and is a boon to both driver and rear passengers.

The other major contribution to enhanced driving refinement comes from the car's new continuously variable transmission.

It has an expanded range of ratios, giving the car a more responsive take-off and a more relaxed cruise on the highway. Its shift program is clever enough to hold a ratio momentarily when you lift your foot off the pedal, so that you are still in the right "gear" when you re-apply pressure.

The system will also downshift when you step on the brakes.

What drivers will appreciate most is how un-irritating it is for a CVT. There is no elastic whine that makes you feel you are stuck in gear. In fact, the transmission sometimes feels like a smooth dual- clutch on the go.

Nissan may have dropped the V6 in its previous Teana for a humbler four- cylinder, but you would not know the difference behind the wheel.

The power plant is smooth, willing and completely buzz-free. It may produce slightly less power at the peak, but maximum torque is higher and accessible at lower revs.

With the car weighing slightly less than before, the result is relative effortlessness across a wide range of applications - even if it is not always the first off the block.

In fact, I cannot recall a moment in the 2.5 when I wished I had more go. Which is strange, considering it has less than 200bhp and takes over 10 seconds to reach 100kmh (versus its predecessor's 9.6).

But I did wish the car was less plasticky. There are plastics and there are plastics. For a car in its segment, the Teana's cabin has too much hard, hollow, non-yielding plastics that are not exactly tactile.

And the keyless system is sometimes glitchy, requiring you to press the door button several times before it locks.

On the plus side, the seats are really quite comfortable. Not like the sofas that you sink into, but akin to Nasa-inspired Tempur mattresses that provide plenty of support and ventilation.

The seats will hold up well on long hauls. And the fact that the driver's side automatically moves back when you turn the ignition off to facilitate easy egress is another plus point.

Nissan promises better efficiency with the new car. But in the real world, the test car falls far short of the claimed 7.5 litres/100km economy figure. It averaged 13 litres. It could possibly fare better once it is "run in".

The new Teana sports a more modern styling, with a clean profile and attractive light assemblies front and back. But it comes across at times like a bigger Sylphy (which is a pretty good-looking car in its own right). Its predecesor's bold and slightly avant-garde shape was more distinctive and projected a more prominent road presence.

Looks are subjective though. There will be many who like the new design.

Most will also like the Teana's price. At $175,800 (before $3,000 launch discount), the 2.5 is more than $20,000 lower than the appreciably better- equipped Accord, and over $10,000 cheaper than the more luxurious Camry.

If you are not too fussy about plastics and not big on gadgets, the Teana might just be the sedan for you. Its nine-speaker Bose hi-fi doesn't hurt either.


CAR INFORMATION

Nissan Teana 2.5 (A)

Price

:$140,300

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line DOHC

Engine Cap

:

2,488 cc

Horsepower

:

170 bhp / 6,000 rpm

Torque

:

234 Nm / 4,000 rpm

Transmission

:

Xtronic CVT (A)

Acceleration

:

10.1 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

210 km/h