Sign of the Times as Nissan’s Indian Baby Undercuts the Koreans

By Andy Bannister

04.08.2009

One of the few booming segments of the market at the moment in Europe is that of bargain-basement car, helped by generous government-funded scrapper schemes in countries like Germany, France and Italy.

Value brands like Renault’s Dacia marque and Korean twins Hyundai and Kia have been doing particularly well in this sector of the market, leaving many more traditional car makes floloundering.

One that isn’t taking it lying down is Nissan, which has hit back with the new Pixo, an Indian-built 1000cc city car that looks like a serious bargain.

nissan-pixo-side-view

Just going sale in Europe at the moment, the Pixo is the result of a deal between Nissan and established small-car specialist Suzuki, which builds the car in India. The Pixo is a lightly-disguised version of its Alto, itself recently launched in this new and much-improved form.

Previous Altos were horrible tinny little buzz boxes with none of the character small cars normally possess, but the latest Alto/Pixo is an altogether more serious contender and has hit the market at exactly the right time.

Nissan’s contributions to the Pixo are simply new headlights, bumpers, bonnet, front grille and seat trim, which do little to distinguish it from its Suzuki sister. Cleverly, though, Nissan is pitching in with a seriously lower price and the advantage of a bigger dealer network

In the UK a base model Pixo will retail at under £6000 ($8800), some £800 ($1180) less than a (slightly better equipped) Suzuki Alto, which must be worrying for Suzuki’s own dealer network.

It also significantly undercuts the current star of this section of the market, Hyundai’s new i10, as well as Euro-competitors like the Peugeot 107 and Citroën C1.

Inside the car lacks the flair of many of those small car competitors, but it’s a perfectly acceptable place to be for nipping round town on a shoestring budget, and with four doors it is reasonably capacious.

The three-cylinder engine pumps out 67hp and makes the Pixo nippy around town and able to cope with longer journeys without too much fuss, and with a lightweight body and light controls it handles well too.

niisan-pixo-2009The Pixo is never going to be the most accomplished of small cars, but for very little outlay it brings Nissan firmly into contention in a sector of the market where it has been absent for many years, perhaps as long ago as the original Datsun Cherry of the early 1970s.

The company’s larger Micra hatchback, currently built in the UK, is just too expensive to compete for low-priced buyers, which is why the next generation of this Fiesta-fighter is also being transplanted to a new factory in…where else, India.

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Author: Andy Bannister

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