What is it?
It's the Nissan Pixo, a new budget city car that slots into Nissan's supermini range below the Note and Micra. It's a rival for the Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10, but one that comes with a marginally more prestigious Nissan badge on the grille.
The irony is, of course, that this Nissan is actually a Suzuki. The Pixo is built on the same Indian production line as the new Alto and, although it’s got its own headlights, bumpers, bonnet, front grille and seat trim, it is in every other way identical to the Suzuki.
In every way except on specification and price, that is. Nissan has taken the decision to bring the Pixo to the UK at a lower entry-level price point than the Suzuki that it is based on. That means that, while you’ll pay at least £6795 for an Alto, you can get a Pixo – admittedly without electric windows, folding rear seats or remote central locking – for just £5995. Right now, there are only two other new cars you can buy for that much money: the aforementioned Kia and the risible Perodua Kelisa.
Here is a car, therefore, that stands to make certain decisions taken at Suzuki’s global headquarters look rather silly as far as UK customers are concerned.
What’s it like?
Nissan’s done just about well enough in distinguishing the new Pixo from its Suzuki sister externally. Its oversized grille, long headlights and grinning front air dam give the car a face all of its own, while a set of bespoke Nissan paint colours also help to set it apart.
From the rear, however, only the shape of the rear bumper really marks this car out as the Nissan, so that if you’re following a Pixo in traffic, you may not know it until you get close enough to make out the letters on its bootlid.
Once you get on the inside of this car, its resemblance to a new Alto gets even more pronounced. Only the badge on the steering wheel of the Pixo and the material on the seats is new. That means the Pixo’s driving position is comfortable, but the seats are slightly narrow and flat, and the absence of reach adjustment on the steering wheel could be a problem for longer-legged drivers.
The fit and finish of materials inside the cabin is well up to class standards, even if the quality and tactility of those materials isn’t quite as impressive as those in an i10 or a Toyota Aygo. You get Isofix child seat points and an MP3 CD player as standard on the entry-level car; there’s no air con, but for £6k you can forgive that.
What you can’t forgive is the lack of flair or imagination with which this cabin has been designed. It’s functional, but doesn’t have a 10th of the colourful, characterful appeal of the dash of a Citroen C1. It’s simply grey and uninteresting almost everywhere, which is a shame considering the youthful clientele to which this car should appeal.
Fortunately for Nissan, the Pixo begins to make up for its apparent lack of character when you get its hard-working three-pot petrol engine stoked up. That motor’s 67bhp is enough for peppy in-town performance, and respectable motorway progress too, in a car weighing just 850kg. It’s a bit thrashy high in the rev range, but pleasing to listen to thrumming away between 2000 and 4000rpm.
The car’s even quite good fun to corner. It’s on exactly the same chassis settings as the Suzuki, so although the Pixo rides bumps and troughs a little abruptly, it’s got surprisingly good body control, and handling that’s responsive enough to raise a pretty broad smile.
Should I buy one?
Depends whether you can run to a £7000 Hyundai i10. There’s no doubt that the Hyundai is a better car than this – better handling, better specced, better performing and more refined – but it’s also almost 17 per cent more expensive than this Nissan. And £1000 is a lot of money if you’re buying a £6000 car.
That being the case, the only decent rival for this car is a 1.0-litre, 60bhp Kia Picanto – and while the Kia’s equally fun to drive, it’s not quite as convincing an all-rounder.
So now you see how clever Nissan Europe has been by pricing this car so low. Were it even five- or six-hundred pounds dearer, it would meet exactly the same fate as Suzuki’s Alto, disappearing into a field of more talented city cars. As it is, though, the Pixo stands out as a route to enjoyable, modern, no-frills motoring.