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Nissan Pixo review (2009 onwards)
What – Nissan Pixo
Where – Paris, France
Date – April 2009
Price – £5,995-£8,555
Available – June
Key rivals – Suzuki Alto, Kia Picanto, Hyundai i10, Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 107, Citroen C1, Smart ForTwo
Sister car to Suzuki's Indian-built Alto, the Nissan Pixo offers the same low-CO2, budget conscious attractions at an even lower entry price .
We like – undercuts mechanically identical Suzuki Alto, 103g/km emissions, compact size, proper auto optionWe don’t like – price reflected in build quality, poor rear space, small boot, slow, tinny, auto slow and worse on CO2
Fancy a game of spot the difference? OK, park the Nissan Pixo alongside its Suzuki Alto sister car and let's begin... If you identified the different bonnet, Note-inspired grille, lights, bumpers, wheel trims and colour schemes then, well, you probably need to get out more. But look at the price and one key difference is revealed. What's that? Well, Nissan has been number crunching like mad and has managed to slice £800 off the already very keen price of the Alto. As such the entry level Pixo dips - just - under six grand, with an asking price of £5,995. Access to a mainstream name like Nissan has never been cheaper.
Thing is, does it do the brand any favours? After all, Rover tried a similar trick with its City Rover - another Indian import, this time a re-badged Tata. It didn't take much to see through this opportunist attempt at badge engineering, the addition of a supposedly premium badge on a budget product doing no favours to either party. Unlike the City Rover the Alto/Pixo is a new product though, clearly built to a price but offering hybrid-rivalling 103g/km CO2, a modern Euro 5 compatible engine and compact, city-friendly dimensions. As befits its low environmental impact Nissan has awarded it 'Pure Drive' status - the firm's new branding for its low CO2 models.
The 996cc engine has that distinctive three-cylinder growl shared with cars like the Toyota Aygo (and its Peugeot 107 and Citroen C1 relations), the Smart ForTwo and entry level Polos and Fabias. And with 68hp hauling just 850kg it's just enough to stir the Pixo along and certainly up to speed (or lack of) with rivals. When we drove the Alto we criticised the long gearing on the standard five-speed manual gearbox, this aiding fuel consumption but doing nothing for acceleration. Nissan hasn't actually released any figures yet but the Pixo does have a slightly shorter final drive than the Alto so should be a little nippier off the line as a result.
Ride and handling
Tall, narrow and bouncy the Pixo doesn't quite have the chuckable feel of the Aygo/107/C1 or even the Smart. Light, feel-free steering and the general lack of urge mean it's not a car you'll be driving for thrills. Not that you'd necessarily be expecting that of a six-grand city runabout of course. The suspension has been beefed up and adjusted according to European tastes and though jiggly and not especially refined does a reasonable job on the kind of broken tarmac paving most city streets. 'Adequate' is a word that crops up a lot when assessing the Pixo and the ride is no exception.
Whether the greasy plastics were a quirk of the moulding process or simply the result of some over zealous valeting was hard to tell but there's no hiding the Pixo's budget roots. 'Well screwed together' is a clichéd roadtester's measure of interior quality but at least one of the exposed screws in our test car hadn't been fully tightened.As per the Alto, interior space is severely restricted too, with marginal legroom in the rear for adults, despite the full complement of five doors. And, again, the 129-litre boot is tiny - smaller than the Smart, Toyota iQ and indeed most other rivals. A more useful 367 litres is available with the seats down.
But what about the spec? And exactly what has Nissan chopped out to meet that headline pricetag? Well, the Pixo will be available in the familiar Visia, Acenta and Tekna grades, entry spec including two airbags, ABS, power steering (a cost option on a Smart!), an MP3 compatible CD player and rear wash/wipe. At £6,795 the entry-level Alto SZ2 costs another £800 but includes niceties like electric windows and remote central locking, features the equivalently priced Pixo Acenta also includes, along with side airbags, fog lamps and a split/fold rear seat. Spec for spec the Nissan beats its Suzuki rival then but this doesn't account for the inevitable showroom deals.
Economy and safety
Doors that clang rather than thud shut reveal the Pixo's pared down construction but this does have one key benefit - a very low kerbweight. And this plays a big part in the car's commendably low 103g/km CO2 figure. Could it crack a free to tax sub-100g/km figure though?Nissan admits the addition of a start-stop system would in all likelihood achieve this goal but we'd just be glad to see the back of the annoying tickover judder. Despite the lower final drive fuel consumption is, meanwhile, identical to the Alto at 64.2mpg. The auto version marginally pips its Suzuki equivalent, offering 56.2mpg to the Alto's 54.3.
MSN Cars verdict
If badge snobbery counts the idea of a sub-£6K Nissan is appealing. But competition is intense and buyers of cheap city cars are spoilt for choice and less driven by such trivialities. If price and low CO2 are your priorities the Pixo is a good bet but others manage better on both build quality and driver appeal.
Need to know
Engine petrol 996cc three-cylinder
Engines diesel N/A
Power hp 68
Torque lb ft 66
0-62mph secs 13.5-17 (approx)
Top speed mph 96-93 (approx)
Mpg combined 64.2-56.5
CO2/Tax 103g/km 128g/km, 10-15%
Rating Nissan Pixo
Ride and handling***
MSN Cars verdict***
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