With the public increasingly keeping a closer eye on the environment and a tighter rein on their pennies, a car manufacturer without a compact and economical city car is missing out on a big opportunity.
Nissan was once such a brand but no longer. The Pixo is here to showcase the Japanese marque’s take on low cost motoring in the 21st century.
What we actually have here is less a groundbreaking new small car concept (in the mould of Toyota’s iQ, the Mitsubishi i or the Smart ForTwo) and more of a re-styled Suzuki Alto. Nissan has teamed up with those small car experts at Suzuki and is piggybacking on the latest Alto platform. The Pixo is built in Delhi, India alongside the Alto but it’s designed very much with a view to cracking the European market.
The sole engine option is a simple but effective one designed expressly for city car applications. The all-alloy construction of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit makes it light and assists in achieving the Pixo’s low 850kg kerb weight. The maximum power output is 67bhp and peak torque of 90Nm is available from 3,400rpm, it means that despite its low mass, the Pixo will be no ball of fire but owners will gain tangible benefits in terms of running costs. The Pixo’s intended operating environment is underlined by the presence of an optional four-speed automatic transmission that will add to its ease of use around town. The standard gearbox is a five-speed manual.
The MacPherson strut front suspension is tuned to give the rigidity and fast response required in a nimble small car and at the rear, a clever 3-link rigid axle suspension is used. The suspension’s compact design is a further benefit in a small car like the Pixo when it comes to maximising interior space.
"the Pixo looks up to the job of filling the void beneath the Micra and Note"
The Pixo is a compact proposition but not in the same league as the likes of the Toyota iQ and Smart Fortwo. It measures 3,565mm long and 1,630mm wide so there’s no need for major sacrifices in terms of passenger or luggage carrying capacity. The Pixo will seat four adults in reasonable comfort and still offers a 129-litre luggage bay that can increase to 367-litres with the seats folded down. At the front end, the styling is more distinctive than that of the Pixo’s Suzuki Alto sister vehicle. There’s the familiar Nissan family grille as seen on the Note, a curved bumper and a large central vent, but venture further back and the five-door body is more reminiscent of the Alto.
Inside, the controls are chunky and simple to operate in the best Nissan traditions and the stereo is well designed with nicer finishes than you’ll encounter elsewhere. A wide, deep pocket on the passenger side takes the place of a glovebox, providing useful storage, and there’s a neat illuminated shelf in the centre console where you can stick your mobile phone or wallet in the spotlight. The wafer thin door pockets will be of little use except for paperwork or items that you’ve recently run over.Nissan is offering the Pixo in three trim levels and a single five-door bodystyle. The range kicks off with the Visia model that gives the car its eye-catching entry-level price. It’s not the most luxurious conveyance around, a fact that’s evidenced by the inclusion of ‘front cup holders’ and a ‘rear wash/wipe’ on the spec list, but buyers do get a CD stereo, power steering, ABS and a couple of airbags. The Acenta adds side airbags, remote central locking, electric front windows and a 50/50 split rear seat. The Tekna is the range topper with air-conditioning ESP stability control and curtain airbags amongst other features.
A split is developing in the city car market between the trendier offerings like the Fiat 500, Ford Ka and Toyota iQ at one end and the more utilitarian and affordable ones at the other. The Nissan Pixo falls into the later camp alongside the likes of Citroën’s C1, Hyundai’s i10 and Kia’s Picanto, not to mention the Suzuki Alto. The standards we’ve come to expect from such models are higher than ever but the Alto is equipped to compete, particularly at the Visia’s £6,000 price point.
Running costs will be a major attraction for Pixo customers with the 1.0-litre engine returning a very impressive 64.2mpg. The urban cycle is designed to replicate city use and at 51.3mpg will be more indicative of the sort of economy that owners can expect. CO2 emissions are similarly low with an average of 103g/km grouping the Pixo in with the very cleanest cars on the road.
The Nissan range has been crying out for a city car for a long time and the Pixo looks up to the job of filling the void beneath the Micra and Note. It’s a comparatively straightforward small car package that lacks the design innovation and fashion sense we’ve seen from other offerings in the sector but it makes up for that with decent practicality, low pricing and miniscule running costs.