Aleksandar Kolarov scored from a free kick after five minutes at the Etihad Stadium, and Sergio Aguero and James Milner added goals in the second half to secure a convincing win that reflected City's dominance.
By ending Sunderland's unbeaten start, City maintained its own and won consecutive league matches for the first time this season.
"We played very well and took no risks," City manager Roberto Mancini told Sky Sports television. "To score three goals I am happy for us today ... we are disappointed defensively this season but we are happy with the clean sheet."
The defensive solidity was rediscovered without backline linchpin and captain Vincent Kompany, who was ruled out with a calf injury.
Micah Richards made a surprise return from an ankle injury in his place while Joleon Lescott was also restored to the defence.
Yaya Toure took over as captain, playing alongside Gareth Barry in midfield, while Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli started up front.
Sunderland had former City winger Adam Johnson in their side hoping to make a point, but the England international was unable to make an impression.
City took the lead after Tevez was brought down by Carlos Cuellar on the first attack.
The Argentina striker had broken clear but was felled by a late tackle on the edge of the box and referee Lee Probert brandished the yellow card.
The City supporters felt it should have been red but they did not complain for long as Kolarov stepped up to curl a superb free kick past Simon Mignolet at the near post.
Not for the first time this season, Mario Balotelli was earmarked for some testing treatment by defenders.
The Italy striker held off a challenge to shoot over but was later clumsily brought down by Craig Gardner and was unlucky not to get a free kick.
City went close to a second as a Tevez shot was deflected into Pablo Zabaleta's path but Mignolet saved at point-blank range.
Tevez drove the ball back across goal after it found its way back to him but Zabaleta was unable to turn it in.
Balotelli then did win a free kick on the edge of the box after being caught in the face by Gardner's boot.
Kolarov took aim once again but his effort was deflected behind for a corner, perhaps with a hint of handball, by Sebastian Larsson.
City started the second half well with Toure cutting inside and forcing Mignolet to palm over.
A chance fell to Richards from the resulting corner and his shot at the second attempt was cleared off the line by Danny Rose.
Sunderland finally began to apply some pressure but a powerful header by Steven Fletcher, which brought a fine save from Joe Hart, was ruled offside.
Kolarov then produced a fine tackle to deny Johnson a clear run on goal. That served to shake City back into life and a sliding Balotelli was inches away from diverting a Kolarov cross toward goal.
Richards then brought a good diving save out of Mignolet with a powerful header from a Milner cross.
The second goal finally came as Aguero — on moments earlier for Balotelli, much to the Italian's disappointment — raced to the near post to turn in a vicious Kolarov ball from six yards.
That effectively signalled the end for Sunderland but City wanted more for its dominance.
Silva played in Tevez, who drove narrowly wide, and then roles were reversed as Tevez rounded Mignolet to set up his teammate, whose sublime chip hit the bar.
Barry tried his luck but Gardner headed away before Richards again saw a chance blocked on the line in a crowded penalty area.
Richards was wild with an attempted overhead kick moments later and Toure was narrowly off-target with a long-range effort.
The third goal came when Milner whipped in a free kick from the left of the box that took a slight deflection off the head of Gardner to evade Mignolet's grasp.Suggest a correction