By on March 10, 2014

IDx Freeflow / IDx NISMO

The Nissan IDx concept, which debuted at the Tokyo motor show back in November of last year, is in the news again, this time appearing on YouTube as a part of the popular Jay Leno’s Garage series. We learned in January that the IDx is expected to go into full production and Nissan has been relentlessly seeking publicity for it by taking it to events all around the country. It is a good looking little car with just enough retro touches to remind people of the times when Nissan was sold in this country under the Datsun brand name and this video is the lengthiest review of the car I have yet seen. Leno spends a lot of time speaking with the car’s designer about all the little details that make the car so special and then takes it on a real world test drive. If you haven’t seen it yet, take time to look at it now as it will soon be the topic of discussion around water coolers and wherever else it is that car guys gather these days.

YouTube Preview Image

Rather than review the video, I’ll let you watch it and draw your own conclusions but I was struck by the fact that, even during the test drive, there was no discussion about the car’s driving dynamics or performance. Leno and the car’s designer ride around together talking about silly things like three-box design philosophy and keeping the car cheap so that normal people can afford it, but at no point does Jay say, “Wow, this thing handles great” or “Wow, this thing really accelerates.” Perhaps it was a simple omission on the part of the video’s producers but I feel like it could be more than that and, because of it, I am getting an odd sense of foreboding.

Back when Nissan announced that the IDx would go into production, they mentioned that the turbocharged engine in the show car would not make the final cut. They suggested instead that the production car would mount a 1.6 liter four cylinder and this earlier statement is confirmed by the designer during his ride with Leno. What does not come up in this conversation, however, is the other bit of informaion Nissan originally dropped in their January announcement: that their stated choice of transmissions for the car is their continuously variable transmission.

Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

I would imagine that, if Nissan was paying attention to the opinions of their many fans and had elected to go with a different choice of transmissions, the designer would happily have trumpeted that decision during the interview. The fact that he ignores the transmission altogether makes me feel even more certain that the IDx will be delivered exactly as Nissan’s original announcement indicates – sans manual. Frankly, I am disappointed, and unless the company takes action to offer at least some version of the car where people can row their own gears, I think the IDx is going to be another one of those cars that almost, but not quite, caters to the enthusiast market.

To be sure, I’m not sure if catering to the enthusiast market is a wise thing to do for a car intended to sell in large volumes, but I would like to think that our opinions still matter. If nothing else, enthusiasts generate buzz around a new car and that excitement can and does drive people into the show rooms. The industry has this habit of hyping cars to the enthusiast market and then coming up short and, frankly, I don’t like it. I believe the BRZ/FR-S is not selling in the numbers they expected because Toyota and Subaru decided they knew better than us about what people really wanted in a small sporty coupe. Dodge, too, horribly botched the debut of the new Dart by failing to bring enough automatic transmissions to market something that is, from my perspective, at least partially to blame for their failure to sell what is otherwise a nice little car. Will the Nissan IDx be the next example of a promising little car that ultimately under-delivers? I honestly hope it isn’t because I would love to live in a world where we have more than enough cute, zippy, fun to drive little cars running around, rather than a world where I am always right.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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87 Comments on “Leno Talks Nissan IDx: What’s Left Unsaid Speaks Volumes...”


  • avatar
    johnhowington

    dear nissan, no manual transmission? no sale. otherwise, you got me hook, line and sinker.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Nissan: very fashionably late to the “retro sports car” party.

    I worry that like almost every sports car Nissan has ever made, it will price itself right out of contention, though to be fair the FR-S/BRZ’s relatively modest stickers haven’t exactly led to ’66 Mustang-esque sales.

    The Z starts at near-as-makes-no-difference $30K. I don’t see the IDx coming in very far below that. Not that cannibalization is an issue; Z sales haven’t cracked 10k in four years.

    • 0 avatar
      Feds

      Can you be late to a party you hosted?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_Figaro

    • 0 avatar
      Macca

      ^ As a 370Z owner and Z enthusiast, I struggle to entirely explain the slow sales, but it does appear to be a segment trait. I think the economy plays a significant role in the narrative – launching a $30k+ 2-seat sports car at the outset of a recession is horrible timing. I’d like to think the Z offers great performance and I think it’s a hoot to drive and gorgeous too. A couple of the reviews from TTAC were far from flattering, and it typically gets flack for being overweight, loud, cramped and so on, pretty obvious criticisms for a fairly serious performance-oriented machine – even though other loud, cramped sports cars get a pass. It’s not a comfy-fast GT by any means – and I think that’s another culprit for slow sales. Those looking for a fast-looking car can find something a little more easy to live with.

      It doesn’t have any brand cachet in your driveway, except maybe from ignorant neighbors that think it’s a Porsche (yes, that happens). The price mostly excludes young enthusiasts, and middle-age enthusiasts that can throw $30-$40 on a toy car can probably spend $50k on a Corvette or $60+ on a Cayman.

      You mention how the $25k sticker on the FR-S hasn’t made it a hot seller, either, which is perhaps an indictment of the two-door ‘sporty’ car class and its appeal to a rather limited pool. It’s also probably due in part to the closing of the “sportiness gap” such that an Accord V6 driver with a penchant for speed can red-light race with the best of them. You don’t have to drive a vehicle with serious space/comfort compromises to get speed anymore and consumers have apparently voted with their wallets.

      And frankly, Nissan has done almost nothing to promote the 370Z, which is a shame (and a bit of a chicken/egg discussion). I understand not spending inordinate amounts on ads for a car that isn’t selling, but the public awareness of the 370 is pitiful – most don’t even know that it replaced the 350Z.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The Z has a a few problems:

      * One, it’s a two-seater. That dumps it into the “toy” category, and people who buy toys (or who can afford to buy them) tend to buy much shinier toys from more prestigious brands.

      * Two, it’s kind of expensive. In Canada, it’s flat-out stupid-expensive, but even in the US it’s not a cheap car. For the narrow group of people who’d buy it, it’s ruinously expensive to insure.

      Nissan might—might—stand a chance if they can get this on lots with four seats (and, better yet, four doors), but even then, with the market the way it is, there’s precious few people with the money for a toy car who are willing to settle for a non-premium brand.

      And most of those people buy Mustangs and Camaros.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Yep…. I have a 350Z but I bought it for 10K.

        Other dude hit the nail on the head as well. Z is good but people would rather get a much cheaper FR-S/Mustang, or pay more and get the recognition and added performance/refinement of a Corvette/Cayman. I saw a review of the drop top Z on /DRIVE… the one they had was 50K. That’s the starting price of the Boxster.

        If you pick the right tires though the road noise isn’t too bad. I’ve done about 2,500 miles of road tripping in my Z and while it wasn’t luxurious it was OK. As long as the roads are smooth and you have quiet tires it’s a good GT.

      • 0 avatar
        Macca

        @ psarhjinian, I think I touched on those issues in my novella above, but yes, I agree with your points – except for insurance. I have mine insured in the $80/mo range, which is similar to my other decidedly non-sporty cars. Granted, there are some multi-car discounts in there, but still, others should be able to achieve the same.

        @ sportyaccordy – while waiting for my ordered 370Z to show up, I was preparing myself for a sound deadener install, but once I got it and drove around I found it quite livable. I’ve taken it on a 350mi round trip and it was very comfortable. But review after review complains about this and it gets irritating when you realize that there are economy cars with similar dB levels. My next tires will probably be Continental Extreme Contact DW, as the DWS version transformed the interior noise in my Mazda3.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    If Nissan offers a manual transmission in the Juke, I’m certain that this car will have one…and it would *definitely* have one in a NISMO version.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Well, it certainly looks different. Then again, so did Quasimodo. That red-pink fascia/spoiler reminds me of a giant tongue sticking out. Styling by Miley Cyrus?

  • avatar

    Nissan is the king of CVTs. And Subaru build WRX STi with CVT, don’t they? I am not surprised at all that Nissan plans for CVT. I think all the we need now is an aftermarket kit that relocates the brake pedal on the left side, and chip or patch for computers that allows to use it. Bring it on!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Nissan was also tied with VAG USA at #19 of 20 on the last CR survey published by TTAC.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        With the difference between first and worst being not a whole heck of a lot these days.

        I find this car appealing as a toy car, but count me as no stickshift = no sale. I don’t mind CVT’s – they suck just as much as conventional automatics.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      The WRX STi is 6 speed manual only.

      The soon to be released ordinary WRX has the option of CVT and a superior center limited differential to the regular manual version. The problem with a performance CVT seems to be that so much hydraulic pressure has to be continously applied to the pulleys to prevent slip, the economy suffers. The manual is rated for better mileage, surely a first for CVTs.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    It’s definitely a concern. The design team definitely know what enthusiasts want. If they don’t deliver it, then they should not be expecting success.

    On paper, the idea of a Juke motor with decent gearbox in a more practical body than a Toyobaru is a great idea. Perhaps borrow some Renaultsport parts as well to aid in the feel of things and it could be a great car. They could even offer a more tame version to aid volume if necessary. But to specifically not cater to the enthusiasts who would be the leading edge of the consumers interested (and the biggest evangelists for the car) makes little or no sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Macca

      Meh, we keep hearing about how a car that fails to cater to enthusiasts will fail, but in reality, the internet car enthusiast far overestimates the number of like-minded individuals with cash ready to purchase.

      People would rather have the illusion of sportiness (or offroad capability, or luxury) than pay for the real thing. Manuals aren’t going away because of some vast anti-enthusiast conspiracy, people just aren’t buying them.

      Catering to enthusiasts seems to be a losing proposition. Heck, Nissan would like this to sell better than the FR-S, and the automotive press told us it was the return of the cheap-performance dream car. Why isn’t it flying off showroom floors?

      I’m thinking Nissan will deliver a Nismo IDx that will meet that limited demand for performance and let the ‘normal’ version cater to market demands (automatic, trick infotainment) which will hopefully provide decent sales numbers.

      • 0 avatar
        omer333

        ^THIS!

        Enthusiasts are not the be-all end-all in this, the average car buyer that wants something that looks good, drives well, doesn’t cost a small fortune, and has all the whistles and bells is the target.

        That’s why Mustangs basically print money for Ford. Yes, there’s GT500s, Boss 302s, Roushes, and Saleens (oh my!), but there’s plenty of plain-jane V6 and even V8 models to cover the cost of the high-power “enthusiast” cars that the internet/buff books love so much.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        I’m aware of all of that. And have said as much elsewhere. But if you develop something which is specifically targetted at enthusiasts (which this car is) then you need to make them happy enough to give you money for it. This car will not sell well as a 2-door coupe. That body style alone guarantees niche status. But aggressively going after enthusiasts throughout the development/hype cycle, and then willfully not delivering according to expectations, is pretty much suicidal.

        It’s one thing to build a car within particular engineering constraints, and then having the hype machine get out of control. It’s another to stoke the hype machine and then try to sell something that feels like the equivalent of a bait and switch.

        • 0 avatar
          Macca

          Sushi – “This car will not sell well as a 2-door coupe. That body style alone guarantees niche status.”

          I would like to submit Exhibit A – the Scion tC. A small, relatively non-sporting 4-cyl coupe that, on average, sells almost 2x as well as the FR-S & BRZ *combined*. The average yearly sales for the tC since 2004 is 38k/year, although recently it has trended closer to 20k/year. 2006 was a high watermark at 79k.

          • 0 avatar
            juicy sushi

            At what price range though? It’s a lot cheaper than the Toyobaru, and isn’t aiming at the same market.

            But even at 38k, that would be less I’d venture, than it would see as a 4-door.

            The IDx has been presented by Nissan in their hype as a combination of “something for the kids” and their take on the “affordable driver’s car”. Hence the reason for the two versions of the concept. I don’t really see this making much of an impact on the “youth” market, as I subscribe to the same views as Derek on why the youth market isn’t buying cars right now. On the enthusiast side, if this doesn’t deliver in line with hype/expectations then it will suffer as Toyota has. No manual and a lousy motor will be pretty good guarantees of sales failure on the enthusiast side. On the non-enthusiast side, this seems like a bad idea anyway.

          • 0 avatar
            Macca

            Um, the tC starts at $19,965 and the Monogram edition (uplevel trim) automatic has a $22,400 MSRP. That’s only $4k less than the FR-S 6-speed manual. I can see many non car-enthusiast shoppers testing both and buying the slightly cheaper tC. 38k/ year seems like strong numbers for a small coupe – the far more practical xB has only averaged 20k/year in second-gen guise (2009-present). Heck, the current Acura TL has only sold 33k/yr average since ’09.

            How a vehicle is hyped/aimed and who it actually sells to are two vastly different realms. Scion as a whole exists because Toyota wanted to reach “the youth” (we’re in agreement that this is a lost cause). Turns out the original xB became a huge hit with, shall we say, seniors, as it was practical and frugal.

            I still think you’re way too focused on Nissan’s press hype for the IDx and how little of that will actually trickle down to the general buying public. A *very* small number of car buyers spend countless hours online reading press material about a car that is still a year or two from production.

            It’s a pretty small niche of performance-minded piston-heads looking for a 4cyl RWD coupe. Why position the car to only appeal to this tiny demographic and squander key TV commercial stats like MPG and starting base price? “Driver’s car” doesn’t necessarily mean stick-shifts or blazing-fast 0-60 times.

            The Juke has proven almost every auto journalist and online commenter wrong with strong sales (37k/yr average) for such an oddly styled, niche vehicle. Such that several automakers are scrambling to get their version to market. It sells because it’s ‘cute’, it’s reasonably peppy and it stands out. If the IDx does the same, I think Nissan will have a winner on their hands, even if it fails to meet some internet gearhead’s idea of what it should/could have been.

          • 0 avatar
            juicy sushi

            I think you misunderstand me. We may just have to agree to disagree. I know and have frequently articulated that driver’s cars aren’t about horsepower. I am not going off marketing hype alone either. Nissan personnel have taken aim at the Toyobaru and said they intend the IDx to be a better driver’s car.

            That would mean they need to deliver something which at least meets expectations to some degree. Even if they offer more than one trim level.

            Yes, there is more money in doing something other than a driver’s car. But the IDx would be terrible for meeting that market anyway. A small retro RWD coupe is not something likely to have broad reach. The Juke has done funky well, but it also offers a lot of practicality in its packaging. The IDx lacks that. Hence I feel that if they want commercial success they at least need to better match their enthusiast car product to the hype than Toyota has done. If not, the results will be roughly similar.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            LOL at “Monogram Edition.” Scion has truly stuck to it’s young people and tuners type -stated- market.

            I would have no problem seeing “Monogram Edition” in script across the C-pillar of a Town Car.

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      My new Tagline – Enthusiasts make great marketing but terrible customers.

      First the 86, then the Jeeps, then this – the trick is to make your car buzzworthy enough to get the free discussion, but optioned out like your customers who actually pay money will want.

      I suspect another stylish competitor in the 500 segment is only good news for everyone, and it’s great news to people who want to buy a used one 5 years down the road and rice the hell out of it.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Your last point there made me think of something probable.

        This won’t sell well because of price or trans or etc. Down the road there will be select buyers who want to rice these a la 240sx or the 300zx. You won’t be able to find a good one from their 3-4 year run, unless one pops up on ebay with 24k miles and at $35000.

        Sad.

        • 0 avatar
          ellomdian

          I wouldn’t be surprised if the FT-86 was the millennial version of the original AE86.

          Finding a clean, unmolested one of those that doesn’t cost a fortune these days is next to impossible.

  • avatar
    wolfinator

    I was about to post to criticize the styling, which I personally do not care for.

    But then I thought better of it. Although I rarely like the results, I really appreciate that Nissan is willing to go out on a limb and make interesting-looking cars. Sure, the Juke looks like a mutated amphibian. Nobody seems to love the cube (although I do!). And the Murano Crosscabriolet – well the less said the better.

    But at least someone’s doing something different!

    • 0 avatar
      Banger

      “Nobody seems to love the cube (although I do!).”

      I do, too. But there’s a back-end reason nobody seems to love the cube: Nissan isn’t marketing it. Kia sells 118,000 Souls in a year’s time, but Nissan sells under 6,000 cubes. The two vehicles are natural competitors, so why not market the cube in America at the same level Kia markets the Soul?

      One reason: Exchange rates suck.

      The cube is still built in Japan, where manufacturing teeters on the edge of being cost-prohibitive for an economical box like the cube. You’ll notice MSRPs of cubes don’t exactly compete with similarly-trimmed Souls — they’re a good $1,000 to $2,500 higher over at Nissan’s lot.

      It’s not that Nissan COULDN’T sell a ton of cubes. I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t be a solid 30,000-seller annually, stealing away a few would-be Soul customers who value comfort and quirk over the Soul’s lower prices and sportier characteristics. It’s just that Nissan DOESN’T WANT TO sell cubes, quixotically thinking — and beware I’m totally assuming this based on my experiences with Nissan ever since we bought a cube in 2010 — that they can sell would-be Soul buyers on the Nissan Versa Note. The Mexico-built Note has a much better profit margin than the Japan-built cube despite its lower starting MSRP, of course.

      I think Nissan needs to learn a similar lesson here. Marketed correctly, the IDx cars could become successful with the slice of the market that currently shops the Scion tC but is not turned on by the vanilla, Corolla-like driving experience. It could also steal some thunder from 20-somethings like myself who find the Dodge Challenger one of the best muscle designs of the modern (and not-so-modern) era but who do not want the girth nor the fuel economy of that monster.

      But the key will be MARKETING IT. If they fail to actively market the IDx to those tC and Challenger demographics, among others, then the IDx will wallow on dealer lots and sell four-figure numbers annually just like the poor, mis-marketed cube.

  • avatar
    jupiter119

    This is a perfect retro styled car based on the 1st gen Toyota Celica NOT Datsun 510! If you watch the video the designer talks about this being a 3 box car but trunk is so short and tall it really could be a hatchback. Sitting next to the Datsun 510 in Jay’s garage you can really see the difference between the cars designs. I much prefer the very defined lower trunk and hood with the high cab. I wish they’d design a retro 510 with a profile more akin to a 510 or BMW 2002.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    All that trouble to make it RWD and they’re not even going to offer a stick?! Bummer. I’d be OK making it FWD and a true successor to the B13 SE-R if they offered a 6MT. THAT is the key here!

  • avatar
    Drunkonunleaded

    It’s quite apparent watching the video that there was no shifting involved…

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I think it’s a beautiful design. I agree the “retro” thing is overdone, but I still think you can create something beautiful from inspiration of the past.

    Nissan needs a car like this, it really feels like it’s in a rut and needs to take some gambles.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I’m sort of flummoxed by this. On one hand I really want to like it. But it’s ugly. I can’t get past some of the shapes and angles on it. And it actually reminds me more of an early 70s Celica than the 510 at many angles. Especially from the rear.
    Perhaps in something closer to production trim it won’t look quite so ungainly.

  • avatar
    Pseud0logik

    “Then again, the BRZ/FR-S is not selling in the numbers they expected because Toyota and Subaru decided they knew better than us about what people wanted.”

    Bitter much?

    Just because YOU don’t want it doesn’t mean NOBODY wants it. Fact is, the market for small, lightweight, agile sports cars that are light on gadgets and brute force is much smaller than the market for trucks and muscle cars. Slapping on another 50hp won’t make it sell better, it will just make it more expensive.

    Unfortunately for enthusiasts, a Nissan that looks the part while getting fantastic gas mileage from a tiny engine and rubbery CVT will probably sell better than the twins because it will actually appeal to the younger crowd who care less about “passion” and “feel” than they do about how well their iPhone integrates with the touchscreen display.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes. I’m bitter because the BRZ/FR-S has so much potential that it fails to reach. I’m tired of car companies endlessly hyping new cars to the enthusiast market and then coming up short.

      How much better would it have been if they had offered both? Twenty years ago they would have…

      – Great first comment, by the way, welcome to the discussion.

      • 0 avatar
        Pseud0logik

        Every car has missed potential. What I love about the twins is how they got the basics right. Adding more power is easy, doing a drivetrain swap is hard. People who really want a fast 86 can have one fairly easily. People who want an AWD Fiesta ST or a manual Chevy SS aren’t so lucky.

        I honestly believe that, someday, 20 years from now, we will all be arguing about which year FR-S/BRZ is the best one to buy and turn into a race car. Just like we do now about Miatas. And I can remember very easily the time when Miatas weren’t “cool”.

        • 0 avatar
          JuniperBug

          Have Miatas become cool? Other than a small subset who track/race them (and ensure that there’s a great performance parts aftermarket for them), they still seem to be largely driven by near-octogenarians and women.

          Personally, I love this because near-pristine 10+ year-old ones can easily be found for reasonable prices, insurance is cheap because people aren’t generally crashing or stealing parts off of them, and when I drive in traffic with mine, I don’t have the prick stigma attached to me like BMWs, for example, do.

          I keep hoping that Miatas don’t become cool; I’d rather they stay a bit of a real driving enthusiast’s secret. I think for now I’m safe – I’ve even had a coworker who didn’t want to get into mine because he thought it would look too gay.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Subaru has a library of engines. The car would not have cost more if it came with a 2.5 instead of the 2.0, which would have solved all of the BRZ’s TORQUE problems. It could have had the straight line performance of something like a Camaro/Mustang V6 while also being significantly lighter and better handling for the same money.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The 86 was designed to hit a price point.

        A more powerful motor would raise both the purchase price and the operating costs.

        Any motor over 2.0 liters gets taxed at a higher rate in Japan.

        More power –> more fuel consumption –> higher CO2 emissions. That’s a problem in Europe, where annual road taxes (registration fees) are now being assessed based upon emissions.

        In many of these places, gasoline is $6+ per gallon, which likewise makes it difficult to keep that affordable.

        What may have made more sense was to provide the Americans with a more powerful motor than was offered to the other markets, such as a 2.0 liter turbo. But perhaps there were good reasons to not do that for a relatively low volume car.

        I would presume that the plan was to introduce a more powerful version later, but that the demand thus far has since proven to be too low to justify it.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          The 2 engine solution is exactly what they should have done. Let the folks in countries with stupid displacement laws suffer and let us have all the ccs. Another 500ccs would have added zero cost (Subaru has several 2.5L motors and I’m pretty sure the FA20 could be expanded to 2.5L) and solidified the car’s package and balance. It’s not too late Subaru!!!

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            As I noted, I’m not sure whether a two-engine solution was a practical choice. The theory is nice, but there may have been sound reasons why that may not have been easy. (I’m not claiming that I know what their options were; I don’t have enough information, either way.)

          • 0 avatar
            TonyJZX

            yes i dont see how two engines is a problem

            the mazda 3 as an example?

            where i am the subarus and nissans often come with a 2.0 or 2.5 option

            you telling me a Toyota, the #1 couldnt work that out yet Nissan could?

            and besides, i think a 1.6 eco turbo would have been nice, that might even be an option down the line

  • avatar
    LALoser

    I am very interested. Nothing else Nissan has, (GT-R excepted), I like enough to buy. Just on the surface, I would buy this over the FR-S/BRZ/86/BOB car.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    So let’s do a drive and some publicity for the ridiculous looking one which very few people would buy. In NISMO format, it will end up being priced like an M3 or something stupid. And it looks too embarrassing for any adult to drive around.

    I’m annoyed at this sort of promotional junk. I like the normal version one, it looks very French to me. The floating C-pillar near-landau look is straight off a Citroen. Or that Opel-cum-Buick for China.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Corey! Maybe they think the Nismo concept would get more eyeballs. The regular one will probably be showcased when it’s ready, not before, because it’s the intended seller. So doesn’t bother me.

      That being said, I agree with you. The Nismo is too much! The other however, I have to confess, looks very good to me. Like you pointed out, maybe it’s the French connection showing as usually I don’t really like most Japanese cars’ design. French cars on the other hand, almost always look good.

      If they do eventually do it, and it’s not too crazy in pricing, I’d certainly consider it.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I would agree with that. Show the NISMO to gather excitement, until you get the beige (literally) one ready to go. It clearly has no airbag even, very much concept stage.

        Being that the 370z is 30K USD, I think this would have to be closer to 20-25K (well-optioned at 25K, which competes with BRZ/FRZ). That’s a tall order, but just imagine how easy it would be to poach Forte and Elantra buyers with this thing.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          Nobody is cross shopping small sedans and sport coupes. This thing will be way less practical and fuel efficient than something like an Elantra.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Oh you know what I mean, some similar small Korean cars at the same pricing.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            There are no similar small Korean cars. Closest is the Genesis Coupe which is significantly bigger, more expensive and doesn’t really have much of a market to poach. So I don’t really know what you mean.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I mean:

            -Korean cars
            -Priced around 20k

            That’s it. This looks better, would poach sales at the same price, even if it doesn’t get 45mpg. I hate it when you get on your high horse.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Just the FRS/BRZ, half the so-called enthusiasts will just whine about how it is too slow or too expensive or too heavy or all 3. I am willing to bet the same critics of the twins are now expecting this to be a 370Z chassis with a retro 2-box body for under $20k. And they will be disappointed.

    But if anyone can do this right, it’s Nissan. They have less to lose and less constraints on the design. Like I have said all along, if the FRS/BRZ could have spawned more practical siblings they would have more overall market success. I could see Nissan turning this platform into a small RWD sedan like the E30 3-series and a RWD sports car like the 240SX to compete with the twins. Maybe even a small wagon to really drive the internet fanbois crazy.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      The point about spawning off platforms is a good one. An FR-S sedan/wagon/shooting brake sounds pretty good to me… but then they would absolutely have to give it a bigger engine. A $30K FR-S sedan with the 3.0L F6 from the old Legacy sounds pretty nice.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “I was struck by the fact that, even during the test drive, there was no discussion about the car’s driving dynamics or performance.”

    1. The guest was the designer, not the engineer. They can’t have much of an on-camera dialog about the engineering.

    2. It’s a show car. At this point, it’s probably more of a design exercise than a fully-executed car that can be fairly judged in its current state.

    That being said, Leno didn’t seem all that worked up about it.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s what worried me. Leno drives performance cars – he even talked about his GT40 a little there – and he didn’t seem one bit excited about this car. It’s too bad, really, this thing could be an awesome little roller-skate that wouldn’t need to have a ton of features to get people looking. If it’s no fun to drive, though, then it’s going to be a non starter.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        But again, it’s probably not fair to form opinions about the car’s drivability at this juncture, and in any case, the designer is the wrong guy with whom to have that discussion.

        Also, the drive was probably pretty short and at low speed. Probably not the best opportunity to form impressions about driving performance: http://www.autoweek.com/article/20140203/CARREVIEWS/140209989

        At this point, all that you can do is judge the design cues, and hope that the production model captures the best ideas that the show car has to offer.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        Almost all show cars are dreadful hack jobs under the pretty paint. Chances are whatever platform was the donor for this has been chopped up and welded together in some pretty odd ways. It doesn’t take much of that to ruin a car’s suspension geometry, and the body probably flexes like crazy. Plus the bodywork for a one-off like this is probably significantly heavier than a production design would be.

        In other words — it’s a miracle it drives at all, let alone well.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, I think Pch’s take on Thomas’ impression was right on. Besides talking to the designer, they were driving a million dollar concept car. You could see how worried the designer got when Leno accidently opened the door during the drive. They went about it very gingerly and the focus was just the look, not the performance.

      My impression was Leno liked it, but didn’t love it.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    It’s reaching the point where manual transmissions will only be offered as a special order at higher cost, if at all. I’d take one with a conventional 5 or 6 speed auto, but not the CVT, and that option is fast disappearing, at least as far as Nissan is concerned.

    All automakers are being squeezed by the need to adhere to CAFE standards, emissions standards and safety standards. The end game is going to be cars uncomfortable to sit in, enter or exit, or see out of, with weak drive trains, and nanny devices wringing all the fun out of driving. Only the wealthy will be able to afford real cars.

    This Monday morning pessimism was brought to you by Lorenzo, still working on that first cup of coffee.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Looks great to me. I prefer the non-Nismo variety and I appreciate seeing it parked next to a 510, so I could get a sense of size and proportion. If Nissan provides a manual version, they might poach some groupies of the following cars:
    – BMW 2002
    – Toyota Celica GT (from 1971-1987)
    – Datsun 510
    – Lancia Fulvia (even though it was front wheel drive)
    – Volvo 242GT
    – Saab 99 EMS (even though that was front wheel drive)
    – Ford Cortina
    – Fiat 131
    – Mazda RX3
    – Opel Kadette and Manta

    Yes, I’m scrapping bottom of the barrel on most of those, so that sounds like, oh, maybe 2,000 potential buyers who are fat, balding, and heading to Dunkin Donuts for the free daily donut with AARP discount?

  • avatar
    JMII

    As a 350Z owner I don’t like the look of the IDx, too boxy… I still prefer the Z’s shape: long hood, wide stance, sloped hatchback. The lack of a turbo is sad, as this is what took the FR-S / BR-Z off my list (not enough power).

    The lack of a manual might be a good thing if the tranny in my Z is any indication. The synchros Nissan use SUCK. My first tranny (’03) ate 3rd gear by 40K miles, so I dropped in a used (80K) but newer (’06) version, now its grinding in 5th. Maybe this is just a 350Z thing, but I’ve never had such rotten experiences with a manual box.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I really like the looks. But then again, I liked the Dart for its looks, until I drove two of them.

    I’m not totally opposed to the CVT. I once test-drove a Versa 1.6 CVT that had great throttle response. In my advancing age I’m less inclined to go for a stick shift, anyway.

  • avatar
    WhiskerDaVinci

    I got to poke around with these while they were at The Petersen Auto Museum in L.A. on Feb. 1st, and while the Nissan people were answering a lot of questions about the cars, they seemed incredibly dodgy about engines, transmissions and performance numbers. I wasn’t the only person there who seemed a bit suspicious about why they were so dodgy.

    Other than that they were pretty cool, although the Nismo one is a bit ridiculous in person if I’m honest. What with it’s 80s tastic whorehouse red interior. The denim interior of the normal one was really cool and while it’s quite obvious that won’t make it to production, it was a nice touch. Same with the super high quality leather dash and console bits that made the car smell fantastic.

    • 0 avatar

      I think they’re avoiding questions as this has the potential to actually be a success around the world. In this vein, necessarily, the powertrains would be a bit of a let down for Americans. In Brazil we can get excited with a simple 1.2 or 1.6, engines which have been said will fit the normal version, Americans, I don’t think so…

      Red interiors, done tastefully, are cool. See Cincuecento.

      Size-wise, what car would you compare it to?

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I have always thought the Datsun 1600 was one of the best vehicles ever made.

    They were extremely light and powered by the L series 1600. I had much experience building and working with the L Series engines. A couple of sidedraught 45mm DCOE Webbers with a little head work and a wild cam.

    They were cheap performance vehicles that could out handle any muscle car of their time, with independent suspension.

    Many made it into rallying here in Australia. I even got the chance to drive one.

    The Nissan Renault Alliance is bringing back the Datsun brand. I’ve read that they are using the brand as a cheap and cheerful product in developing nations.

    I hope this is actually built in the spirit of the orignal Datsun sports cars. Datsun/Nissan really lost their name when the 280ZX was ‘Americanised’ into a boulevard cruisers.

    Bring back the Datsun Sports car. An everyday car that was a joy to drive.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I know that Nissan has affection toward four-spoke wheels, but someone should tell them that such a design is a modern taboo…

  • avatar
    smartascii

    Cars that sell surprisingly well despite their bodystyle/engine/transmission configuration and go against market are generally cars that LOOK interesting. There is a significant portion of the buying public with money to spend on new cars that isn’t interested in a beigemobile. Mini Coopers sell well, and Smart ForTwos don’t, and it isn’t because the Cooper has an unusable back seat or because of the transmission. It’s because the Smart is ugly. Jukes sell well because they don’t look like anything else, despite being too small for the average crossover buyer. xBs sold exceptionally well for a 100-ish horsepower car because they had style. An example from the past is the PT Cruiser, which was basically a Neon station wagon, and history has shown it to be a pretty terrible car, but they sold anyway.

    This is the problem with the FR-S. There are a few people (and I’m one of them) who might buy the car for the driving experience. But the rest of the people who are willing to put up with the compromises it requires want style, and it just doesn’t have that.

    This Nissan thing, whatever it winds up being called, doesn’t look like other cars, and if it’s advertised right, it might steal some Mini/Fiat sales, but the people who do buy it won’t care which wheels drive it or how the transmission works.

    • 0 avatar
      Macca

      ^ This x1000, well said. Great screen name too, by the way.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      How can you say that the FRS/BRZ doesnt have “style”? Its a great looking car, even those who complain about it find fault with the performance, not the looks.

      And really, I am getting tired of hearing the comments about them not selling well when they have hit 30k units or so per year. It has been explained numerous times that the “low” sales numbers are for other markets outside the US. And besides the Mustang, what other sports coupes outsell them? The market just isn’t that big, and a $25k+ these things were never going to replace Civics or Corollas.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        I agree that the FRS/BRZ is a pretty sharp car. I was driving next to one the other day for a while and noted how much lower and wider it appears in person. Looks aren’t the issue.

        • 0 avatar
          smartascii

          Don’t get me wrong – the Toyota’s not ugly, but it’s also not interesting or recognizable, and the market I’m talking about wants that. Exacerbating this is the fact that it’s offered as both a Scion and a Subaru, brands that represent very different images, and whose customers are recognized as being outside the mainstream. All I’m saying is that if it looked like an Alfa 4C, people would buy it BECAUSE it looked like that, but what it looks like to most people is a Miata with a hardtop.

          Edit: Also, 30k/yr sales is not bad, but in the context of the current way that cars are designed and sold, it’s not really enough to encourage another manufacturer to create a dedicated platform for enthusiasts to enjoy. I have no idea what Toyota’s break-even point is for this car, but when it sells 30k to the Camry’s 400k, it’s hard to see Toyota continuing this line of thinking in the future.

  • avatar
    tralls

    I totally understand what you are trying to say in your article, but I don’t think you watch enough Jay Leno’s Garage to understand how it works. Jay never comments on driving dynamics of concept cars that are barely street legal. It would be a waste of his time to talk about aspects of a car that was never meant to drive faster than 45mph. You can tell from how loud the engine is that this is purely a concept car with an engine shoved under the hood. The review was never meant to be a discussion of its handling or performance. Those sorts of discussions can only happen after the car has been designed to meet safety standards and then taken out and tuned by an engineering team.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re right, I’m not a regular viewer but I have seen him riding around with Dennis Gage on My Classic Car a bunch of times. Jay is usually a lot more animated when he’s talking cars and I just didn’t get any real enthusiasm from him on the way the car actually worked. He appreciated the design, I think, but it just didn’t look like he was that into it.

      The truth is, I suppose, if this was being touted as another economy car ala the Versa (which I drove for several weeks as a rental in Japan some years ago and really liked) I’d be OK with it, but this is being pushed on us as a cool little retro car and despite all the bunk about the kids buying it, my guess is it will be older guys like myself who have a place for a smallish fun car that can double as a commuter car that will be the actual buyer. Its my youth they are harking back to after all so why wouldn’t I be interested? With that in mind, I want Nissan to know they need to get this right and at least give us the option of a manual transmission. I think they’ll sell a lot more that way.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I’d love to see this as a modern day 510 – light, practical, and RWD. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Nissan decides they can make a pretty decent business case of essentially building a Juke coupe, throwing the retro body on the B platform, and letting what was already a competent enough crossover be a fun little thing with a few hundred less pounds and a lower centre of gravity. Borrowing the Juke’s $19k base price/$21k with AWD, it might do fairly well for itself.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Heh, the side profile looks so much like my Forte Koup… maybe it’s the Japanese’s turn to copy the Korean’s now? :P

    The 1.6L engine in our Juke is pretty sad until it gets into boost. If Nissan doesn’t offer a performance version, this will be about as “faux-retro” successful as the CR-Z.

  • avatar
    robc123

    Ball, consider yourself dropped.

    What’s so hard about bringing back a freaking econo box?

    1. badge it datsun
    2. make it a easy platform to work on with minimal electronics- make it modular if easier.
    3. keep the one you sell cheap like an… econo box $14-16k base.
    4. Manual transmission, manual windows, vinyl, am/fm radio.
    5. keep going back to sell it as fun and great MPG, econo box.
    6. get the tuners hyped up with s-loads of upgrades, turbos, seats, seat-belts, even spin out a rally car datsun.
    7. if super popular, do the porsche route and option everything. carbon fiber hood, deleted a/c, etc.

    wait.

    profit with nice econo box that, when modded can rally or street race.

    (grew up in a b210, 60mpg in ’78)

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    A lot of kids dont drive today unless thye have to, what is there out there to inspire kids to own or drive. This car may be it, stylish and not too expensive. But the machine has to live up to the looks.

    Entusiasts and performance do sell, witness the subaru STI.

    The GT86 does not sell great, not because the base car is so bad, but because there is no halo model above it to shine a bright light. What is needed on the Gt86 is a 2.5 turbo motor option, if it costs 35k and sells not in huge numbers fine, but it will raise desireability and cred of the whole concept. As to style the GT86 is better than most blandboxes, but still melted soap.

    So yeah the nissan can sell great, but there has to be a motor and stick option. If we can compare to mnini, well mini has 3 versions of motor for each model. Some people just like the looks and dont want to spend too much, others love the looks and love to go fast and will psend 40K+ on a mini. Nissan needs to offer alternatives on this design.

    Remember the fiat 500 was a bomb as an econobox, once the abarth showed up they started moving in decent numbers all versions.

    My wish is for a 1.8 supercharged or somethign of that ilk. Think 250hp in a small lightweeigh rear drive car, enough buyers out there,and you also get to sell a lot of regular ones to people who like the looks and cred but dont have all the $$$.

    See I am 49, can buy any number of cars, would love a cool samll but fast car for banging about, the nissan looks the biz, but with CVT and weak motor I wont even go look at one. Yeah i ma not ahuge demografic, but its bigger than you think(people 30+ with money to spend on a fun car) and the 20% that sell at high spec sell the rest. Look at mustangs and camaros, the V8s are not the majority, but they sell the rest as they look like the fast ones.

  • avatar
    RHD

    It looks like a Celica, drawn with a straight edge, a la Cadillac. It even has first-generation Celica Supra wheels. Nissan, you are trying too hard and not getting enough done.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    No amount of publicity will ever convince me that this thing is attractive in any way. It just repulses me, big time.


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