Car reviews - Nissan - NX - 3-dr hatch
Offbeat styling, comfort, refinement, performance, NX-R equipment levels
Room for improvement
Offbeat styling not to everybody's taste, not a sports car
20 Jun 2003
THE 1990s became the era of the niche market with the marketing gurus of car manufacturers busily identifying particular socio- economic groups that provide small market segments for special models.
This approach is light years away from Henry Ford's "any colour as long as it's black" philosophy.
One such niche market is the "semi-sporting but practical" two-door coupe concept, offering the image without the restrictions of a true sports car.
The Japanese, Europeans and South Koreans produced cars aimed at the young, upwardly mobile pre-family segment, designed to have sporty performance, good looks and all mod cons, without the price tag associated with true prestige motoring.
The Nissan NX, a two-door coupe styled in the Nissan design studios in California, fits the formula well.
It has a 2.0-litre, twin cam engine with several innovative features and gives spirited performance. The transversely-mounted engine drives the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed automatic.
There were two models in the range, the NX and NX-R - the latter gaining features such as electric windows, air- conditioning, ABS, central locking, driving lights, cruise control, upgraded sound system and alloy wheels with low profile tyres.
Suspension on the NX is by MacPherson struts and coil springs at both the front and rear.
Steering is power-assisted rack and pinion and the brakes are power-assisted discs all round, vented at the front. Tyres are 195/55 VR14 on six-inch rims. Bridgestone Potenza tyres were fitted as standard.
The body styling is on the bland side but has the attractive feature of removable roof panels - similar to the previous EXA model - that can be stored in the boot to give open-air motoring without the inconvenience of a soft-top. The body overhang at the rear is quite short, giving an upswept bob-tail effect.
Inside, the doors and centre console provide plenty of pockets and bins for storage, and the seats offer good support.
The interior colour scheme is grey and bland but the instrument and control layout is comprehensive and functional.
The rear seat only provides space for two children but the back folds flat to give extra luggage space.
Road performance is a strong point. The engine has good pulling power in the low to middle range and spins willingly up to 7500rpm, with plenty of go if maximum performance is required.
The manual gearbox is nice to use and the auto has a push-button overdrive.
Ride and handling are a good compromise between touring comfort and outright sports car handling. There is good turn in and slight understeer when driven fast into tight corners.
The NX is a proven package of Nissan components and service problems are rare, although there have been reports of premature clutch wear on manual models.
Take note as to whether the clutch pedal engages close to the top of its travel and have the car checked by an expert if in doubt.
The NX is a good compromise between a family sedan and an out and out sports car.
It has good performance and handling, the ability to remove the roof panels for open-air motoring and the intimacy and style of a two-door coupe.
A fine choice for the buyer looking for style, sporty performance and reliability, the forgotten NX shouldn't be disregarded.
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