Alistair Maclean's Web Site

These are not tests, they are impressions built on looking at the cars in dealer showrooms, talking to dealers, and drooling.

Nissan 350Z (2003)

Nissan 350Z, image courtesy of Nissan USA

It's been a long time coming. Nissan needed some excitement in its car portfolio and this certainly adds excitement, lots of it. Available in a variety of flavours (Enthusiast, Performance, Touring) which differ mainly in the selection of options they have been fitted with (wheels, brakes, upholstery, hi-fi, etc) as the basic chassis' of each is the same as is the engine. And what an engine! Some 287bhp from this little monster! It looks very pretty in the showroom. It's a comparatively small car, though once inside there is adequate room even for my large frame. My head stays off the roof liner. The xenon headlights are stylistically something I suppose you get used to. The car is a hatchback, this is good. The trunk space is quite compromised, however, by a suspension tuning goodie that crosses between the two rear shock towers, intruding into the space that would otherwise be occupied by your suitcases.

The wheels and brakes on the performance model look outrageously good, those on the other models are more normal. The street racer community should love this car.

In talking to the dealership (and your experience will differ, no doubt) we noted that the cars have a reduced premium of about $5000 (down from $9K), that the dealership seemed only too happy to discuss 'possibilities', i.e. even that premium could be talked away. They had three cars in the showroom, late in the month, a fourth due anytime and not that many buyers. They were not doing test drives (Oct '02) but had done a few at the very start of sales (Sept '02). Stuff like this makes me think that the car is having a slow open in this area (NJ) and so there may yet be good deals on these rice rockets.

Some Details

3.5L V6 287bhp/274ftlb engine
6 speed manuals, 5 speed Auto's
~3200lbs (1450kg) curb weight
Price range of car: $26K - $36K

Honda Civic SI (2003)

Honda Civic SI, image courtesy of Honda USA

Somewhere, out there, is a small red Honda Civic CRX SI that was once my wife's daily drive. She loved that car. It was small, responsive, and a joy to thrash through the corners. I, of course, didn't fit in it. For 2003, Honda has reintroduced the hot hatchback they dropped years ago. The new Civic SI is not the CRX, but it has about the same size, and has about 50% more power. This car has all the hallmarks of being a roller skate! The car we saw was in a typical Honda Gray. Have you noticed that all Honda's colours are basically gray? This one was in silver gray. It is a small car, with a three door layout. The back seems large enough to put significantly sized items in. Options on this model are limited to the previously mentioned shades of gray, blue, and side airbags. I guess these are made to be customized by the local speed shops!

Some Details

2.0L 4cyl 160bhp/130ftlb engine
5 speed manual
2700lbs (1227kg) curb weight
Price range of car: $19K

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