Just recently, I was at Nissan 360, which is basically the Woodstock of Nissan vehicles, if you replace the music and drugs and free love with lots of cars and food trucks and free pens. Free pens are no substitute for free love, but I did get to drive a lot of interesting things.
The only problem is that there were so many things going on, the amount of time I got to spend with any of the cars was pretty minimal. When I could drive them, it was only on a 0.7 mile loop around the ex-Marine base where the event was held.
Still, they did have some interesting stuff, so I'm going to just give a quick paragraph or few about what I drove, because, as you know, nothing I do matters unless I can share it with you, dear Jalops. Because I love you, and I don't care who knows it.
So let's get started:
I've made no secret of my love for Japanese Kei van-like vehicles, and this little pink box did nothing to cool my ardor. I had a blast in this little thing, and it drives in an entertaining, easy manner. It's actually a rebadged Suzuki MR Wagon, and it's got the usual Kei specs of a 660cc engine making around 50 HP or so, mated to a CVT. Not impressive, but it's light, nimble, and the use of space is fantastic.
My favorite Kei vans are mid-engined, but I can overlook the front-mounted engine with no problem because the hood is nice and stumpy and pretty much every inch of the interior is usable by humans. It's well finished, has a pretty sleek dash with flat-panel touch-sensitive buttons that appear from nowhere, and has a bench seat up front. A (split) bench goddamn seat, like a Ford Falcon or something.
I think I realized why I like these so much — they're the opposite of all the 'aspirational' bullshit that's the norm for commuter cars now. Everyone that buys a Corolla or whatever boring beige sedan as a commuter car because they don't give a shit about cars should be buying these instead. They use less gas, they use the available space better, they're more flexible and comfortable than a Corolla.
They're not performance machines, but who gives a shit? They're good at what they do. A Corolla isn't a performance machine either, but it's styled and detailed and positioned to mimic cars like BMWs and the like. Which is silly. If people want basic, enjoyable, usable, flexible transportation, these little vans beat the crap out of conventional small 3-box sedans.
Verdict: Fun and useful basic transport.
This was my first in-the-metal look at Nissan's new developing market car, the reborn Datsun. Their first model, the Go, is designed for Indian markets. It's designed to be cheap, but not the cheapest, since Nissan learned the lesson of status that gave the Nano such fits.
It's a good design, a four door hatch with a good amount of room and just enough style to be interesting in the crowded Indian little family hatch market. There's some interesting cost-cutting going on, from expected things like one wiper to more novel choices, like no nav/audio system at all, with an integrated smartphone dock that lets the computer in your pocket handle those jobs.
The material quality and overall feel are obviously not US-grade, but it's not terrible, either. It's an interesting little car.
Verdict: Stylish, cheap, useable. I think these will be a hit in India's growing mid-range market.
NP200 Diesel Pickup
Another class of car I'm a sucker for, the diesel, manual, small pickup. I really liked this thing. It reminded me a lot of the Mahindra Genio pickup I reviewed when I was in India: basic, great utility, cheap, unpretentious. The styling of the Nissan is probably more palatable to Americans than the Mahindra, and once we kill that stupid Chicken Tax I'd love to see some trucks like this one make it to the land that gave the world rock and roll and the Snuggie.