Even among Japanese brands, Nissan has a lot to boast about. Since first making their debut in Europe, they’ve enjoyed massive sales in Britain, partially thanks to their early SUV releases and later “soft-roaders” like the Qashqai. The Juke, too, continues to enjoy massive popularity in the UK, despite the amount of rivals it has in the European market. While some of the company’s city cars and hatchbacks have been a little disappointing, no brand is without its slip-ups, and overall the Nissan fleet is full of engineering brilliance. Whether you’re a loyalist looking for a new Nissan, or you’re just curious about the brand, here are some of the best cars they’ve ever made.
The Fairlady Z ran for a brief period in the early seventies, which made a lot of auto enthusiasts feel utterly betrayed! When this model was released in 1970, the company had been making its “Z” cars for forty years, but this is the only one that really got auto journals’ attention. The Fairlady Z earned the nickname “poor man’s Porsche”, thanks to its low entry-level prices and the incredible performance on the road. Its brand new profile was low and sleek, a combination of British and Japanese design conventions. The 151bhp 2.4 litre engine obviously doesn’t sound like much when stacked up against most modern models. However, the Fairlady Z was considered fairly high-end for the time, and provided many people with countless thrills.
Released in 2008 and still going strong, you could consider the GTR to be the modern-day equivalent of the Fairlady Z. When this model was released in the late noughties, drivers all over the world finally found out just how well Nissan could pull off a luxury sport coupe. The newer R35 GTR shunted the model into the supercar arena, and from there Nissan have continued to make tweaks and add extra performance features. By the time the 2013 versions were released, many people were calling the GTR the best car on the road. The latest model boasts 545bhp and over 400 lb-ft of torque. The fact that you can do one to sixty in three seconds is the icing on the cake.
Due to it being such a young model, there’s a lot more to the Nissan LEAF than most drivers realise. Years from now, when powerful electric cars are all over our roads, I’m sure we’ll look back at the LEAF and consider it the first significant step towards electric vehicles; like the Wright Brother’s flying machine to planes. The LEAF is the first fully electric car to be mass-produced, as well as the first to sell in any big numbers. Yes, it will only take you 73 miles on one charge. Yes, it’s not the most fun thing to drive. However, if you have a short commute the savings drawn from an electric car will really add up. Despite its shortcomings, the LEAF is a truly revolutionary model, and a very popular sight at Nissan Retail dealerships.
Not dissimilar to Scion’s modern FR-S, the 240SX was released to be an all-rounder sports coupe with a low price tag and all kinds of potential for tuning. Despite being a relic of the early nineties, this model can withstand anything a DIY mechanic can throw at them, and even today they’re a pretty common sight on autocross and drift circuits. I advise you not to look too much into this car, in case you fall madly in love. Since the peak of its production, 240SXs have pretty much gone underground, and the few that remain in good condition are modified beyond recognition and covered in sponsors. Still, 20 years after its maiden drive, if you can find a 240SX you’ll have a rugged and versatile car.
Although this was never sold in a few countries, the Skyline GTR has a reputation that’s reached auto enthusiasts all over the world. Through the second half of the nineties, Nissan’s engineers were hard at work, refining its most big, loud sports cars, and toned them down into something much more luxurious and understated. These sleek, midsize sports cars not only look absolutely beautiful, but offer you the performance to back it up. Many enthusiasts insist that the Skyline GTR’s RB26DETT model of engine is the most tuner-friendly in the world!
While this isn’t a really enjoyable drive, the 300ZX represents a proud time in Nissan’s history; an artefact of the nineties’ horsepower wars. From 1990 to 96, Nissan was locked in some pretty fierce competition against companies like Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Acura. These big badges were clashing with one another to have their name on the most powerful engine on the market, and Nissan made their own mark on this battle with their 300ZX, which incorporated all kinds of cutting-edge tech, not to mention a very attractive engine. The 300ZX was available with a twin-turbo 3-litre V6 with 300bhp and almost as much torque. Unfortunately though, it was so expensive that their sales suffered dramatically, and it didn’t last long in a lot of countries.
Like the 300ZX, the Altima also made a big splash in an auto market that was alive with vicious competition. Swiftly catching up with the sales of the Accord and Camry in the late noughties, the Altima quickly made a name for itself. The car was agile, fluid and easy to drive, and came with a tasty V6 under the hood. At the time, the mass-market mid-size sedan niche was totally dominated by Honda. When it started gaining popularity though, the Altima quickly knocked them off their pedestal and outsold the Accord in 2011. Don’t take this as me just having a dig at Honda. I adore the Accord, which is why this feat is so impressive!
There you have some of the greatest achievements Nissan has ever made. If you can find any of these models in working condition for a good price, you certainly won’t regret buying it!