Nissan cars from around the globe

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Nissan GT-R

Nissan GT-R front view
Nissan GT-R. Photo © Aaron Gold

Nissan invited me to Portugal to check out their cars from around the world. I got a chance to drive vehicles we never see in the States, and learned a lot about what Europe and Japan look for in a vehicle. Click the thumbnails to learn more about each car, or use the Enter Gallery link to get the full story on everything.

No Nissan event would be complete without the GT-R. Nissan gave us the chance to drive it on a racetrack, although narrow coned-off lanes through the corners and a Nissan staffer in the passenger seat kept me from really pushing it in the curves. Sure is fast in a straight line, though, and it looks like a million bucks.

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Nissan Pino

Nissan Pino front view
Nissan Pino. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Pino is one of Nissan's "kei cars", tiny city cars built to specific size and engine displacement limits that make them cheaper to license, tax and insure in Japan. The Pino is based on the Suzuki Alto, and features a 54 horsepower 660 cc 3-cylinder engine and an automatic transmission.

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Nissan Pino and Nissan Armada

Nissan Pino and Armada
Nissan Pino and Nissan Armada. Photo © Aaron Gold

Nissan's full-size Armada SUV puts the Pino's size into perspective. All of Nissan's kei cars are about the same size.

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Nissan Otti

Nissan Otti front view
Nissan Otti. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Otti is another Nissan kei car; it is a rebadged version of the Mitsubishi eK, and has a 50 horsepower 660 cc three-cylinder engine.

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Nissan Otti

Nissan Otti sliding door
Nissan Otti. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Otti gets a power-operated sliding door on the passenger's side (this is a Japanese-market car, so it's right-hand-drive) which can be opened by a button on the dashboard. The right-rear door is a conventional front-hinged jobbie.

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Nissan Otti

Nissan Otti rear view
Nissan Otti. Photo © Aaron Gold

Despite its miniscule engine and automatic transmission, the Otti -- which weighs just 1,873 lbs -- is surprisingly scooty in town. On the highway it's a different story. I did get the Otti up to 80 MPH -- but that was going downhill.

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Nissan Otti

Nissan Otti interior
Nissan Otti. Photo © Aaron Gold

Japanese kei cars are all about style. Check out the Otti's funky dash with center-mounted speedometer.

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Nissan Moco

Nissan Moco front view
Nissan Moco. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Moco is yet another Japanese-market kei car; it's based on the Suzuki MR Wagon. Like other kei cars, it has a 660 cc 3-cylinder engine and an automatic transmission; output is 54 horsepower.

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Nissan Cube

Nissan Cube front view
Nissan Cube. Photo © Aaron Gold

In Japan, cars are either all about luxury or all about style. The Cube falls into the latter category. It's the only car I can think of that looks different from each side -- the rear window wraps around on the left side of the car but not on the right. It's not particularly thrilling to drive, but it is cool to look at. Nissan plans to import the next generation of the Cube to the United States.

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Nissan Cube

Nissan Cube interior
Nissan Cube. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Cube uses a split-bench seat (remember those?) and a column-mount shifter for the automatic transmission to maximize interior space.

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Nissan Cube

Nissan Cube third row
Nissan Cube. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Cube is available with three rows of seats, although the third row, shown here, doesn't appear to be designed for humans.

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Nissan Micra

Nissan Micra front view
Nissan Micra. Photo © Aaron Gold

The bug-eyed Nissan Micra supermini is Nissan's best selling model in Europe. This one had a 1.5 liter turbodiesel that provided plenty of scoot and returns around 50 MPG. I suspect the Micra might be too small and too unusual looking to sell in the States... but heck, I'd buy one.

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Nissan Micra

Nissan Micra interior
Nissan Micra. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Micra is much more conventional on the inside than it is on the outside. Comforable, too.

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Nissan Micra C+C

Nissan Micra C+C top down
Nissan Micra C+C. Photo © Aaron Gold

The ultimate Micra is the C+C, which stands for Coupe + Convertible. It features a retractable hardtop with a glass roof, and is powered by a 110 horsepower 1.6 liter engine. Needless to say, there was a long line of journalists waiting to drive the C+C. When my turn came, I took it for a run by the seaside. Way cool!

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Nissan Micra C+C

Nissan Micra C+C top operation
Nissan Micra C+C. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Micra C+C's retractable hardtop in action.

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Nissan Micra C+C

Nissan Micra C+C top up
Nissan Micra C+C. Photo © Aaron Gold

Micra C+C with the top up. I have no idea how well the top seals to the body -- I didn't have it for long, and I wasn't about to drive it with the roof on!

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Nissan Note

Nissan Note front view
Nissan Note. Photo © Aaron Gold

I thought Nissan's European-market Note would be an excellent competitor to the Honda Fit. The Note is about the same size and packs a lot of space into the passenger cell. The one I drove had a 1.5 liter diesel engine rated at 103 horsepower and 46 MPG; Nissan also offers the Note with a 1.6 liter gas engine.

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Nissan Note

Nissan Note rear view
Nissan Note. Photo © Aaron Gold

I asked the Nissan PR folks if the Note would ever make it to the US; they said the Versa was doing a perfectly fine job against Honda. Oh well.

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Nissan Note

Nissan Note interior
Nissan Note. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Note's interior isn't particularly memorable, but it does contain some rather neat gadgets, including keyless ignition and automatic climate control.

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Nissan Lafesta

Nissan Lafesta front view
Nissan Lafesta. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Japanese-market Lafesta looks a lot like a minivan, but it's actually longer and lower, similar in size and proportions to a mid-size station wagon. Under the hood it has a 2.0 liter gasoline engine with a continuously variable automatic transmission.

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Nissan Lafesta

Nissan Lafesta sliding doors
Nissan Lafesta. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Lafesta uses minivan-style sliding doors.

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Nissan Lafesta

Nissan Lafesta rear view
Nissan Lafesta. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Lafesta's taillights remind me of an old Buick. I dig 'em. I also love the name -- while driving the car I composed the Lafesta theme song. Remember the PBS children's show called Villa Alegre? Same tune, just substitute the lyrics "Viva Lafesta!"

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Nissan Lafesta

2008 Nissan Lafesta interior
Nissan Lafesta. Photo © Aaron Gold

The minivan similarities continue inside. The Lafesta has front bucket seats with a narrow aisle in between.

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Nissan Qashqai

Nissan Qashqai front view
Nissan Qashqai. Photo © Aaron Gold

Would someone please explain why those lucky folks in Europe got the Qashqui (pronounced "cash-kai", though the assembled journalists referred to it as the Cash Cow or the Cash Cab), while we got stuck with the Rogue? The Qashqai reminds me of a Murano built to 3/5ths scale. The Rogue is okay, but compared to the Qashqai, it's about as interesting as a blank piece of paper.

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Nissan Qashqai

Nissan Qashqai rear view
Nissan Qashqai. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Qashqai comes with either a gas or a diesel engine, both 2.0 liter four-cylinder units. I drove the diesel with an automatic transmission; it was quiet, smooth and surprisingly powerful, with fuel economy estimated at 30 MPG. Ride and handling are similar to a sporty hatchback car.

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Nissan Qashqai

Nissan Qashqai interior
Nissan Qashqai. Photo © Aaron Gold

Nissan interiors tend to be either rather dull or rather brilliant, and I thought the Qashqai fell into the latter category. The two-tone leather and three-spoke wheel give it the sporty attitude and upscale feel of a Maxima or a 350Z.

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Nissan Qashqai

Nissan Qashqai glass roof
Nissan Qashqai. Photo © Aaron Gold

Even the Qashqai's roof is cool -- a glass panel that extends over both front and rear seats. Please, please, please, Nissan, bring the Qashqai to the US!!

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Nissan X-Trail

Nissan X-Trail front view
Nissan X-Trail. Photo © Aaron Gold

The X-Trail is a smallish crossover SUV that's available in Europe and Canada, among other places. I've always thought the X-Trail would be a great product for the US -- even though it's rather modestly sized as far as SUVs go, it's got a distinctive truck-like feel that I think American buyers would go for.

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Nissan X-Trail

Nissan X-Trail rear view
Nissan X-Trail. Photo © Aaron Gold

The X-Trail comes with either a 2.5 liter four-cylinder gas engine or a 2.0 liter turbodiesel. I drove the gas version with a manual transmission, but the X-Trail is also offered with a continuously-variable automatic. The gas version is only rated for 24 MPG, but the diesel is supposed to get 33 MPG.

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Nissan Pathfinder

Nissan Pathfinder Diesel front view
Nissan Pathfinder. Photo © Aaron Gold

This may look like an ordinary Pathfinder, but it's the European-spec version with a four-cylinder 2.5 liter turbodiesel under the hood. I found it to be rather slow and noisy, even by diesel standards.

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Nissan Pathfinder

Nissan Pathfinder Diesel interior
Nissan Pathfinder Diesel interior. Photo © Aaron Gold

Here's something you won't find in a US-market Pathfinder: A manual transmission.

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Nissan Patrol

Nissan Patrol off-road
Nissan Patrol. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Patrol is a hard-core off-roader, Nissan's answer to legendary 4x4s like the Toyota Land Cruiser and Land Rover Discovery. Though the Patrol has never been sold in the States, it's a legend in many other countries.

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Nissan Patrol

Nissan Patrol rear view
Nissan Patrol. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Patrol is powered by a 3.0 liter V6 turbodiesel and features part-time four-wheel-drive and solid axles both up front and out back.

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Nissan Patrol

Nissan Patrol interior
Nissan Patrol. Photo © Aaron Gold

Don't let the wood trim and leather fool you -- the Patrol is slow and noisy and rides like a dump truck. Still, there's something endearing about it. As my day of driving drew to a close and I had to pick a vehicle for my last drive, I grabbed the keys to the Patrol -- I just had to take it for one more spin.

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Nissan Patrol

Nissan Patrol off-road
Nissan Patrol. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Patrol shows off its axle articulation and odd profile. To me, it looks like someone took a mid-90s Land Cruiser, sawed out the section with the rear doors, and welded the front and rear ends together. The short wheelbase makes for odd proportions but helps the Patrol to claw its way over virtually any off-road obstacle.

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Nissan Clipper Rio

Nissan Clipper Rio front view
Nissan Clipper Rio. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Japanese-market Clipper Rio -- a rebadged version of a Mitsubishi microvan called the Town Box -- is small enough to be considered a kei car. At just over 11 feet long, it's two feet shorter than a Honda Fit. Power comes from a 3-cylinder turbocharged 660 cc engine that puts out 63 horsepower mated to a 4-speed automatic. It's lots of fun to drive, but I wouldn't want to get into a crash!

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Nissan Caravan

Nissan Caravan front view
Nissan Caravan. Photo © Aaron Gold

Nissan sells the Caravan (known outside Japan as the Urvan) as a commercial vehicle. Think of it as Nissan's Econoline; they've been selling it since 1973 and it only gets updated about every decade and a half. (The current Caravan was last redesigned in 2001.) This is a brand-new Japanese-spec Caravan, but dig those stripes -- it's 1991 all over again!

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Nissan Primastar

Nissan Primastar front view
Nissan Primastar. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Primastar cargo van is a rebadged Renault Trafic, which was designed in conjunction with General Motors. Size-wise, the Primastar is about 2" longer, 2" narrower and 6" taller than a long-wheelbase Dodge Grand Caravan. The front-wheel-drive Primastar is powered by a smooth, quiet 2.0 liter turbodiesel. Note the funky arch of the front part of the roof.

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Nissan Primastar

Nissan Primastar cargo bay
Nissan Primastar. Photo © Aaron Gold

Front-wheel-drive enables the Primastar to have a low, flat load floor. The rear suspension is also designed to maximize cargo space -- note that aside from modestly-sized fenderwells, there are no other intrusions in the cargo floor.

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Nissan Interstar

2008 Nissan Interstar
Nissan Interstar. Photo © Aaron Gold

Nissan's larger cargo van is the Interstar; like the Primastar it is sourced from Renault, which sells it as the Master. The Interstar gets a Renault-sourced 2.5 liter four-cylinder turbodiesel that drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission.

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Nissan Cabstar

Nissan Cabstar flatbed
Nissan Cabstar. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Cabstar is a small cab-over-engine truck developed for the European market. It is powered by a 130 horsepower 2.5 liter four-cylinder diesel.

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Nissan Atleon

Nissan Atleon box truck
Nissan Atleon. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Atleon is Nissan's largest European-market commercial truck, available in GVWRs up to 15 tons. This one had a 3 liter turbodiesel engine and a six-speed manual transmission, and is designed for maneuverability on narrow European roads. It's great fun to drive if you're into this sort of thing -- which I am!