Nissan working on “Mini-Z” to take on FR-S and BRZ

Nissan Compact Sport Concept front three-quarter viewAt Nissan, small is the new big. Back in April, Nissan head designer Shiro Nakamura talked about downsizing the company’s 370Z sports car, saying that he wanted the car to lose weight and come with a smaller engine. The Japanese company could show a downsized Z at the 2014 Detroit auto show as a 2015 model. There has also been talk of a smaller model that would fit beneath the Z in Nissan’s range.

Nissan is indeed working on a smaller sports car, a source close to the project told Motor Trend. Code named “Mini-Z,” the compact sports car will have the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ in its sights.

Nissan used to make a compact sports car, the 240SX, but the Mini-Z will not be a revival of that nameplate. Unlike the 240SX, and the Scion/Subaru twins, the new Nissan will be front-wheel drive.

The production Mini-Z will be based on the Compact Sport Concept (pictured) shown at last year’s Shanghai auto show. It’s based on the Nissan Juke crossover, and is powered by the Juke’s 1.6-liter, 190 horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. A highly-modified version of this engine was used in the DeltaWing racecar.

Since the Juke is sold in both front- and all-wheel drive configurations, a Mini-Z with four powered wheels isn’t out of the question.

With crossover underpinnings and front-wheel drive, the Mini-Z doesn’t sound like much of a sports car. It’s 1.6-liter engine only has 10 fewer horsepower than the rear-drive competition, but the Scion and Subaru’s handling prowess will probably make them more fun on twisty roads.

Nissan also needs to drop a more coupe-like body onto the Compact Sport Concept, or it will end up looking more like a hot hatchback than a descendent of the mighty Z.

One area where the Mini-Z might have an advantage is price. Nissan hopes to undercut Scion and Subaru by 10 percent, and have the Mini-Z start below $22,000. It can do that because the Mini-Z is based on an existing platform and uses an unmodified engine, unlike the FR-S and BRZ, which had to be designed almost completely from scratch.Nissan Compact Sport Concept profile view

The Mini-Z’s likely success might be a moot point, since it is unclear whether the pint size performance car is coming to the United States. The car will primarily be sold in China; it’s development was a joint effort between Nissan’s Japanese and Chinese units. Japan and Europe will receive a few cars, but there are no definite plans to bring the Mini-Z to the U.S.

Is the Mini-Z the right car for the times? Enthusiasts would probably prefer a revived 240SX, but perhaps that car would be too similar to the leaner Z Nissan has in the works. Either way, the future of Nissan performance will be revealed in the next two years: the Mini-Z could see production in 2013, with the big Z following a year or two later.

Product Review

By adding features, tech, and all-wheel drive, Mazda puts the 3 in a class of one

Since its introduction in 2003, Mazda’s compact Mazda3 has been a mainstay of the brand’s driver-oriented strategy. Mazda now plans to move upmarket, and the all-new 2019 Mazda3 offers some clues about how that’s going to work.
Product Review

2019 Volkswagen Jetta offers German refinement and tech at an affordable price

With enough tech to make villains jealous, the Volkswagen Jetta punches above its class as a forward-thinking sedan. Spacious, comfortable, and efficient, the Jetta is a refined offering. German refinement comes with a serious attitude.
Cars

The 2019 Toyota C-HR gains a popular tech feature as its price comes down

Toyota has updated the C-HR, its entry-level crossover, by adding an entry-level trim level to the lineup. Every model regardless of price also comes standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay.
Cars

FWD vs. RWD vs. AWD: How the wheels that turn change the way you drive

Let's face it, you've likely heard front-, rear-, and all-wheel drive mentioned before in some context or another. But what do these terms mean, especially in terms of performance? We’ve got the answers.
Product Review

The Ferrari Portofino is the super stallion you’ll want to drive every day

With the introduction of the Portofino, Ferrari addresses the California T’s stylistic shortcomings while improving comfort, convenience, and performance. There’s little “entry-level” about this super stallion.
Cars

Autonomous shuttle rides coming to New York City via Optimus Ride

Workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in NY City will soon be able to make their way around the 300-acre industrial park in Optimus Ride's self-driving shuttles. The tech startup says it's the first trial of its kind in the state.
Product Review

Chris is the virtual co-pilot phone-obsessives need in their car

Driving while using your phone is dangerous, and often illegal. Meet Chris, the digital assistant for your car that wants to help keep your hands off your phone, and your eyes on the road.
Cars

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi group uses Microsoft cloud platform for connected cars

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is launching a new cloud platform for its cars. Based on Microsoft Azure, the Alliance Intelligent Cloud will enable features like connected services and over-the-air updates.
Cars

The 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe is an exercise in form-over-function design

Porsche expanded its lineup of SUVs with a swoopier evolution of the Cayenne named Cayenne Coupe. Don't let the name fool you: it still has four doors. It stands out with a fastback-like roofline that's lower than the Cayenne's.
Cars

Protect yourself and your ride with our favorite dash cams

Dashboard cameras can assist drivers in car accident claims, settle speeding ticket disputes, and even catch glimpses of incoming meteors, among other things. Here, we've compiled a list of the most noteworthy offerings available.
Cars

Tesla revives its referral program with chances to win a Roadster

Tesla has revived its referral program that ended in February because of cost pressures. This time around the perks aren't quite as diverse, though it does offer regular chances to win a Roadster or Model Y.
Cars

Tesla ends scheduled servicing because electric cars need less maintenance

Tesla will longer offer scheduled maintenance plans, switching to an "as needed" model. This reflects the fact that electric cars need less regular maintenance than gasoline or diesel cars.
Cars

The go kart-like Mini Cooper will soon add zero emissions to its resume

Mini is in the final stages of developing an electric version of the Cooper. The 2020 Cooper SE will receive powertrain components from the BMW i3, including a 181-horsepower electric motor and battery technology.
Cars

Formula 1 is putting data in the driver’s seat, and not all racers are happy

After a single weekend of racing, a Formula 1 pit crew typically pulls around 2TB of data from the car. Everything, from tire pressure to the temperature of the track, is recorded and analyzed in the name of boosting performance -- and not…