Z, half-loaf and a Note: driving three very different Nissans on Tokyo streets

Pictures: Greg Dennis. www.gregdennisreviews.co.za

Pictures: Greg Dennis. www.gregdennisreviews.co.za

Published Nov 10, 2023


One of the world’s most iconic cars driven in Tokyo sounds like one for the books. And when you see your name’s on the list to drive the Nissan Z you can’t help but give a little inner shout of glee.

It would only be a short half an hour behind the wheel in Tokyo morning traffic but that’s enough to tick a box.

The Z along with the GT-R will always rate as two of the best sports cars ever designed and while most of our time with Nissan in Japan revolved around electric mobility and renewable energies, when you push the start button and light up the 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol engine any thoughts around batteries quickly lose their appeal.

For petrol-heads it’s nirvana, with a throaty burble from the exhausts a slight clunk when you depress the clutch and put it into gear, the sport seats and three dials on top of the dash, everything points to a car that asks to be driven

Once the engine had warmed up, Sport was the desired mode, not because there was any place to let your hair down or smoke the tyres using all of its 298kW and 475Nm, but the short stints between traffic lights and the snap crackle and pops from the rear had even the locals smiling.

Also, “cold-drink” money wouldn’t have gone down well with the police in Japan.

We didn’t really get beyond fourth gear either, even on a short highway stint and besides, keeping the revs up in a car like this on a short stint is really what driving a finely tuned ICE engine is all about.

It’s a far cry and polar opposite from the little Nissan Sakura with its half-loaf type shape and 20kWh lithium-ion battery producing 47kW and 195Nm with a range of 180 kilometres.

Named after the national flower of Japan, it's Nissan’s first electric Kei car manufactured for local consumption and it has the Japanese enthusiastically driving them with more than 35 000 units sold since May 2022.

Despite its size it’s remarkably roomy inside with more than enough leg space for my tall frame at the back and I would probably fit in with a bowler hat, it's so high but as you would expect a small boot basically for the kids’ school bags.

It’s ideal as a little city runabout with a decent interior and the dash and door inners wrapped in dark textile with bronze accents that give it a cheerful look and feel.

Acceleration is steady and smooth and it easily keeps up with traffic on the highway although it’s slightly intimidating driving alongside concrete mixing and construction trucks.

With air conditioning, four airbags and an impressive list of safety features including Nisan’s ProPILOT driver assistance system and ProPILOT park system it’s a pity that Nissan has no plans to export the car for the foreseeable future.

There is however a rumour that Nissan might be looking at bringing in the X-Trail e-Power e-4ORCE possibly as a niche vehicle and to test the local market.

The e-4ORCE adds a second electric motor on the rear over the standard single motor X-Trail e-Force. Currently the X-Trail is offered locally only with Nissan’s four-cylinder petrol engine with a CVT transmission.

Having driven it I reckon it’s worth a go and it was also a reminder of the X-Trails extremely classy interior.

You can imagine the puns flying about as we boarded the Note which like the X-trail has been around two decades or more although it hasn’t been available locally.

It’s a subcompact crossover that feels a little like a downscaled X-Trail both in size and interior quality.

It’s also e-Powered with a three cylinder petrol engine and lithium-ion battery providing a total power output of 85kW and 28Nm.

With manufacturers like Opel, Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, Kia, Hyundai and Mercedes having a Combi-type minivan in their stable it could have been interesting to see how Nissan’s Serena measured up locally.

I found it to be a very pleasant drive and my driving partner commented on how premium the interior felt as well as the driving characteristics.

As an eight seater I think it could have been popular with South African families.

Like all the cars we drove except the Z (long may it last) it’s now also an e-Power bus with a 1.5-litre engine and lithium-ion battery producing 120kW and 315Nm.

Five vastly different cars in one morning, the highlight obviously being the Z and strangely enough for a die-hard ICE enthusiast, I found the Sakura quite endearing.

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