Tag Archives: 6-speed manual

2023 Nissan Z Performance

Z (it’s only Z now) nails modern, yet retro, looks and power …

Not many car lines go all the way to Z.

But Nissan has been going all the way since 1969 when it launched the Datsun 240Z its long-hooded sports car for the rest of us. I thought of it as a mini-Corvette at the time and, well, I still do.

In fact, Nissan’s relaunched 2023 version, now just called Z, has a nose that reflects both past and present Corvettes with its sleek pointy snout. Yet the new model has been smoothed and the hatch roofline slimmed to give the care a sleeker look. The Z also has been powered up with a 400-horse twin-turbo V6 and given a spiffy new digital-laden interior to bring it in line with today’s usual electronic wizardry.

My pre-production test car (dealers are to get theirs soon) was a stunning Seiran Blue Metallic with black roof, that two-tone paint scheme adding $1,295 to the sticker. But if ever I’d pay extra for paint, this may do it. Folks looked, some gave a thumbs up, others came out of their houses to see it up close at the curb. No doubt Nissan nailed the modern, yet retro, styling.

No pretense of this being a family car or carrying more than two as there are just two seats here and a long cargo area under a glassy hatch, but still just minor cargo space. Again, there will just be two of you with a suitcase each and Z accommodates that. Golfers may have to make other arrangements and forgo a hand cart.

Styling aside, and that’s hard to even say, the tested Z Performance was a well-controlled rocket with those 400 rear-wheel-driving horses pushing this up and down highway entry ramps like it was heading out of the pits at Road America. Heck, it just might!

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2023 Z Car – YouTube

Unlike almost any other sports car the Z comes standard with a 6-speed manual, otherwise known as a standard transmission or stick shift. Younger drivers may not be aware, but this is the way many vehicles used to arrive, an automatic tranny costing extra. Ironically, today’s automatics (a 9-speed is optional) now get better fuel economy than the manuals, but that’s another issue.

The stick is fun and easy to slide between the gears, although the throws are longer than I had anticipated. Mazda’s Miata still has the shortest throws I’ve encountered, but this works nicely and the clutch is moderately weighted so not a leg cramper in stop-and-go traffic. My one initial concern was how hard I had to push the shifter down to slide it far right for reverse. I got used to it.

Also need to mention that there’s a SynchroRev Match system here to blip the engine and match its revs to the gear you’ve selected. So as you downshift into a corner that sweet burp of the engine lets your passenger know you’re a legit road racer. Thanks techies!

Nissan’s twin-turbo 3.0-liter engine is stout and smooth. It feels strong as you slip through the gears and can easily lead to tire squawks. This had low-pro performance 19-inch tires that gripped the road like crazy until we had an early fall monsoon. Shifting early to maintain traction was needed in the wet. All-season tires would help, but then you lose performance and, well, Performance is this model’s last name.

Handling as insinuated above was sports car fun, meaning responsive. Wheel feel is moderate and this steering wheel is wrapped in leather, as is the shift knob. The Nissan Z is well-balanced with neutral handling. I’ve heard some say it’s too easy to swing its tail, but until it rained I was having no issues.

Ride is firm as you’d expect in a car of just 100-inch wheelbase. Plus the Performance model adds a sportier tuned suspension, so if like me you prefer a bit softer ride (I’m 60+) then the standard Z may be a more comforting choice, plus it will save you some dough.

Z’s brakes also deserve a mention here. The Performance trim gets enhanced brakes with red calipers with Nissan labeling. Front and rear discs are vented 14 and 13.8 inchers, so stopping distance and quickness is awesome. I suspect the standard brakes aren’t too shabby either.

Inside Nissan designers have created a very comfy, livable interior that would allow for long highway jaunts.

The digital dash is clean and the 9-inch touchscreen (8-inch is standard) is big enough but not overpowering, plus simple to use. I had no issues and the Bose sound system is solid too.

Interior styling and the comfy seats likely will dazzle most riders though.

First, this one featured blue leather seats and blue dash and door trim under a soft black dash top. Door inserts are suede trimmed in leather and the seats feature a suede center section that’s perforated.

Console and dash are basically a matte black so no nasty sun reflections here, something other car makers could learn from. That console is trimmed in blue leather to add visual pop too.

Retro gauges, but more useful ones would be a help!

Atop the dash for a retro look are three gauges that might matter if you were racing as they tell Boost, Turbo Speedm and Volts. I’d challenge most folks to know what voltage their car should be showing on a gauge (about 14 here) and as long as I can feel the turbo boost I’m not sure I need a number placed on it. So while I appreciate the retro look, I’d say substitute more useful info such as a fuel gauge or clock.

Nissan’s performance seats are beautifully sculpted and fitted to encircle the driver and passenger so they don’t slide about, or even move, when the car is rocketing around tight rural highway twisties, or during a track day. Shorter folks may find these a bit too confining, but I loved the seats, which are partially powered. That’s right, there are two power buttons on the inside edge (toward the console) of the seat. These control fore and aft movement and the seat back’s angle. Takes a bit to get used to the location, but I did within a week.

The power seat controls are on the inside seat edge.

On the left side are manual controls to adjust the seat bottom’s angle and a height adjustment for the rear of the seat bottom. I’d like it to go just a tad higher, but I’m just 5-5. Nissan heats the seats too.

The Z’s steering wheel is a manual tilt/telescope model, but round and not heated. I’d prefer a flat-bottom wheel in any sports car and especially to create more knee room when one is shifting a manual and also when exiting. I found too that unless I could open the door to its maximum sweep I had trouble getting my right foot clear of its edge when getting out.

A couple other issues to consider inside. First, the cup holders are so far back on the console they are difficult to use, although easier for long-legged drivers who may position the seat all the way back. The storage box there also is way behind the elbow, but then again, this is a two-seater and space is limited, especially with a manual shift lever on the console.

There also is no wireless phone charger in the tray under the center stack, just a nice spot to lay your phone. And while I know this is a sports car with a throaty growl, road noise, especially on cement, can make listening to the radio a bit of a chore.

That hatch opens wide, but the cargo bay is mighty shallow.

I did like the three climate control dials, all of which can be set to automatic for fan speed, temperature and the directional. Nice!

Safety features are solid here too with smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, a lane departure warning, and blind-spot monitor.

Fuel economy is nothing special, but you’re buying this for power, not efficiency. The EPA rates Nissan’s Z at 18 mpg city and 24 highway for the manual version and I got 22.8 mpg in a mix of city and highway. And yes, this drinks premium fuel.

Note that the automatic is rated better at 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.

Big disc brakes with red calipers confirm this is a sports car!

Pricing?

The base level Nissan Z is an absolute bargain for power, looks and handling, starting at $41,015, including delivery. So think of it as 400 hp for $40k. There are two more levels though, and these push the envelope a bit, exceeding $50k.

The tested Performance model starts at $51,015 with delivery and ended up at $53,210 adding just the snazzy paint job, illuminated kick plates ($500), and floor mats ($400). The top level Proto Spec lists at $54,015.

Z epitomizes modern fastback style sports car and is an automotive icon. At its base price it’s extremely attractive. Move up to the higher versions and you’re in the Audi TT and BMW Z4 range. So at that level you may just want to consider a Kia Stinger or Ford Mustang and get a rear seat to boot!

FAST STATS: 2023 Nissan Z Performance

Hits: Stylish 2-seater, excellent power, balanced neutral handling, good brakes, slick stick shift. Excellent seat comfort, heated seats, automatic climate control dials, good info screen size and function and good level of safety devices.

Misses: Firm ride, considerable road noise at highway speeds, tough exit when door isn’t 100% opened, awkward cup holder placement, no heated steering wheel, no flat-bottom wheel, long shift throws, no wireless charger, little cargo room and premium fuel preferred.

Snazzy door handle styling on the Z!

Made in: Japan

Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, 400 hp/350 torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Weight: 3,507 lbs.

Wheelbase: 100.4 in.

Length: 172.4 in.

Cargo: 7.0 cu.ft.

MPG: 18/24

MPG: 22.8 (tested)

Base Price: $51,015 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Options:

Illuminated kick plates, $500

Two-tone paint, $1,295

Floor mats, $400

Test vehicle: $53,210

Sources: Nissan, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Nissan Z

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2022 Hyundai Veloster N

N versions mean economical fast fun and high fashion too …  

Folks who bemoan the lack of low-cost cars, especially models that are fun to drive and exciting to look at need to be moaning less.

This week’s hot wheels came in the form a Hyundai Veloster N swathed in Performance Blue paint and featuring orange accents. Mature autophiles will immediately think Gulf Oil Le Mans racer paint scheme. Yes!

Veloster is a hot hatch and only comes in Hyundai’s performance-oriented N trim now as it focuses its marketing on younger drivers and those that particularly enjoy athletic driving. If this were a high-end car it would be considered a halo car for the brand. But Hyundai is clever, delivering the modestly priced Veloster N as a compact rocket sled of a car that delivers the racy feel that its looks promise.

First, the Veloster N comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission so the boy racers and us older folks who enjoy a clutch will be doing the happy dance.

Second, the only engine is the former performance-package boosted 2.0-liter turbo I4 that pounds out an impressive 275 horsepower. That, as far as I can find, is the most power for this market, just beating out Subaru’s impressive WRX by 7 horses.

Third, there’s a limited-slip differential underneath that cuts wheel spin and torque-steer, a common malady of high-horse front-drive wanna-be racers.

Fourth, Hyundai’s Veloster is shod in Pirelli P Zero performance tires for massive grip, IF you’re pushing the N to its limits.

Fifth, for looks and potentially for performance (top speed is 155 mph), Hyundai equips the Veloster N with a 2-stage rear spoiler that looks serious, and is.

Veloster N sports a big black spoiler over the rear hatch! Snazzy lights too!

Sixth, the drive mode selectors (blue paddles on the steering wheel hub) allow five choices, Normal, Sport and Eco on the left, N and N Custom on the right. Those firm up the suspension and quicken throttle responses for more aggressive starts. Likely you’ll only need Sport, but if you are hitting the track, the N and N Custom may be more appropriate.

Seventh, and finally, the Veloster boasts big ol’ discs front and rear for strong on-track braking. The front discs are 13.6-inchers and the rears are 12.4-inch rotors. These discs deliver a firm brake pedal feel that helps buoy a driver’s confidence. And yes, the calipers are orange to match the car’s other trim too. Cool!

Watch Mark’s cool video: Mark Savage reviews the fun 2022 Hyundai Veloster N – YouTube

The upshot is a hatchback that runs up to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, says Hyundai. And my highway entry-ramp test shows that’s possible, as are triple digits by the bottom of the ramp. Now the test car featured Hyundai’s fine 8-speed automatic, so I didn’t have to do the shifting, yet the push back into the seat was still quite effective when tromping the accelerator.

Twin pipes in back give the Veloster some impressive burble and bluster!

Better yet, from an aural standpoint, the tranny coordinates with the exhausts (two BIG pipes) to deliver a satisfying burble at every downshift as you lift slightly going into corners. Hey, your passenger doesn’t know you’re not doing this yourself, right?

Cornering itself is quick and tight but with only moderately firm steering effort, so the Veloster isn’t tiring at all and encourages a driver to clip off a corner’s apex while getting quick on the gas for maximum exit speed.

The price you pay, as in most sports-oriented cars, is a stiff ride that only gets stiffer in the performance driving modes. Even in Normal the ride is so firm you’ll want to dodge as many potholes as possible, although ironically, railroad tracks didn’t seem to upset the suspension much.

Veloster’s fun is in its quick throttle response and steering, sort of like a very refined go-kart.

Inside the Veloster N looks as special as its exterior with N logos on door sills, shifter and seat backs. Seats are black cloth and faux leather with a blue racing stripe up the middle of each front seat and chrome trim bejeweled with the N logo, just below the headrest. A textured dark gray trim keeps the doors and dash serious looking and prevents interior reflections.

Sharp, but manageable interior here, another well-planned Hyundai cockpit!

The manual front seats are extremely supportive, especially for the hips and lower back, and the driver gets a pump handle on the seat’s outward edge to raise and lower the seat, making an easy adjustment for tall or short drivers.

Hyundai continues with stylish and practical dash layout that is simple and driver friendly. The center info screen is a modest 8 inches, but wisely not a distraction and easy to tune. Buttons for it and climate controls are large and intuitive.

Racy big bolster seats with cutouts in the seat back’s top. Cool!

Veloster’s rear seat is primarily for storage and slipping small folks in for a quick drive to the grocery. Surprisingly there’s a third door here too. It’s on the passenger’s side with the release built into the rear side window trim, so relatively unnoticeable. That small rear door opens forward like a regular door too, helping rear seat riders gain easier access than flipping the passenger seat forward. It also is helpful for loading groceries into the rear seat.

Storage room under the hatch is reasonable and the rear seats split and fold down.

Love the blue seatbelts, and they are easy to reach.

Other pluses inside include an Infinity stereo with 8 speakers, although you’ll need to crank it a bit to hear as the interior is fairly noisy, not helped by the performance tires. There’s also Bluetooth connectivity, an overhead SOS system and satellite radio, although that’s a 90-day trial.

Missing is a wireless charger, although a 12-volt, USB plug and phone charger outlet are in the open bin just below the center stack.

I’d also like to see a D-shaped (flat-bottom) steering wheel to go along with the car’s racy looks, and although it would add cost, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel would be preferred for our climate. There’s also no sunroof here, but if you’re intending this for some track time, such a roof is probably not a priority.

Safety features that are useful, such as blind-spot warning, stability control, forward-collision avoidance assist, lane following assist and keeping are standard, and the lane keeping can be turned off. Bravo! No smart cruise here, but again, this is a driver’s car.

A rear door on the passenger’s side makes it easier to crawl in the back seat.
The door release is hidden in the window trim.

Gas mileage is decent for a performance-oriented car, rated 20 mpg city and 27 highway. I split the difference at 22.9 mpg in aggressive highway and normal city driving.

Now to the pricing, the most pleasant surprise for those bemoaners. The 6-speed manual-equipped Veloster N lists at $33,545, including delivery, while the tested automatic goes for $35,005 with delivery. There were no options.

That’s a modern marvel of economy as the average new vehicle cost exceeds $45,000. Note too that there are several other modest cost performance hatchbacks or sedans available for car lovers and those who enjoy driving.

Twin pipes and a diffuser below, big spoiler up top. Serious racer cred!

Honda’s Civic Si has considerably less power, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is closer and has a nice ride, considering, and the Subaru WRX is just a smidge under Veloster’s power, but starts several thousand dollars lower. Next week, I’ll be driving Toyota’s GR86 sports coupe. So we’ll see how it stacks up.

FAST STATS: 2022 Hyundai Veloster N 

Hits: Hot hatch with spoiler, racy steering feel, bodacious power, super grip, supportive seats, stylish dash with easy buttons and info screen, third door, pump handle to raise seat height, high-value pricing.

Misses: No wireless charger, heated seats or steering wheel, no sunroof, stiff ride, cramped rear seat. Needs a D-shaped steering wheel.

WOW!

Made in: Ulsan, South Korea

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I4, 275 hp/260 torque

Transmission: 8-speed wet dual clutch automatic

Weight: 3,106 lbs.

Wheelbase: 104.3 in.

Length: 167.9 in.

Cargo: 19.9-44.5 cu.ft.

MPG: 20/ 27

MPG: 22.9 (tested)

Base Price: $35,005 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $33,784

Major Options: None

Test vehicle: $35,005

Sources: Hyundai, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Mazda MX-5 Miata stays atop its game … 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Not much changes from year to year with Mazda’s MX-5, commonly known as a Miata, although there’s nothing common about this cute roadster.

First, if you know what a Miata looked like when introduced 28 years ago, you’ve got a good idea of how sharp the new one looks. This little runabout was restyled a couple years ago, actually shrinking a bit, and getting more muscular rounded fenders and slim LED headlights. But really, you know immediately that this is a Miata, er, MX-5. Continue reading 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club