1991 Infiniti G20

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Expert Reviews

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By 

Orlando Sentinel

Nissan came out swinging for the fences with the Q45 and the M30, the first two cars for its fledgling Infiniti division. But the third entry - the peppy, sporty G20 - looks like it will be the division's first solid base hit. It couldn't have come at a better time.

The entire auto industry has had a rough year. But battered by indifference, recession, the Persian Gulf War and competition from Lexus, beleaguered Infiniti dealers have been hit especially hard.

To put things in perspective, the G20 is to Infiniti what the 3 Series is to BMW. And the G20 may be the next best alternative to the entry-level 3 series BMWs. Fully-loaded, the G20 compares favorably - dollar for dollar - to the small BMWs. In fact, with the G20, you get more equipment, equal performance and a much nicer interior.

If you are in the market for a small, foreign performance sedan, the G20 should be added to your test drive list.

ENGINE, PERFORMANCE

The G20 packs a solid punch, thanks to its 140-horsepower, double-overhead, 16-valve engine.

Nissan uses this engine in several cars, and it is a terrific powerplant. It delivers about 30 miles per gallon, even when driven hard.

Some might complain that the engine is a bit noisy between 4,000 and 6,000 rpm. But I think it's well-suited to the G20's sporting nature. The test car came equipped with a four-speed automatic overdrive transmission, which did little to dampen the G20's enthusiasm for high-revving performance.

Still, I would like to try a G20 with a five-speed manual transmission. If you are serious about performance, don't mind shifting, and want to save a few (specifically, $800) bucks, the five-speed is the just the ticket. However, the automatic is an excellent, smooth-shifting gearbox.

An enthusiast magazine tested both the G20 and the new BMW 318is and obtained 0-60 mph times of 10.0 seconds for each car. The Infiniti, however, is about $1,800 less than the BMW.

STEERING, HANDLING

After driving Infiniti and Toyota's Lexus cars, it becomes clear where each Japanese company turned for inspiration. Toyota chose to emulate Mercedes-Benz; Nissan went after BMW - and nowhere is this more evident than in the way the G20 rides.

The G20 uses a complex front suspension that enables it to hold the road and handle tight, fast maneuvers easily. The suspension is on the soft side of firm and does a great job dispensing with bumps and other irregularities in the road.

The front-wheel drive G20 features power rack and pinion steering with a tight turning radius that allows the car to make some pretty sharp turns. The wheel has a nice heavy feel to it and helps make the G20 feel like a larger, more solid car. Never once did I hear the tires protest while bending the G20 through a curve.

The test car came equipped with four-wheel disc brakes. Anti-lock brakes are standard on all G20s. The brakes were fine, but this is one ar ea where BMWs won't be outdone. BMW brakes are still the best in the business.

FIT, FINISH, CONTROLS

The G20 test car came loaded with just about every power option you could want but one - it did not have power seats. It had central locking, power windows and cruise control. The most expensive options were the electric sunroof for $800 and the leather interior for $900.

I like the careful, solid way the car is put together. The door panels had a German like sturdiness to them.

The grey leather seats were very comfortable. For a small car, the trunk was huge and, because the lip of the trunk extends to the top of the bumper, it is very easy to load and unload parcels. Also, there is plenty of rear seat leg-and headroom.

The G20 is a cut above most other small Japanese sedans, and it has a nice, European feel to it. However, there is something bothersome about the G20.

I spend a lot of time comparing cars and car prices.

If I were lookingf or a new car and had my heart set on a Nissan, I would look at more than one model. After test driving the new Sentra, I would have a hard time justifying the additional $10,000 expense for the G20.

Certain Sentra models have the same engine as the G20; both cars share some of the same interior components (like the shifter, switch gear and controls), and the G20 isn't that much bigger than the subcompact Sentra.

You can get the bigger, more powerful Nissan Maxima for less money than a G20.

It seems as if Nissan has too many cars in the same market niche. The distinctions between them are blurred.

That aside, though, you are apt to find very little to dislike about the entry-level Infiniti. It's a fine automobile - and yet another headache for the Germans.


    Expert Reviews 1 of 3

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