1986 Nissan Stanza

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chicagotribune.com
What plans Nissan had! It was selling a front-wheel-drive mini-van in Japan called the Prairie, and all it had to do was load a bunch on the next boat headed to the United States. That would give it the distinction of introducing the first front-wheel-drive mini-van in the U.S.

Nissan would be months ahead of either Chrysler or Toyota and years ahead of Chevrolet and Ford in the mini-van market. The world would sit up and take notice of the No. 2 Japanese import. Could No. 1 be far behind?

That was the game plan Nissan had more than two years ago. It didn`t materialize. Nissan`s mini-van just is now becoming available in the U.S. Sure, it beat Ford`s mini Aerostar van to market, but so did everyone else.

Import quotas prevented Nissan from carrying out its plans. With vehicle shipments limited, the Japanese automaker delayed bringing in the van. Now, it`s out. Called the Stanza Wagon, the vehicle represents a cross between a van, a wagon and a utility vehicle. We prefer to call it a van.

The Stanza wagon attracts attention because it features the industry`s only dual sliding side doors to the rear seats of the vehicle.

There`s seating for two up front, two adults or three kids immediately behind and two kids in the far rear, thanks to a pair of fold-up-down-out jump seats along the wheel wells. Trust us, those jump seats are only for kids or adults lacking hips. Like the Dodge Caravan or Plymouth Voyager, this is a hatchback with an easy-open rear lid for good cargo access.

The unit sits high, like a van, and has large windows all around to provide good visibility. In fact, with all that glass you`ll need air conditioning. But you`re not so high up in the saddle as in a Chevy Astro or Toyota van, for example.

You won`t feel less than stable in taking a tight corner; the center of gravity is not that high. Ride, handling and cornering are more like a wagon than a van, and you feel in control of the vehicle.

The suspension handles rough roads with ease. You`re not jostled, and you don`t get a lot of road harshness coming back through the steering wheel. A weakness is the spongy power braking system, which needs to be firmer with a faster, surer grip.

The Stanza name is used because the vehicle is based on that sedan`s platform and shares the same fuel-injected 2-liter, four-cylinder engine. It could use a bit more punch, however.

The Stanza van tips the scales at 2,809 pounds. The first time up a steep grade we had to downshift to encourage the horses to break out of a slow trot. It appeared to come up shy of the power of a Dodge Caravan or Plymouth Voyager with their 2.2-liter engines but had greater pep than the 2-liter four in the Toyota van.

A smooth-shifting, floor-mounted, five-speed manual transmission is standard, automatic a $650 option. Unless you drive the flatlands, you may want to opt for the five-speed to coax the power from the engine you`ll need to handle hilly terrain. The EPA rating with the five-speed is 23 m.p.g. city. There are very few options other than automatic, air conditioning ($685) and sun roof ($700), and with that you get two fold up-down-remove jump seats in the rear. Check your dealer for option prices, however, because even a call to Nissan headquarters in California brought uncertainty over which options are offered at what price.

Base price is $9,949, about $700 more than a Caravan, about $1,500 less than a Toyota van. The list of standard equipment is impressive, including power brakes and steering, steel-belted radials, AM-FM stereo radio, rear window defroster-wiper-washer system, tilt wheel, quartz digital clock, trip odometer, tinted glass, dual remote mirrors, fold-away rear seat and full wheel covers.

Conclusion? If in the market for a multipurpose, van we`d consider the Stanza wagon in a league with the Caravan-Voyager. The Chevy Ast ro offers better performance, provided you get the V -6 engine, which means you sacrifice mileage. Astro ride and handling are second to the Stanza. The Stanza offers more in every category than a Toyota van.




    Expert Reviews 2 of 2

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