1988 Nissan Stanza

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The Morning Call and Mcall.com

The Nissan Stanza four-door sedan may not be the world's most exciting car, but then it was never intended to be. What it is a mid-range family sedan, larger than the Sentra and less expensive than the Maxima, that has a broad market appeal.

Of the three sedan's in the Nissan lineup, all popular and all good sellers, the Stanza has the good fortune of being in the middle and the ability of ''robbing'' sales from the other two models. And if there is anyone who does not think this car is popular, just look around. They seem to be everywhere.

What is quite obvious is that styling has nothing to do with its popularity. It has the traditional two-box look (a smaller box placed on the top of a larger box) and by no stretch of the imagination can be considered distinguished looking. In fact, it seems to blend into the scenery, which maybe is what Nissan had in mind in the first place.

Anyway, all manufacturers like to bracket their cars and sometimes do get a little carried away with their own market research. Nissan, for example, claims the Stanza appeals to ''price sensitive families.'' That is, people who need a family sedan but don't want to spend $15,000 or $20,000 for it. This, obviously, covers a multitude of people.

The Stanza competes in the so-called lower-middle segment of the market, the largest in the industry; and also the most competitive. Despite all this competition, the car did very well; it captured 3.7 percent of this market in 1987, and optimistically expects that share to increase to 4.4 percent in 1988. And it expects to do this just with the four-door sedan since the five- door hatchback was dropped from the lineup for the 1988 model year.

The Stanza, as with all other Japanese cars, has increased in price somewhat considerably because of the stronger yen. Despite this, the Stanza still offers a decent value for the money for a Japanese compact family sedan. Prices start at$11,499 for the E model with standard transmission, to $14,164 for the GXE with automatic.

Quite a spread in price for the two models but there is also quite a spread of equipment. The many items of standard equipment on the GXE include power mirrors, power windows, door locks, power antenna, cassette, cruise control, intermittent wipers, digital clock and split-down back seat. This is on top of a nice, though far from elaborated, level of trim on the E model.

The test car was an automatic GXE and had a bottom line of $15,909, including a delivery charge of $250 and its two options: air conditioning, $795, and power sun roof, $700. So depending on how much you want to spend, you can either have it plain or fancy.

No matter what the trim, the Stanza sedan still has the same running gear and the same dimensions.

The sedan has a wheelbase of 100.4 inches, overall length, 177.8 inches; width, 66.5 inches; height, 54.9 inches, and curb weight, 2,770 pound s. These dimensions (with the exception of weight) are almost identical to Nissan's luxury Maxima sedan, a much more expensive car. In fact, the Maxima platform and many of its chassis and suspension components are used on the Stanza, which, no doubt, is one of the reasons for its popularity.

The two front seats are decently sized and driver and passenger can be seated in comfort. The back seat has good leg room for a car this size and rear seat passengers, even if adults, won't feel cramped. The trunk has 12 cubic feet of capacity, which isn't the end of the world, but the rear seat back folds down for through the trunk storage of larger items. Also, the trunk lid opens directly above the bumper for easier loading and unloading.

Driving the front-wheel drive Stanza, especially if equipped with a four- speed automatic overdrive transaxle, as the test car, is no great chore. The rack-and-pinion steering is responsive though not overly so. And, because of ts size, judging and maneuvering aren't a problem.

The four-wheel independent suspension features MacPherson struts and ''L- type'' transverse links up front while the rear has trailing arms, coil springs and shocks. Handling isn't bad though the suspension is obviously tuned on the softer side for a better ride.

Informing the driver to just what is going on is an easy to read instrument panel with gauges, including a tachometer. The tach proved useful with the four-speed automatic transmission which features a fourth gear or overdrive lock-out button on the gear selector handle. This way you can lock- out fourth gear and keep an eye on the tach to make sure the engine won't overwind. This application would be used mostly in passing situations. Controls are conveniently laid-out in typical Japanese-car fashion. (Most Japanese cars have the same supplier for instruments and controls and have a familiar look.)

The automatic transmission worked smoothly, shifted on cue and because of its four-speeds, had a versatility of range. In other words, low or first was low (2.785:1 ratio) and high or fourth was high (0.694:1). The car is also available with a five-speed transmission, which brings the price down $715.

Providing the go for the Stanza is an old friend in the Nissan line (in fact, it was even in the Datsun lineup), the 2-liter/120-cubic-inch four- cylinder engine. This single overhead cam engine features multi-port fuel- injection and is rated at 94 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 114 foot pounds torque at 2,800 rpm.

Power isn't going to throw you in the back seat but performance is quite good for all Lehigh Valley driving conditions. (For those who want more power, there's the more powerful, and more expensive, Maxima with its 3-liter/180- cubic-inc V-6 rated at 157 horsepower.) As it is, though, the 2-liter four should satisfy most drivers. It also provides decent fuel mileage. The test car averaged 17 miles per gallon for city driving and 28 miles per gallon over the highway. Since the engine has a relatively low 8.5:1 compression ratio, unleaded regular can be used.

The Stanza is covered by a 12-month/12,500-mile basic warranty on the entire car, a 36-month/36,000-mile warranty on the powertrain and electronics, and a 60-month/unlimited mileage warranty on corrosion perforation.


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