New suit, new dress, new sheetmetal.

Sometimes all it takes is a fresh set of duds.

That`s the case with the Nissan Stanza, which got a styling overhaul forthe 1990 model year.

The compact Stanza is built on a 100.4-inch wheelbase and is 179.9 inches long overall. Yet with the new sheetmetal it now looks a bit more like alarger and more luxurious Maxima. Oddly enough, now that it looks like aMaxima it seems to act more like one, too.

The front-wheel-drive Stanza is offered in XE and GXE versions. We drovethe GXE, which Nissan boasts features a viscous limited slip differential thatserves as an advance traction control system because it transmits drive power to the wheels smoothly under all types of driving conditions.

In laymen`s terms, you stay in your lane without slipping and slidingwhen you punch the pedal moving from the light. You also find yourself having enough confidence in the car`s road-holding ability to pass other cars thatare tiptoeing through the snow and slush.

Stanza is powered by a 2.4-liter, 12-valve, 138-h.p., four-cylinderengine. Yes, 138 h.p. Plenty of power. If you found Stanza a bit boring in thepast, a nice package that lacked some punch, you`ll enjoy the kick you getfrom the 2.4-liter four.

A five-speed manual is standard, a four-speed automatic optional. Our car came with automatic, a smooth and quiet match for the 2.4, especially forthose who have little patience for the constant motion and commotion of amanual in rush-hour traffic.

The EPA rating is 21 m.p.g. city/27 m.p.g. highway with automatic, 22/29with manual, not a significant enough spread for the mileage conscious to passon automatic in favor of manual unless gasoline reaches $5 a gallon.

Base price is $14,775 with manual, $15,575 with automatic. Standardequipment in the GXE includes power brakes and steering, air conditioning, AM/FM stereo with cassette, power windows/door locks/dual remote mirrors,velour seats and alloy wheels.

Popular options are antilock braking system at $995 (not available on the XE) and a power electric sunroof for $800.