Report: Nissan Working On Small “Mini-Z” Sports Coupe for China

Nissan’s interest in a small, affordable sports coupe to slot beneath the rear-wheel-drive Z line isn’t anything new — in fact, we saw the automaker toy with such an idea with the 2006 Urge concept. According to new reports from Motor Trend, the automaker has finally approved such a vehicle, known within Nissan as the “Mini-Z,” for series production.

MT suggests the affordable sports car could help Nissan counter the Toyota FT-86/ Subaru BRZ duo, but the Mini-Z may wind up being a wildly different car. Nissan once considered a lithe, affordable rear-wheel drive sports coupe, but those plans were scuttled in 2008. Instead, the Mini-Z will allegedly be a front-wheel drive venture, and perhaps built atop a version of Nissan’s B/V global small car architectures, which also underpins the likes of the Juke, Cube, and Micra. As a result, the Mini-Z should be roughly the size of a Honda CR-Z or Hyundai Veloster.

Speaking of the Micra, the Compact Sports Concept — essentially a gussied-up, sporty Micra — shown at last year’s Shanghai motor show may serve as inspiration for the new Mini-Z. Though that car was a three-door hatchback, Motor Trend says the project has since transformed into a two-door coupe. A number of styling cues are borrowed from the Z, but insiders tell MT the car’s styling should be “original” in the same vein as the Juke. While engineering work will be orchestrated in Japan, styling and design are allegedly being handled by Nissan’s Chinese studio.

Much like its platform, expect the Mini-Z’s driveline to be shared with other Nissan models. A 190-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged I-4 should be borrowed from the Juke. A six-speed manual will likely be available, and there’s also a chance the Juke’s torque vectoring all-wheel-drive system could also be ported over, though it remains to be seen if this option will again force the inclusion of a CVT.

All this shared content could help Nissan keep costs low: Motor Trend suggests it could sticker below the $22,000 mark, undercutting both the FR-S and BRZ. That price point could also help the car in China, which is expected to be its primary market. Nissan is reportedly planning on selling small quantities of the car in Japan and in Europe, though exports to North America are reportedly still under investigation. Expect production to begin by late 2013 at the earliest.

Source: Motor Trend