Cheap, fun, rear-wheel-drive performance cars. They don't make 'em like they used to. In fact, they hardly make them at all. The Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ twinship is the only effort that's currently mixing these ingredients together in a meaningful way.
Nissan would like to change that with a pair of concepts under what it's calling the IDx.
With their world debut at the Tokyo Motor Show in November, and a North American unveiling in Detroit, the automaker is laying the groundwork for an answer to its Japanese rivals.
The concepts come in two forms: the IDx Freeflow and the IDx Nismo. Both pay homage to the immensely popular Datsun 510 that the company built in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The concepts' philosophy is the same as their predecessors': affordable, rear-wheel-drive performance.
Helping keep the cost down on a production version of these cars is the fact that they're small. At 13.5 feet long, the IDx concepts are about a foot shorter than Nissan's subcompact Versa sedan. But a small footprint means lighter weight, enabling Nissan to use a smaller, less-expensive engine and still keep the cars fun to drive.
Because these IDx cars are concepts, Nissan didn't get into details about the cars' powertrains. The more pedestrian Freeflow version might be powered by either a 1.2-liter or 1.5-liter four cylinder paired with a continuously-variable transmission, Nissan said.
The go-fast Nismo version would have a 1.6-liter turbocharged four cylinder that is mated to a CVT with manual shift modes, the automaker said. Nissan currently uses this exact engine in the quirky Juke and Juke Nismo crossovers, and in the latter Juke it makes 197 horsepower. That Nissan would include an existing engine in a concept increases the chances of such a car becoming a reality.
The two-pronged effort of the IDx concepts could also make the car a feasible business decision for Nissan. Sell the Freeflow model globally as a low-cost, high-volume model, and then keep the Nismo version for the gear-heads who are all too happy to pony up extra cash for a healthy dose of "go."
So just what is the likelihood of something like the IDx actually reaching production? Pretty good, though don't expect it tomorrow. Andy Palmer, Nissan's executive vice president, has stated publicly that such a car is happening, but hasn't specified when or which version.
Given the process of bringing a new car to production, 2016 or 2017 are the earliest we'd see something like this on the road. Ready when you are, Nissan.