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From the Datsun F10 to the Pulsar NX Sportbak and more, these are the 10 absolute worst Nissans of all time
By BRIAN CHEENEW YORK DAILY NEWS |JUL 06, 2018 AT 3:00 PM
Give Nissan designers and engineers credit: Historically, they’ve made few truly boring or awful cars. In fact, until recently, most Nissans were enjoyable to drive and the company has always enjoyed a reasonably good dependability record. This means that there are truly not very many “worst” Nissans out there.
But you do get some really strange cars from this company.
Call it creativity run amok, but that’s what you’ll find on this Nissan worst-of list, comprised of extraordinarily flawed vehicles that probably could have been something brilliant but fell a mile short.
Hey. It’s the journey, right?
Sure, there are a few cars here that were just plain boring, like the 1998 Altima. And there were those vehicles that suffered from quality and safety issues, like the original Nissan Quest. And then there are the sublimely weird Nissans, like the Pulsar NX Sportbak. Or the Cube. Or the Datsun F10.
Damn. That’s one weird car.
Heck, even today in the modern age of Nissan, certain “creative” ideas manifest themselves like a bad acid trip. The recently shelved Juke, for example.
So let’s take a look back and remember some of the worst Nissans ever created. Our list is based on the following: they had to be either terrible, dull, weird, or all of the above. The 10 worst Nissans of all time are listed below, in chronological order.
Of the major Japanese brands, Nissan has the most inconsistent product line. The better models deliver strong performance along with impressive fuel economy, aided by widespread use of continuously variable transmissions. The Rogue and Pathfinder SUVs were recently redesigned. The Pathfinder saw a significant improvement over its bland, clumsy predecessor, thanks to a better powertrain, sharper handling, and an updated infotainment system. The Rogue, too, feels more substantial, and delivers taut and agile handling, a relatively quiet cabin, and user-friendly controls. Brand reliability improved this year.
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1974 to 1978 Datsun B210
Well, the Datsun B210 did get great fuel economy at 48 mpg highway. There’s that, and that’s something – right? After all, it helped Americans survive the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo. Still, the B210 was a weak-kneed and awkward dance partner that sacrificed too much for great fuel economy.
With a not-so-sturdy build and a 1.3-liter 4-cylinder engine that made 75 horsepower, the B210 was Furbish the furbie to Nissan’s Godzilla. At the time, reviewers criticized it for just about everything, inside and out. But they held special ire for the design, complaining about visibility and weird styling.
My buddy owned a B210. It was a hand-me-down, and his first car – a dark green get-about with a dented hood. We didn’t care what it looked like – back then we were just happy it had a motor and tires slightly thicker than those on our bicycles.
1974 to 1977 Datsun F10
Someone needs to open an ugly-car museum. First exhibit: the Datsun F10, otherwise known as the second-gen Nissan Cherry. Nothing personal, mind you, but come on. I’m not pretty, and even I think this car is, whew – holy cow. That front-end looks like E.T.’s face.
Offered in the U.S. as a coupe and wagon, the F10 was miles away from the Datsun 240Z, the 510, and all other more stylistic Nissan creations. Front to back it was, ahem, unique. Like the way the rear hatch glass curved, as if forecasting the Hyundai Veloster or something.
Yeah, the F10 was something, all right.
You won’t see anything else quite this strange on this list until we get to the Cube – or the Juke.
1979 to 1982 Datsun 280ZX
My wife called me fat and lazy the other day.
It made me think of the Datsun 280ZX, and I felt bad, because I’m kind of like the 280ZX: just another paunchy middle-aged has-been, dreaming about those wonderful glory days.
And to think, all that sex appeal was traded in for two-tone paint and a soft, comfortable ride. Sure, Nissan sold a bunch of ’em, but come on – was this to be the swan song of the Z?
Thankfully, no. Not that there’s anything wrong with black and gold metallic flake two-tone paint or room to spread out.
1986 to 1990 Nissan Pulsar NX Sportbak
Having trouble making decisions? Suffer from multiple personality disorder? The Nissan Pulsar NX Sportbak was meant for you, because this is the real transformers car, not the Camaro!
What is it with Nissan designers, anyway? Is it possible that the jazz flute heavily influenced the company’s team in San Diego, which was reportedly responsible for the Sportbak? Or, perhaps, psychotropic medications?
It’s true that in the context of the era, few cars symbolized the bored weirdness of the late Eighties like the Sportbak. It was forced excitement, and feigned interest. Basically a Sentra performing a ‘stupid pet trick’ that turned it into a coupe, convertible or station wagon at the owner’s whim. Just remove the panels, and take off the hatch roof.
Sure, the Pulsar NX Sportbak wasn’t very fast, and it didn’t handle well. But it was the vehicular version of zipper pants. What could be more Eighties?
1998 to 2001 Nissan Altima
I admit it: I have a weirdly obsessive dislike of the 1998 Nissan Altima. I think it stems from a sort of righteous indignation. How could Nissan replace the first-gen Altima, a car that could arguably be considered one of the best Nissans ever, with an utterly forgettable version that was as exciting as cheap wheat bread?
Sure, there were improvements. But mostly the interior was a downgrade, the styling was plain, and the second-gen Altima was just flat-out boring.
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Perhaps it’s possible that this Altima had something to do with Japan’s Lost Decade, when the nation’s real estate and stock price bubble burst and caused a huge reduction in spending and corporate investment.
After all, the third-gen Nissan Altima went back to being a landmark vehicle, with dramatically new styling and a North American Car of the Year Award. Perhaps the second generation Altima was nothing more than a bad dream.
Nope. It happened. Whatever.
In short, the 1998 Altima took two steps back when it needed two leaps forward to catch up to the Camry and Accord.
1998 to 2002 Nissan Quest
It’s hard to pick a “worst of” Quest. There’s the non-descript and unreliable first-gen version; the futuristic French-flavored second-gen version; and the blandly weird third-gen version.
Not surprisingly, Nissan no longer sells the Quest.
For this list, we’ll go with the original Quest. The spawn of a joint agreement between Ford and Nissan, the Quest was also sold as the Mercury Villager. Or was it the Mercury Villager that was transformed into the Quest?
Either way, it was too small, lacked the right mix of features, and was constantly in the shop with recalls. Worse, the Quest received a “Poor” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Not that the most recent version did any better, as seen in the infamous 2014 Nissan Quest driver’s side small overlap test video.
The Quest is why die-hard Nissan fans still cling to dreams about the return of the Axxess, which was sold for just one year in the States.
2007 to 2012 Nissan SE-R
Nissan almost single-handedly revived interest in the affordable sport compact car with the debut of the fabulous 1991 Sentra SE-R – the daily driver that drove like heck.
Then they gave all that name recognition and equity away. Gone. All that positive brand awareness and love from car buyers who remembered the good old days, and could finally afford a new sport compact car of their own, trammeled underfoot by boring, overweight successors.
Such a shame. And in 2007, a redesigned Sentra SE-R arrives, this time with a continuously variable transmission. Most reviews at the time were mixed, let’s say, between stiff politeness and thinly-veiled disgust.
Ugh. A CVT? Nissan, could you hear the cries of your fans over the steady-state engine drone?
Sure, there was the over-the-top racer-boy Spec V, but the SE-R was never supposed to be that scary tuner car. It was a cut Clark Kent in a tie, not Bruce Wayne’s Dark Knight.
Today, Nissan still struggles to get the recipe right.
2009-2014 Nissan Cube
Well, the Cube seemed like a good idea. And it was. In Japan.
By the time Nissan rolled out the popular and hot-selling Cube in the U.S. for the first time, it was rounded off and bulbously detailed and asymmetrically proportioned and just plain weird. Oh, and call it “cube” please, with a lowercase ‘C’.
Truth be told, the Cube was super-functional, in spite of its side-hinged rear tailgate. But Americans looking for cheap wheels just weren’t ready to drive the ugly bus to work or school.
Why, Nissan, why?
2011 to 2014 Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet
The Murano Cross Cabriolet may be the long-lost secret love child of the Nissan Pulsar NX Sportbak. Or it just may be another confused and very creative idea gone awry. Either way, one can see how the conversation could have gone:
“Those convertible trucks are cool. I saw a chop-top Bronco the other day.”
“Hey – we should do that! What if we took an Xterra…”
“Wait, no – that’s too redneck. Let’s add some style and use a Murano – yeah! So much more stylish! And we can charge more for it! Who’s got the Sawzall?”
The result was a near-$50,000 crossover with two doors, no cargo room, and the athleticism of a three-legged rhino. No surprise, then, that it didn’t sell well and was discontinued after several fits and starts of the production line.
2011 to 2017 Nissan Juke
Your baby isn’t ugly. It’s unique.
So it is with the Juke, Nissan’s successful oddball crossover that sold in the U.S. for six years, ending production in 2017. Though it was perpetual winner of the ugly award, Nissan and its fans didn’t seem to care all that much.
And maybe the joke’s on me, since both the Jeep Cherokee and Hyundai Kona have adopted similar front lighting themes.
Granted, the Juke was terrific fun to drive. But it was also like a crazy-eyed spider with an identity crisis. The headlights were too low, the running lights too high, and there were 57 odd angles that all crashed into those massive wheel haunches and narrow beltline.
So sure, the Juke was fun to drive. But it was also a crossover with no cargo room, and had styling best described as organized chaos.
That’s okay. You do you, Juke. You do you.
These Nissans Are Top Performers in U.S. News Rankings
Over the past few years, Nissan has been reconfiguring their lineup by introducing a redesigned Titan, announcing the end of Quest sales in the U.S., and debuting a hybrid variant of their most popular crossover. The Rogue Sport has been added to the lineup as industry speculation grows on the future of the Juke.
Those redesigns and refreshes have made Nissan’s vehicles more competitive in their segments in recent years. The vehicles’ price points, combined with the company’s recent acquisition of a controlling stake in Mitsubishi, have driven Nissan to earn the top global sales ranking, dethroning Volkswagen.
The vehicles in the following slideshow are the best Nissan vehicles according to U.S. News & World Report’s overall scores. Those scores incorporate numerous pieces of research, including professional automotive journalists’ reviews, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, and crash test results from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Our scores are continuously updated as new data, test results, and models become available. The scores featured here were accurate at the time of publication.