Nissan Teana (Cefiro)

With the introduction of Teana (or Cefiro in some countries), Nissan has completed its simplification process of its once overcrowded model lineup in Japan. The successor to Cefiro has thrown away its own platform and now shares the FF-L (front-engine, front-wheel-drive, large) platform with the American-market Altima. By the way, this platform also gives birth to the American Maxima. 

FF-L uses strut suspensions up front and multi-link at the rear, the latter ensures better bump absorption and quietness than Cefiro’s non-independent beam-axle. However, no matter the setting of suspensions and choose of tyres favour ride comfort rather than handling, as Teana is tuned to please traditional customers in Japan. People who prefer European-style handling had better to buy Skyline / Infiniti G35 instead.  

Externally, Teana looks like a Volkswagen Passat and Audi A6, having the same modern shape, solid feel and attention to details. Enter the cockpit, there is a completely different design theme. Instead of European style, the light-color, wood-enhanced dashboard has strong resemblance to Japanese or Korean furniture. Nevertheless, you may still upset by the cheap-looking steering wheel and instrument reading, plus the general lack of quality in plastic trimming. It seems that cost-saving cabin has been the weakness of almost all Nissan cars. "Le Cost Killer" should take note. 

With a wheelbase of 2775mm, Teana is a big car in Japan and would have been considered as an executive car in Europe if it were there. Very tall people may find the swoopy roof limiting rear headroom, but otherwise all passengers enjoy good space in all direction. Comfy seats are flat thus not designed for hard cornering, just like the car itself.  

The top Teana is powered by the popular 3.5-litre VQ35DE V6 engine. Because the car bias towards comfort rather than performance, it is detuned to 231hp only, lower than all the other Nissan sedans using this engine. This is probably a good decision to avoid abusing the civilized chassis setup. Anyway, the big V6 generates tons of torque from low to mid-range and peak at a useful 246 lbft, therefore performance is easy to access while cruising refinement is high.  

Of course, 3500cc could be too much for most Japanese - most of their cars are below 2000cc, therefore Nissan also offer a 2.3-litre version of the VQ engine. It pumps out 173 horsepower. This engine is coupled to a 4-speed automatic only, unlike the 3.5's Xtronic CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission). Xtronic is a conventional CVT using steel belt, like that used by Primera for years. However, it is strengthened to handle the higher torque of the big V6 while transmission ratio range is widened to improve acceleration and fuel economy.  

The problem of Teana is that it is not outstanding in any area. A Lexus gives you impression of quality and refinement, a Volvo shines in comfort, a BMW or Audi scores high in driver excitement. In contrast, Teana seemed a mixture of all the mass production components without a focused character. Nissan wants to sell 100,000 units of Teana a year. Good luck! 

The above report was last updated on 16 Feb 2003. All Rights Reserved.


For American market, Nissan needs a bigger car than the domestic Teana. Therefore it maximized the size of the FF-L platform and created the Maxima. For lower cost, the car is manufactured in the USA in the same plant as Altima, which also shares the FF-L platform.  

Compare with sister car Teana, the Maxima is significantly longer, wider and its wheelbase is 50mm longer too. That brings even more passenger space to please the American. Compare with Altima, Maxima is slightly bigger in every exterior dimensions, although there is hardly any more room inside. Still, Maxima is capable to carry 5 people with comfort.  

Now you may question why Nissan sells two similarly-sized sedan in the United States and both share the same suspensions and engines. Officially speaking, Nissan positions the Maxima higher in the market, selling at a higher price than the Altima. You might expect it to be a more luxurious, better polished and more refined version of the Altima, but Nissan chose a controversial strategy - make it sportier than the Altima. It gets a sportier-tuned version of the 3.5 V6 (265hp vs 245hp; 255lbft vs 246lbft), a 6-speed manual gearbox instead of 5 ratios, sports-car-like 18-inch wheels wrapping with astonishing 245-wide rubbers and sportier setting of the suspensions.  

However, in real world the Maxima is slower than the Altima. Taking 6.3 seconds to 60mph, it trails the Altima by 0.3 seconds, blame to its 110kg heavier body.  

The FF-L platform is front-wheel-drive and is therefore not supposed to be as sporty as the FM platform which gave birth to Skyline and Infiniti G35. Taking the sporty route results in a mixed impression. The first thing you notice is severe torque steer. It exists in the Altima, but the higher power V6 of Maxima worsens the problems. You won't enjoy driving this car hard in the twisties. This is frustrating, because the engine has mountain of torque while the tyres generate abundance of grip. Body control is unremarkable, with too much body roll in corners. A Mazda 6 is easily more fluent to handle. On the positive side, the firmer suspensions damp well, though the wide and low profile tyres can transmit more road irregularities and noise into the cabin than you expect for a car of this price. The Z-car-sourced 6-speed gearbox is quick and precise. Brakes are strong and fade resistant.  

Does the driving experience better than Altima? no. Maxima has gone too far and exceeded the limit FF-L can handle. What it does feel better than the Altima is the design and quality of its interior. You will feel as if you are driving a 350Z. However, isn't it deserve a better exterior design? while sister car Teana looks like an Audi, the Maxima feels cheap, especially viewing from the rear. This is a disappointing car. Its market positioning is embarrassing and its execution is poor. 

The above report was last updated on 17 Feb 2003. All Rights Reserved.


Teana 2.3 V6
Teana 3.5 V6
Maxima 3.5 SE
Front-engined, Fwd
Front-engined, Fwd
Front-engined, Fwd
L / W / H / WB (mm)
4770 / 1765 / 1475 / 2775
4770 / 1765 / 1475 / 2775
4915 / 1820 / 1480 / 2825
V6, dohc, 4v/cyl, VVT.
V6, dohc, 4v/cyl, VVT.
V6, dohc, 4v/cyl, VVT.
2349 cc
3498 cc
3498 cc
173 hp
231 hp
265 hp
166 lbft
246 lbft
255 lbft
Suspension (F/R)
strut / multi-link
strut / multi-link
strut / multi-link
Tyres (F/R)
All: 205/60 SR16
All: 215/55 VR17
All: 245/45 VR18
1460 kg
1520 kg
1560 kg
Top speed
0-60 mph
6.3 sec*
0-100 mph
15.9 sec*
Figures tested by: * Motor Trend

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