There was once a time when the Mazda MX-5’s monopoly on the affordable sports car market wasn’t so unshakable. When keen drivers could take their pick from a raft of punchy but keenly priced B-road weapons that promised ease of use, kerb appeal and durability in equal measure.
The Nissan 350Z is just one of those cars, and although the Nissan 370Z that came after (and amazingly is still in production after nearly 12 years) is remarkably similar in terms of its design, construction and performance, it’s the older Z that’s beginning to cultivate genuine classic cachet, and it might not be long before casual enthusiasts are priced out of the market for it.
What are its selling points, then? Well, its front-mounted 3.5-litre V6 engine – unencumbered as it is by turbochargers – is widely upheld as one of the finest performance motors of the past two decades, proffering a commendable 276bhp in early cars before being bumped up to nearer 300bhp in 2006. It’s a hardy lump and, if given due care and attention, will soldier on well past the 100,000-mile mark with few complaints.
The 350Z’s interior is also held in high regard for its refreshing simplicity and the quality of its construction. Entry-level cars offered little in the way of luxury, but the GT package gained such niceties as cruise control, electric seats and leather upholstery, making for few compromises in terms of refinement, even compared with much newer models.
If the coupé’s confined cabin leaves you feeling a bit claustrophobic, take your pick from the wealth of Roadster variants on sale. Extra body bracing added about 150kg to the weight of the 350Z but also ensured similar levels of dynamism and stiffness to the hard-top, with a barely discernible drop in ride quality.
Enhancing the convertible’s appeal is that you can nab a clean one for a good deal less than the equivalent coupé, due to the latter’s greater year-round usability and larger boot.