Ten Point Test

Auto Trader Ten Point Test rating: 82%

The Nissan 350Z is the latest in a line of Z-badged Nissan coupes which began in the late 1960s. All front engined, rear wheel drive cars, the Z badged coupes became one of Nissan’s most iconic brands.

But after the 300ZX ended production in 1999, the Japanese car maker has lacked a world-beating GT. So when the 350Z entered production in 2003, there was a huge scramble for the car. Now the Zed has received a raft of upgrades making it more powerful than ever.

We drove one for a week to see if the 350Z lives up to its legendary status.

1. Looks 10/10

The Nissan 350Z looks every inch the hot-blooded sportscar. It has an intoxicating blend of curves and naked aggression from every angle. The car has massive presence, with its butch, pumped-up wheelarches and gaping front grille. The rear lights sweep up along the car’s flanks and emphasise its curved rump. There are plenty of neat touches, like the vertical door handles which although take a little getting used to, are unique. Our GT pack-equipped test car came with gorgeous 18-inch RAYS alloy wheels, but larger 19-inchers are also available.

2. Looks inside 9/10

There’s no mistaking you’re sitting in a Z car – the Z logo is liberally sprinkled on the steering wheel, floor mats, rear strut brace and door scuff guards. The dashboard is fitting for a sportscar, with a trio of gauges in front of the driver and another three in the middle of the dash, providing information on voltage and oil pressure. The third is a programmable display, which allows the driver to scroll through an air temperature, rev limiter settings, stopclock and speed – the latter of which is far clearer than the orange-highlighted analogue speedo. The centre console is dominated by a screen for the sat-nav and the stereo – 160-watt in the standard car, and a 240-watt BOSE system in our GT pack.

Although leather seats also come as standard, our test car was fitted with optional Alezan orange leather, covering the seats and gearknob. It was a controversial colour, especially as it costs an extra £400.

3. Practicality 6/10

It’s a big car, so you’d expect a decent level of space in the boot – and there would be if it wasn’t for the huge strut brace which cuts the storage space in half. It might help with the car’s rigidity, but it renders the boot useless for all but the smallest bits of cargo. A sticker on the underside of the tailgate shows how to insert two sets of golf clubs, but it looks awfully complicated. The boot space would be vastly improved if Nissan had replaced the full-size spare wheel with a space saver or a tyre inflation device with foam sealant. Or better still, fit run-flat tyres. The boot is open to the cabin too, which could leave luggage prone to fly into the front under braking. There’s nothing to stop booming from the rear wheels over bad road surfaces either, which caused ringing ears on longer runs, and could prove frustrating over time.

Its not all bad news – there’s a number of handy storage areas behind the seats; the passenger side tips forward to allow access. There’s also a useful box between the seats, and the ever useful recessed cupholders to store mobile phones and change.

4. Ride and Handling 10/10

Superb on both counts. The 350Z has gained a hard-earned reputation as a brilliant drivers’ car, but still remains comfortable on bumpy surfaces. The sports suspension is firm, but that means there’s virtually no bodyroll on bends, allowing the committed driver to turn hard. The steering is wonderfully responsive and quick to react to the tiniest of inputs. The engine is mounted towards the back of the engine bay, helping to delicately balance the chassis. There’s lots of grip, but with more than 300bhp pumping through the rear wheels, the back end is easy to lose. Thankfully standard fit stability control is included and we recommend it’s left active.

Find a used Nissan 350Z

5. Performance 10/10

Blistering. The revisions made in 2007 have taken the 350Z from 276bhp to 309. That means the car is slightly faster, despatching the 0-62mph benchmark in 5.5 seconds, before hitting an electronically-limited 155mph. The 3.5-litre V6 powerplant is eager to rev round to its 7,500rpm redline (although the speedo-mounted shift light reminds you when to change) and sounds fantastic while doing it. It’s a strange blend of a rasp and a roar, but it as addictive as the car’s surge of acceleration from standstill. There’s only one gearbox on offer – a heavy six-speed manual. It requires manhandling, but is a joy to use and very satisfying. The clutch is springy, and it takes care to pull away smoothly without stalling.

View more pics of the Nissan 350Z

6. Running Costs 6/10

At less than £30,000 for the standard car, the Nissan 350Z is a massive amount of performance car. More muscle than a BMW Z4, more exclusive than an Audi TT. But because of that, road tax, insurance and fuel bills are considerable. Its emissions of 280g/km place it in tax Band G, while insurance group 18 will hit the owner in the wallet almost regardless of age. Nissan say it’ll cover an average of 24.1 miles for every gallon of petrol, but that’s almost entirely determined if you drive it sensibly. And Nissan recommend it runs on expensive super unleaded too. And try to avoid the Temper Orange paintwork; it’s an acquired taste and used values are likely to suffer.

7. Reliability 9/10

Japanese sportscars are just about the most reliable you can buy. It might be a low-volume car by Nissan’s standards, but it’s built with the same solidity as the rest of its range. Used buyers should take particular care to look for crash damage.

8. Safety 7/10

The Nissan 350Z hasn’t been crash tested by EuroNCAP, but it is equipped with front and side airbags. Curtain ‘bags are fitted to the coupe, but not the convertible Roadster model. Traction and stability control, ABS, brakeforce distribution and brake assist all come as standard.

9. Equipment 7/10

There’s plenty of kit fitted as standard to the 350Z, including climate control, a gearshift light, programmable trip computer, electric windows, Bluetooth phone integration and a 160-watt stereo. The £2,500 GT Pack fitted to our test car adds leather seats and a 240-watt BOSE stereo. Our car was also fitted with Nissan’s excellent £1,200 Birdview satellite navigation system.

10. X-Factor 8/10

There are plenty of sub-£30,000 coupes on the market, but none that blends style with hairy-chested muscle car charm. And it’s a Nissan which makes it just about the most sensible crazy car on the road.

Key facts

Model tested: Nissan 350Z GT Pack
On the road price: £29,295
Price range: £26,795 – £29,295
Date tested: October 2007
Road tester: Stuart Milne