Monday, March 5, 2012

Used Car Review - Nissan Cefiro (1997-2000)

This week (and definitely next week), Myk Belmonte hunts a premium sedan (two of them) for this week. This gives you a break from mainstream priced sedans, SUVs, and vans. We all know thanks to depreciation, you get to enjoy luxury at a less price (although somewhat older).

1997-2000 Nissan Cefiro

You might be surprised to know that the Infiniti 130 is basically a Nissan Cefiro (in majority of the world markets)? And the Maxima nameplate is used in the North American markets. While the Cefiro nameplate was gone in 2003, it had been used as a name for the Nissan Teana J31 - its direct replacement. The Cefiro name is used in Hong Kong, Singapore, Brunei, Bangladesh, Latin America, and the Caribbean (all of these markets had been using the Teana badge since its second version).

The Cefiro was made available in 1988 as a four door sedan, with its rear wheel drive chassis being shared with the sixth generation Nissan Laurel and the R32 Nissan Skyline. Its second iteration ditched the A31's sports car like pretensions and became a front wheel drive luxury sedan. The Infiniti counterpart was born and a station wagon was made available.

The first generation Cefiro didn't become a hit among consumers due to the prohibitive price back then. It was briefly sold from 1988-1990, and Nissan Pilipinas offered the Bluebird, Bluebird Altima, and the Cedric but none of them were successful. In late 1996, Nissan brought in the A32 Cefiro and was the first car to offer an automatic climate control system, keyless entry (alarm systems where a novelty back then),  automatic gas tank release, and a disc changer. It became a best seller, outselling competitors from Mitsubishi, Honda, and Toyota. Available until 2000, where it received a revision the following year including new trim lines and engines. Variants back then are a basic manual and automatic versions, but Elite and Brougham versions were made available in 1999 and in the millennium year respectively.

Value and Costs
With the reputation Nissan received locally, first gen Cefiro prices range between P160,000-P220,000. Prices vary from vehicle condition to vehicle trim line, with later year models being priced higher. Modified units (such as those with high inch rims, lowered suspensions, and side skirts) are rare to come by, but ask the owner if he has the original parts before purchasing it.

Do remember that maintaining an A32 Cefiro is not similar to maintaining a garden variety Sentra Super Saloon, a Corolla GLi, a Civic VTi, or a Lancer GLXi of the same age. It may be a bit costly than a Corona, Accord, or Galant due to the present number of electronic gadgets and the V6 power plant. Weak points of the car do include the radiator, which can crack and overheat (it is made of plastic and aluminum, with the former being on top); and the automatic climate control which does not respond. The sunroof in the Elite version must be checked if it opens properly. Parts are aplenty, available in original, and replacement flavors. Lastly, the Cefiro requires at least 95 octane gasoline to keep on chugging.

Exterior and Interior
Looking at the Cefiro's exterior, one may dismiss it as bland or classy, depending on one's taste. Clean lines and smooth curves are one of the Cefiro's appeals to its buyers, executives and those in the middle-upper class income bracket. The Brougham variant can beat the hell out of Benzes and Bimmers when it comes to bling factor, in stock form of course.

The interior has been one of the Cefiro's selling points. The standard leather seats ages well with the car, and there is decent room for both front and rear passengers. Most variants come with the above-mentioned leather seating plus automatic climate control, and a 10 disc CD changer (back then cassettes were the norm). A sunroof is standard in the Elite trim, which gives the occupants some needed airy experience at night.

Two engine choices are given to Cefiro buyers. These include a VQ20DE 1,995cc with 155hp at 6,400rpm and 190Nm at 4,400rpm under its hood and a rare VQ30DE 2,987cc with 190hp at 6,400rpm and 282 Nm at 4,000rpm. Both VQ engines are smooth operators and can reach the redline without any drama or noise from it. This results to the inception of the VQ series engine to a spot on the Ward's 10 best engines every year.

Driving Impressions
The letter "C" in Cefiro might mean Comfortable and Classy. The two descriptive words are befitting the car, which found fans with executives, and the older crowd. Even at high speeds, the Cefiro is stable, and comfortable, with your passengers being able to sleep. The manual transmission is fine but automatics are snail. However, those who are preferred to be driven most of the time would not mind the driving dynamics, but rather the comfort.

When it comes to comfort and class, nothing beats the mid-size sedans of Nissan. They do have what executives and the older crowd wants - comfort, quiet, and amenities that are easy to manipulate. It may be old, but still has the appeal and the presence when arriving on a five star hotel, a corporate meeting, or during a church wedding. The premium car wars had been passed to the Camry and Accord 10 years later. Up and coming executives, this is your first car at a lower price, and couple it with the presence.

The Good:
  • Magic carpet ride
  • Silky smooth engine
  • Feature loaded
The Bad:
  • Prepare the fuel allowance
  • Automatic transmission is slow
  • Some quality inconsistencies
 The Pick: 2.0 V6 Manual variant

Engines: 1,995cc VQ20DE and 2,987cc VQ30DE V6 gasoline
Power: 155hp @ 6,400rpm (2.0), 190hp @ 6,400rpm (3.0)
Torque: 190Nm @ 4,400rpm (2.0), 282Nm @ 4,000rpm (3.0)
Fuel Consumption: 5-8km/L (city); 8-11km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Suspension: Front Independent McPherson strut, rear multilink beam

Price (New): P980,000-P1,300,000 (range from 1997-2000, estimated)
Price (Now): P160,000-P220,000
Rivals: Honda Accord, Mitsubishi Galant, Toyota Corona, Toyota Camry, Mazda 626, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes Benz C Class, Nissan Bluebird Altima, Daewoo Prince, Hyundai Sonata
On Sale: 1997-2000

Nissan Mantrade - 812-6879
Nissan Commonwealth - 932-0428
Nissan Quezon Avenue - 731-5308

Photo courtesy of

1 comment:

  1. As an owner of two Nissan Cefiros:
    1. A32 99 M/T Classic on VQ20DE upgraded to japan imported VQ25DE
    2. Brougham VIP 2001 on VQ20DE all stock

    The review you've made is pretty much accurate. Specially so if buyers are checking "the bad". Prepare for gas budget, Automatic Transmission is slow (hell yeah, my brougham has "heavy balls" indeed) and some quality inconsistencies from one cefiro to another.