In the Niche: (Part 1)

Allen: Where have all the rear wheel drive (RWD) economy sport compacts coupes gone (maybe this market is a little too specific)? Are they gone for good? If you haven’t figured out by now I’m a big fan of oversteer and not the kind that involves your “good friend” the E-brake, Austin.

I’ve been keeping up with concept cars that are being produced in the past few years in hopes that they will fill this “Niche market”, like the Saturn Sky or Pontiac Solstice when they were still concepts. It turns out that GM decided to make them convertible roadsters, sadly.

With the demise of the beloved Nissan 240sx in 1998 there has been nothing to fill the void. Nothing for me to hope to drive sideways and still get the 28 miles per gallon while cramming (And I do mean CRAM.) my family, friends, Dogs, Cat, or beer keg or whatever in the back seat. The back seat in my 240sx is more like foam with fabric over it than a back seat and virtually impossible to place a human with legs in it. The insurance counts it as a seat and so do I.

Sure, there are some All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) cars like the Mitsubishi EVO or the Subaru WRX that you can induce oversteer with but you just can’t make a donut with an AWD car like you can with a RWD car.

There are a few cars that come close in the market today. The BMW 1 series that is not out yet may do the job but it has a 3.0L straight six, is a little heavy, and to top it off a $30,000 dollar price tag. There’s the Mazda Miata MX-5 but that is a convertible but it does have a hideaway hard top (This might be a good option.). The Mazda RX-8 is close but is more of a Sedan then a coupe and it is in a group all its own with the rotary (I’ll put a post latter on that.)

Then there is the Nissan 350z, but it has no back seat. The Infinity G35 does, but it is heavy, big and like the 350z it has a V6 engine and $30,000 price tag. There is the Lexus IS series but price can’t be an complaint and neither can the extra doors. I’m running short on potential cars here. I think that leaves the, uh, Ford Mustang, but what is economical about a 300 hp V-8 (not that I’m complaining for the price and looks.).

I’m beginning to think that every car out there is either a convertible, too expensive, has four doors, or has too high of a price tag. So what hope is there?

Nissan has been rumored to be building a RWD coupe without a back seat and a two liter engine. All I can say about that is go for it, please. Also, the new Hyundai Tiburon is rumored to be RWD in 2009. Does the fate of this long lost Niche market rest on Hyundai? Maybe a list is needed so that other manufactures understand they are not that far off from a building a rear wheel economy coupe.


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