6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine

CY Foong · Sep 18, 2021 12:00 PM

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 01

Before the Nissan Cefiro grew into the quintessential ‘Unclemobile’, it was initially a state-of-the-art flagship sedan with rear-wheel-drive. The latter, combined with the turbocharged 2.0-litre RB20DET 6-cylinder made the Cefiro A31 a favourite among tuners and drifters later on.

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 02

Hard to believe though that the following gained by the A31 would only be recognised later on as the model was considered a sales flop. Reviewers loved the A31 and it was equipped with features that were pretty advanced at the time.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 01

Though it was considered as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class of the East with its state-of-the-art features, Nissan would revamp the Cefiro to a more comfort-oriented model. It would ditch rear-wheel-drive for a more conventional front-wheel-drive as well as replacing the RB-series inline-6 engines for the VQ-series V6.

Also read: Why is RWD life to some, while others prefer a FWD car?

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 02

The flawed but popular A32 Cefiro

Its transformation from a sedan of the future to a boring ‘Unclemobile’ made it among the most backward decisions ever made for a successor. As much as fans despise the A32, it became more successful in many markets including Malaysia.

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 03

But let’s not get too bogged down with the A32’s flaws of being a poor successor to the A31 (in the eyes of enthusiasts), here are 6 reasons on what gave the A31 its cult status many years later.

1. Its design was previewed in an overshadowed concept

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 04

At the 1987 Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan introduced a few very exciting and interesting concept cars including the adorable Pike cars as well as the MID4-II sports car. Also unveiled at the stand was a smooth pebble-shaped sedan.

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 05

The ARC-X Concept previewed two models at once, the upcoming Cefiro in design as well as the Infiniti luxury brand. Shigeru Miki’s design showcased a very minimalist and clean design that made it as futuristic 30 years ago as well as today.

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 06

The concept car had a drag coefficient of 0.26 and was powered by a 3.0-litre VG30DE V6 engine which made 190 PS. Just like the stillborn MID-4, the ARC-X came with all-wheel-drive and featured four-wheel-steering.

Also read: Nissan MID4 was a mid-engine AWD Ferrari fighter that failed to fly

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 07

Inside, the ARC-X held four individual bucket seats and a very simple dashboard design that would later resemble many Nissan cars in the nineties. The gear shift and controls were located between the two front seats which meant the floor was pretty much sparse.

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 08

The ARC-X would go on to win a few design awards such as the Car Design award in 1987 and the World’s Best Concept Car award in 1988, the same year the Cefiro A31 would make its debut.

2. It was sold in a separate Nissan dealer in Japan

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 09

An old Nissan Satio billboard

In the 1980s and 1990s, it was normal for carmakers in Japan to have different dealership networks. Though it might sound confusing for some, the reason for this proliferation of dealers was to cater to the different target buyers of a growing Japanese economy.

Also read: Buying a recond Toyota Vellfire is going to get harder, here’s why

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 10

At the time, Nissan had four dealership networks: Nissan Prince, Nissan Motor, Nissan Bluebird, and Nissan Satio. Each of these dealers catered to different buyers but it ended up being too confusing for buyers, Nissan would later streamline the four distinct dealerships to two called Nissan Blue Stage and Nissan Red Stage in 1999.

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 11

Clockwise from top left: Skyline, Laurel, Leopard, Cefiro

But before that, each of the dealer networks had its own flagship model on sale. The Nissan Skyline was sold at Prince dealers, the Laurel at Nissan Motor dealers, and the Leopard at Nissan Bluebird stores. That left Nissan Satio dealers to offer the Cefiro A31.

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 12

A30 Gloria with an American-inspired front

Though it shared some mechanicals as the Skyline, it is actually longer and its dimensions were close to the Nissan Cedric and Gloria luxury sedans. As such, it received the A31 code – the A30 model code was previously used on the third-gen Nissan Gloria that was built between 1967 and 1971.

3. There were 810 unique combinations of the A31

The A31 was launched at the height of the Japanese Bubble Era when the country had among the highest spending power in the world. Nissan pulled out all the stops during the A31’s launch including featuring Yosui Inoue, who’s one of Japan’s most successful singers to be the car’s spokesperson.

Also read: 10 weird Japanese cars that will blow your minds!

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 13

Nissan were targeting a specific group of individuals for the A31, called DINKs. This stood for “double or dual income, no kids” and the term was coined in the eighties to reflect the upward status of yuppies back then.

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 14

As this period also saw the rise of individuality and being unique, Nissan introduced a customised order system called “Cefiro Coordination”. Buyers could select their choice of engines, transmissions, interior and exterior colours as well as upholstery of their A31 with up to 810 unique combinations.

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 15

There were also some optional extras that buyers can add to their A31 including chrome door handles, a roof rack, a CD player, and a TV.

4. It had supersonic suspension

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 16

When it was new, the A31 was more expensive than the Skyline but it was also more technologically advanced. Some features that were available on the A31 included automatic projector-beam headlights, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and electric seats.

Also read: 9 cars with glorious quad headlights – Celica, E-Class, BMWs and more!

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 17

Besides the features, the A31 shares the same powertrain as the Skyline which included the 2.0-litre RB-series of inline-6 engines. A naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre inline-6 engine was also offered but the most desirable was the turbocharged RB20DET which made 205 PS and 265 Nm.

Also read: 2021 W223 Mercedes-Benz S-Class showcases rear-wheel steering

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 18

Even though the A31 was meant to be a sports sedan, it had another role that actually overshadowed the powerplant. Buyers can choose between the HICAS-II four-wheel steering system or the electronically-controlled DUET-SS which stood for Supersonic Suspension System.

The HICAS-II system was catered to buyers who prefer a sporty set-up while the DUET-SS system was for those who preferred comfort. The latter adjusts the car’s front strut and rear multi-link configured suspension to match the underlying road surface, so occupants won’t feel the harshest of road surfaces.

5. It was sold as the Laurel in LHD markets

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 19

The A31 was sold in overseas markets in Southeast Asia and Oceania. In Malaysia, the A31 Cefiro was only available with a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre RB20DE (152 PS/181 Nm) that was paired to a 5-speed automatic transmission.

While these markets retained the Cefiro name, in left-hand drive (LHD) markets like Turkey, Latin America, and the Middle East, it was called the Nissan Laurel Altima. Two engines were offered for these markets, a 2.0-litre CA20S inline-four unit (102 PS/160 Nm) and a 2.4-litre RB24S inline-six engine (141 PS/197 Nm). Both engines were carburetted instead of fuel-injected.

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 20

Autech Cefiro shown

However, the A31 ended being not so much of a success. Sales were poor in Japan as the DINKs turned out to not appreciate the futuristic-looking sedan. An Autech version of the A31 was introduced in January 1990 and later in August of that year, a facelift was introduced with a softer look.

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 21

Overseas, the A31 performed better in sales but the model remains a bit of a rarity in both domestic and global markets. Sales ended in Japan in 1994 with 141,278 units sold in 6 years. Finding a clean one is relatively hard as most of them were used in drift competitions as a cheaper alternative to the Skyline.

6. You can get a miniaturised version of the A31

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 22

Used ones go from around RM 15k but most have been modified

Though the A31 Cefiro led a fairly short life, it continues to be a desirable car or project for tuners. If you can find one, that is.

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 23

But if you can’t afford the real thing, there are miniaturised versions of the A31 which you can get online. The most notable one is the 1/24 scale plastic model kits made by Aoshima but granted, these are for hardcore hobbyists as they require some assembly.

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 24

Credit: Retroletra

If you find assembling model kits to be too tedious, there are some ready-made scale model A31s available too but these are pretty expensive and rare. The closest to an affordable A31 that you can hold in your hand is by Majorette, the French Hot Wheels.

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 25

Only the hood opens (Credit: Retroletra)

It’s not as detailed, but for RM 15, it is decent enough. That is if you can find one for that much as it is scalped by cutthroat resellers who demand 2 or 3 times the regular price.

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 26

At 420 yen (~RM 15), it's a decent effort (Credit: Retroletra)

Alternatively, you could wait for the international borders to reopen and get one in Japan for the regular price (after conversion) but fair warning, you might be tempted to get more than what you came for.

6 reasons why the Nissan Cefiro A31 is more than just an affordable drift machine 27

So, those are six reasons why the A31 is a cult classic. It was underappreciated and ignored by the target demographic who would prefer the Cefiro’s rival, the Toyota Mark II/Chaser. It saw a bit of renaissance among tuners and drifters and eventually, wiped out. Nevertheless, the A31 is a beauty and one that still has fans today.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

CY Foong

Writer

Traded advertising for a career that fits his passion for cars. Enjoys spotting cars during his free time and has a soft spot for Japanese Kei cars but drives a thirsty manual sedan.

Comments

Up to 20% higher than average trade-in price

2021 Perodua Ativa 1.0L Turbo X

Upgrade

Add your car

Service powered by carsome

Latest Cars

Related Used Car

2015 Perodua MYVI X 1.3
2015 Perodua MYVI X 1.3
RM 28,300TBC

RM 28800

129,975 km

6.5 years

Petaling Jaya

2019 Perodua ARUZ AV 1.5
2019 Perodua ARUZ AV 1.5
RM 62,200TBC

RM 63000

36,385 km

3 years

Petaling Jaya

2015 Perodua ALZA EZ 1.5
2015 Perodua ALZA EZ 1.5
RM 35,800TBC

RM 36400

134,371 km

6.5 years

Cheras