The Japanese brand had developed a rear-drive coupe with a high performance engine that would have sat below the 370Z coupe at a similar price point to the 86 and BRZ, but abandoned the plan 18 months ago.
It was codenamed the New Small Sports and would have represented a vehicle close in concept to the iconic 200SX, which would have pitched it against the new 86/BRZ.
Nissan executive vice president Andy Palmer told CarAdvice the company decided to shelve plans for the affordable sports car because its target market would be adequately covered by the Juke crossover hatch, which was six months away from introduction.
“We departed from the 86 model and went down the road of the Juke,” he said.
“Gen Y and Gen Z is less interested that kind of execution of a sports car. For a younger generation that is a much more profound way of going to market.”
The Juke is currently not available in Australia, but Palmer all but confirmed it would come here although he refused to offer a timeline
“It should,” he said. “It is more of a question of time and something I am going to talk to [Nissan Australian managing director] Bill [Peffer] about today.”
While the Juke seems an unlikely option for the kind of people interested in a rear-drive coupe, Palmer says the Nismo version, which was revealed at Le Mans in June, was specifically created after the decision to kill off the affordable sports car.
The Nismo Juke runs a higher output version of the 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder that serves the regular model and has a range of chassis upgrades including low-riding sports suspension. It is not related to the limited run Juke R, which uses the GT-R's engine and all-wheel-drive system.
“The decision to go to Juke Nismo, lending that kind of performance to that kind of car is consciously our decision to get at those enthusiastic young, sports-oriented type of customers,” Palmer said.
When asked whether the success of the 86 and BRZ had shown Nissan should have continued with its New Small Sports model, Palmer questioned which customers were buying the 86.
“Who’s driving it?” he said.
Palmer said the customers in their late 20s and early 30s, who were the target of the small sports car, are in Generation Y and are on the cusp of Generation Z, which he argues are not as interested in cars like the 86 as previous generations.
“That generation has a different attitude towards sporty performance and a different attitude to life than I do or you do,” he said.
“We think it [Juke and Juke Nismo] is a much more relevant execution for them.”
Palmer said he would have to wait and see whether the decision to can the small sports car and go with Juke instead was the correct one, but is happy with the move at the moment.
“I’m selling 350,000 Jukes a year,” he said. “Generally, the demographics of Juke are lower than Nissan generally.”