1996 NISSAN STAGEA
What do you get when you mix a sports classic like the Nissan Skyline and a luxury Volvo estate wagon? Such a vehicle exists and it is none other than the Nissan Stagea. The Stagea was first released in 1996 after Nissan decided to create a vehicle to compete directly against rival models such as the Subaru Legacy touring wagon and the Mitsubishi Legnum, both available on the Japanese domestic market. Also referred to as the Skyline Estate, the Stagea was one of the more interesting vehicles built by Nissan at the time. Throughout the 80's and 90's, Nissan had been well known for their premium sports cars, more notably the Nissan GTR. However the market called for something different, a performance vehicle with the practicality of a family car. The Nissan Stagea was born.
The Stagea was produced in 4 different motors, all of which were the RB series famously used in the Skylines. It came in a 2 and 2.5 litre naturally aspirated straight six, a 2.5 litre turbocharged variant and later a special edition model that ran the same 2.6 litre twin turbo engine and drive train as the Nissan GTR. Both models came in rear wheel drive but are more commonly found in all wheel drive with both 5 Speed manual and 4 Speed automatic being available. The 2.5 litre turbocharged model is the most common, as it meets importing standards of weight to power ratio in most countries and includes a 4 speed automatic transmission and all wheel drive system.
The RB25det engine boasted 175kw out of factory as the Stagea has a curb weight of 1620kg, making it a heavy vehicle when carrying a standard load. Much of this weight is due to the sheer amount of electrically controlled features inside of the car. Along with having ABS brakes and power steering, both front seats are adjustable via electric tabs on the side of the seats. All windows are electric with central locking and keyless entry. Other features include automatic head lights and cruise control.
Nissan has used a “box style” shape that has often been compared to many of the Volvo models, designed to be subtle with emphasis on luxury and practicality. Seating covers came in a choice of cloth or leather that added to the refined feel of the interior. The vehicle was available with not one but two sunroofs (one for front and back) and some even came with an automatic boot locking mechanism, meaning it doesn't need to be slammed closed, not bad for 1996. Space inside the car is more than sufficient, with plenty of leg room in the front seating area. The rear seating suffered to accommodate the large boot area, which is one of the Stagea's greatest assets. Even without lowering the back seats the Stagea offers a huge amount of space to carry your goods. And if that isn't enough, the car came with roof mounts in case you wanted to fit racks for those extra big trips.
Due to the large space inside, cabin noise can be an issue especially on the more bumpy roads. The automatic gearbox is a bit clunky, as to be expected from a 20 year old car but it serves well enough for general cruising. As a turbocharged straight six, the car is heavy on fuel, but it isn't surprising as it was designed for performance in a time when petrol prices were much lower. Look at somewhere between 12.5 to 14 litres per 100km depending on how you drive. As a big car, it feels a little heavy around corners and general manoeuvring. The high suspension feels spongy for increased comfort; however the vehicle still comes with a sturdy set of sway bars and a strut brace to stiffen up corners.
The Stagea cost around $32,000 AUD back in 1996, but the price of a Stagea today can vary anywhere from $7,500 and lower depending on the kilometres on the clock. The Stagea I purchased was $4,500 with 180,000 kilometres which was a steal.
Overall the Stagea is a good car for those who always wanted a Skyline but find they need something with more functionality. After using it to carry some big loads, it has been one of the best investments I have ever made, and whether you want a classy comfortable cruiser, or just something to carry the surfboard, this could be what you are looking for.