NISSAN’S born-again Datsun 1600 will have to be cheaper than the Toyota 86 to make it into production, according to Nissan’s global product planning chief, Keno Kato.
He told Wheels that the budget rear-drive sports car, showcased by the IDx concept car at last November’s Tokyo Motor Show, is currently under “preparation and development.”
However, Kato added that the new hero model is by no means certain to make it into production.
“It is 50/50 until we reach some kind of milestone,” he said.
Hopes the IDx could make it into showrooms soared on the back of comments in January by Nissan product chief, executive vice-president Andy Palmer, that appeared to confirm its production future, but Nissan Americas product planning vice-president Pierre Liong more recently raised doubts about whether it would ever be made.
For his part, Kato, who ranks in between the two executives, says the IDx would have to be considerably less expensive than the Toyota 86, which has found plenty of fans in Australia, along with its Subaru BRZ twin, but has been less successful in other countries such as Japan.
“It is not a criticism of Toyota, I respect the company, but sorry, the 86 costs too much,” Kato said.
“For us (young people in Japan), the (original) AE86 was totally different, it was truly affordable. The 86 it is not a car for the youth.”
Making the IDx cheap enough could become an insurmountable problem, but Kato says the company would not produce a lesser car to get a result. He insists it must have an engine in the front and send its power to the rear.
“FR (front/rear) is a must,” he says.
This is despite the fact that Nissan engineers know a front-engine/rear-drive layout is not necessarily the quickest.
Kato used the example of the tail-happy S15 200SX (Silvia), on which he worked.
“We took a Silvia up a mountain road and it is so far behind a (front-drive) Honda Civic Type R, but nobody cares because the Silvia is so much fun,” he says.
Kato remains open to platform-sharing with another brand to get the IDx up at a reasonable price, be it Nissan’s sister company Renault or another marque, and is also open to sharing components such as the engine.
There is no word on which engine could power the IDx, but Kato believes either a naturally aspirated or turbo engine could do the job, though there could be a difference when it comes to the exhaust note.
“The only problem with a turbo is the exhaust (sound),” he says.
“Within legal (noise) limits, it is fine, but if someone puts a nice exhaust on it, the sound can be a problem.”
Who do you think deserves to win the 2017 COTY title? Cast your vote for a chance to win $1,000.
Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.