Top 10 Nissans of all time  (2022)

Many feel a connection to Nissan whose slogan is "innovation that excites.” Nissan is the fastest growing full-line automotive brand in Canada based on twelve-month year over year rolling sales and the sixth largest automaker in the world. Globally, Nissan produces a wide range of passenger cars, trucks, SUV's and commercial vehicles.

“There’s never been a more exciting time at Nissan than right now. At the end of October, we once again shattered our own monthly sales record, while also marking Nissan’s 27th consecutive month of sales growth in Canada,” commented Steve Rhind, director of marketing at Nissan Canada Inc., in an exclusive interview for “For over two years, Nissan has weathered the ebb and flow of the market, with an arsenal of high-quality product offering Canadians the right vehicle at the right time."

Nissan Motor Company started in Yokohama Japan in 1933. Until 1983, Nissan automobiles in most export markets were sold under the Datsun nameplate. In 1984 the Datsun was phased out and the Nissan brand was phased in. In 2013, Nissan announced the re-launch of Datsun as a brand targeted at emerging markets. Nissan launched their Infiniti luxury line in 1989.

Nissan has a reputation for building Japanese quality, reliable vehicles with modern styling, good performance and value. I have owned three Nissan vehicles and driven many of their models. I’m a fan of Nissan, Datsun and Infiniti. My choices are subjective based on my personal taste and taking into consideration sales success/popularity, performance, styling and innovation. Let us know what’s on your top 10 Nissan list in the comments section at the end of this article:

10.2003 – 2009 Nissan 350Z

After a seven-year hiatus (in North America) a new Z-Car was back in Nissan showrooms in 2002 (as a 2003 model) with the launch of the 350Z. The fifth generation (Z33) of the popular Z series was a huge success and very well received by the automotive press and sports car enthusiasts. The 350Z was of particular importance to Nissan as a vehicle to showcase the company’s performance and technology advancements during a time that the product line had become stagnant. Only available as a 2 seater coupe and convertible, the 350Z had many trim packages and special editions including a NISMO version. In 2007 the VQ35DE V6 was replaced with a new VQ35HR V6 producing 306horsepower and 268ft-lb of torque. The 350Z has endured as an extremely popular tuner car with an abundance of aftermarket performance parts available. The Z33 was also featured in the 2006 film The Fast And The Furious Tokyo Drift, adding to its cult following.

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9.1993 – Present Nissan Altima

Globally, Altima is Nissan’s best selling vehicle so rather than choosing a particular generation, I want to acknowledge Altima’s 23 years of production as one of the most important vehicles in Nissan’s product line. A mid-size mainstream sedan and coupe, it competes against segment rivals Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Altima is available in a variety of trim options and a 2.5L 4 cylinder or 3.5L V6 plus a Hybrid variant. The current fifth generation Altima boasts segment-leading safety, performance, technology, fuel efficiency and value making it a winner and one of the most significant vehicles in Nissan’s current model line. The majority of Altima’s are built at Nissan’s production plants in Tennessee and Mississippi.

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8.2010 – Present Nissan Leaf

“At Nissan, we’re enormously proud to be the world leader in zero-emission vehicles. We launched the first mass-market fully-electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF in 2010, and it remains the best-selling electric vehicle of all time, with more than 190,000 units sold globally” said Steve Rhind from Nissan Canada.

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LEAF stands for Leading Environmentally-friendly Affordable Family car. The 2016 LEAF with a 30 kWh battery will travel 172 km on a full charge. LEAF has received multiple awards for it's environmentally friendly powertrain plus owners will realize great savings compared to operating a gas car. All-electric vehicles such as LEAF are not practical for everyone but a good option for city commuters who can live with a limited driving range.

7.1982 – Present Nissan Maxima

While generations of Maxima’s vary in terms of quality and popularity, I want to acknowledge Maxima as an important vehicle for Nissan and the longest standing nameplate in its current product line. The Maxima is a mid-size luxury sedan which Nissan calls its four door sports car. Indeed the current eighth generation Maxima is athletic with a low wide stance and sharp muscular lines. The 3.5L V6 churns out 300 horsepower and 261 lb-ft of torque mated to a smooth CVT transmission with Drive Mode Selector and manual mode. Maxima’s are built in Smyrna Tennessee primarily for the North American market. It is an important flagship model for Nissan as it embodies the brands' latest technology and performance in a modern sport sedan. It sits above Altima and below the Infiniti Q50 in terms of price and features.

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RELATED:2016 Nissan Maxima Review

6.1963 - 1970 Datsun Sports Roadster

The Datsun Fairlady Sports Roadster was the predecessor to the legendary Z -Car series. The Sports Roadster evolved through the 60s with the engine growing from a 1.5L inline 4 to a 2.0L making 133 horsepower and a top speed of 193 km/h. More than just great performance for the times, the Sports models were a stylish roadster withBritish influence intheir design. A coveted collectors car, the last model 2000 Roadster was a fun affordable car with a proud motorsports racing heritage.

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5.1989 – 1998 Nissan 240SX

A 2.4-liter inline 4 banger powers the rear-wheel drive 240SX. The early KA24E had a single overhead cam and KA24DE had dual overhead cams producing 155 horsepower. There were two distinct generations of the 240SX, the S13 (1989–1994) available in coupe, hatchback and convertible, and the S14 (1995-1998) was coupe only. The 240SX was a fantastic car for it's affordability and handling capabilities thanks to front MacPherson struts and a rear multilink suspension plus being relatively light weight (2,700 lbs). This sports car is still very popular today for it's tuning capabilities with strong aftermarket performance parts support. It can be tuned as an amazing drift and track car. The 240SX is known as the Silvia/180SX/200SX in other markets.

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4.1968 – 1973 Datsun 510

What stands out most when I drove a friend's 510 is how many looks, smiles and thumbs up I received. Folks remember the 510 as a stylish, affordable, reliable family car that was fun to drive, and still is. Dubbed the poor man's BMW, the 510 is light and agile with four-wheel independent suspension and rear wheel drive. The 1.6L or 1.8L inline 4 was not that powerful but produced enough get up and go to garner unprecedented motorsports and rally wins in its class. The 510's simple mechanical design allows for many parts to be interchangeable with other Datsun and Nissan models so the car is easy to modify and very popular amongst tuners and enthusiasts. 510 came as a coupe, sedan and hatchback.

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3.1990 – 1996 Nissan 300ZX

The 300ZX graced the cover of every automotive magazine in the early 90s. This second-generation 300ZX (Z32) was completely redesigned with a 3.0L double overhead cam V6 making 222 horsepower in naturally aspirated form and 300 horsepower Twin Turbo. The 300ZX set the standard for all the other great 90s Japanese sports cars that followed. It’s timeless design, sleek interior and exterior lines and performance prowess garnered numerous awards from the press and motorsports racing wins. Considered one of the most beautiful car designs of all-time, the 300ZX was discontinued in North America after 1996 but continued in other markets until 2000. I own two 300ZX’s (pictured below) a modified 1995 2+2 and a stock 1990 Twin Turbo. The Z32 was also available as a convertible.

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2.1970 – 1978 Datsun 240Z/260Z/280Z

The revolutionary 240Z (also know as the Fairlady Z in Japan) was introduced to the American market by Yutaka Katayama, then president of Nissan Motors USA, also known as Mr. K., the godfather of the Z-Car. Powered by a 2.4L straight 6, the original Z weighed just over 2,300 lbs and made 151 horsepower. A sleek European design with agile handling and an affordable price made the 240Z a huge success. This was the first “Z-Car” that influenced many other sports cars and has carried on through five decades and six model generations to the current Nissan 370Z. With a proud motorsports heritage, the Datsun 240Z is widely considered the most significant Japanese sports car of all-time.

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1.2009 – Present Nissan GT-R / 1989 – 2002 Nissan Skyline GT-R

Aptly dubbed "Godzilla" the GT-R is Nissan's halo car embodying all the performance and technology that the Japanese automaker has to offer. The GT-R comes from a proud lineage of "Skylines" from the Japanese domestic market and was made available to purchase in North America with the introduction of the 2009 R35 model. The GT-R features a smooth dual clutch 6-speed transmission, all-wheel drive, 3.8L V6 Twin Turbo producing 545 horsepower to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 2.7 seconds. The GT-R is undoubtedly one of the fastest production cars in its price range starting at $110,000. A Black edition and NISMO are also available.

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There would not be a modern GT-R if it were not for the R32, R33 and R34 Skyline GT-Rs. The Skyline was built in Japan primarily for the Japanese domestic market (JDM). Featuring a strong 5 speed manual AWD powertrain and Super HICAS four wheel steering, the GT-R's reputation for incredible performance and handling made it a perennial motorsports winner and extremely popular tuner car. North American pop culture embraced the Skyline when it was featured in the 2003 film 2 Fast 2 Furious. Skylines were never sold in Canada but can now be imported from Japan. With strong aftermarket performance parts support, the Skyline GT-R's RB26 twin turbocharged inline 6 can be modified to crank out 600 plus horsepower and phenomenal torque. If you see one of these right hand drive cult classics on the road, have a good look to admire one of Nissan's all-time greatest performance cars.

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Steve Rhind from Nissan Canada expressed to, “The entire Nissan product spectrum offers Canadians an innovative and exciting motoring experience, no matter what they choose to drive. Everything from the zero-emission Nissan LEAF, to the adrenalin-inspiring Z sports car, to the versatile Rogue, the robust all-new TITAN XD, and everything in between – Canadian customers are getting the best ownership experience Nissan has to offer.”

RELATED:2015 Nissan Murano Review


Jason Okolisan is a Mississauga based freelance journalist and photographer specializing in automotive, event coverage, business profiles and commercial photography. He was Wheels section editor for The Mississauga News and Brampton Guardian newspapers during his sixteen years with Metroland Media. Jason writes about a variety of automotive topics including product reviews, local news coverage, technical articles, lifestyle pieces and new car reviews.


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