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Nissan Planning Juke-Based Mini-Z to take on FR-S/BRZ?

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Will Nissan downsize the next Z or fit a smaller front-driver below it?

There's little question that Toyota and Subaru developed a winning package with the vehicle alternately sold as the Scion FR-S, Toyota GT 86 and Subaru BRZ. And you can bet that the competition is eager to take a bite out of the enthusiasm the sweet-handling sports coupe has drummed up. Mazda has undoubtedly taken some notes for the development of its new MX-5 Miata, but the bigger question is how Nissan will handle the competition.

Its 370Z did, after all, wear the crown as the world's favorite front-engine, rear-drive Japanese sports car. But in order to take on the Toyobaru, will the company formerly known as Datsun downsize the Z car for the next generation, or will it slot in another model underneath? Previous reports suggested a smaller, lighter and cheaper successor to the 370Z, but the latest word on the street is that Nissan is planning a "Mini-Z" instead. The disappointing bit for performance purists, however, is that it is tipped to be a front-driver, unlike the rear-drive Toyota/Scion/Subaru and the current Z.

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That's because the project is said to be based on the Juke's platform. Which is no bad thing, except it's front-drive. The fact that the Juke is available in all-wheel drive as well does offer a glimmer of hope - particularly against Subaru, which built its identity around four-wheel traction but had to forgo it with the BRZ due to packaging constraints. Back in the day Nissan offered a rear-drive 240SX that slotted below the 300ZX (as the model was then known), but creating a new rear-drive platform (or downsizing the 370Z's expensive rear-drive platform) would likely preclude a competitive price-point.

Basing it off the Juke, however, would reportedly allow Nissan to undercut Toyota and Subaru with a $22,000 price tag, while packing a 190-horsepower 1.6-liter turbo four that, while offering less power than the Toyobaru's 200hp flat four, would offer a wider torque band for more accessible grunt. If this proposal wins out over the prospect of a downsized replacement to the current Z, word has it we could see it debut in a little over a year from now.