I'd like to preface this with the comment that I realize this is Nissan's lowest end car; I didn't expect a Jag. But overall:
While being perfectly fitting, the car is somewhat cheap. Everything seems just a little flimsy, or creaky or thin. When I crank the (stock) stereo up, I can really see the windows vibrating. Then again, it weighs about 11 pounds, so it's expected. The maximum passenger capacity is 850lbs, and boy oh boy do they mean it. Chuck 3 fat mates in there, and that sucker isn't doing much going in the forward direction. This is, without a doubt, a 1 or 2 person car; "seats 5" is a sales gimmick.
Engine has some pep, certainly nothing comparing to the SE-R Spec V or Mazda Protégé MZDSPD (both of which I tested), but more than enough to get around. It's a quick car and pulls hard out of 1st, but you don't get the impression there's power to burn. Mostly because there isn't power to burn.
Mileage is good without being spectacular; a combo of city and highway driving, around 40 miles a day, yields about 30MPG. I should quantify that statement with REASONABLE driving; if I drive fast I pay through the nose for it. I get about 300 miles out of a 10 gallon tank; I drove fast and fun this week and only got 226 (ouch!).
I’m not fond of the gearbox, but there’s nothing particularly wrong with it. It’s by far the smoothest drive when you rev it up to 4 or 5 thousand RPMs, but it’s awful loud up there. My clutch, at least, is often touchy. The ratio’s are very supple, but 2nd is tiny, as is 1st. You absolutely can’t get into 1st if the car is moving at all; no matter how hard you try it won’t let you. Which is good, because 1st isn’t good above 10 miles an hour.
The brakes are the real weak part of this car. On a test drive you probably wouldn’t note this as nothing at all appears wrong at lower speeds. However, they do not inspire confidence of any form at higher speeds. They’re terrible. They get real hot real quick, then they start to grind, and then you start to consider evasive. This car isn’t all that light, and these brakes just aren’t good enough for serious driving. Around town, they’re swell. But don’t look to stop in a hurry, because you won’t. The handbrake is also worrisome; you have to really give it a good tug if you’re on a hill, or you’re rolling.
Handling can best be described as “stiff”. It’s almost as if there’s no power steering, which provides for a very high resolution, precise line. Fun and easy, sticks well. Again, though, this car weights enough to notice, and you can pretty easily find the limit of the sway bars.
This is my first car, and perhaps an overly sensible one at that. Paid $6000 for it; I'll drive it for another 8 months or so and then I'm off to the city again, so it's gone. Is it a Corvette? No. It’s not even as good as a Mazda Protégé ES (fantastic car), but it’s cheaper than both by far. What it is is a very nice little cheap reliable car. (and no, I don’t consider six thousand dollars cheap, but it is good value).