One of the worst things about growing up is that having fun starts to cost more and more money. First, there's the transfer of expenses from parent to child, which makes that trip to the movies or the go kart track a little less fun. And there there's the assumption of insurance payments on the hand-me-down sedan, student loan bills, and eventually, new car payments. It gets to the point that everything has that weighty cha-ching sound of hard-earned currency associated with it. And, unfortunately, that vivid imagination that carried us through as kids just doesn't seem to be firing on all cylinders anymore. Our minds are too busy as it is. We need tangible fun.
Don't despair. There are people out there who get paid to make fun affordable.
Debuting at the 2005 North American International Auto Show was the Nissan AZEAL Concept car. The AZEAL is a car that, according to Nissan's Vice President of Design, Bruce Campbell, is a design study in blending desirability with affordability. The idea isn't new, but plenty of time has passed since it's been tossed around at Nissan. Consider the original 240 Z , for example. In its day, that car was both affordable and highly desirable. Now, consider the 2005 Nissan 350Z. While that car may be highly desirable, it being affordable is debatable. Yet, as Campbell puts it, the AZEAL has been designed as an entry-level vehicle while still offering the appealing design, powerful stance, and tailored functionality that has been bestowed upon its costlier relatives, such as the Nissan 350Z and the Infiniti G35.
In particular, the Nissan AZEAL concept car features a six-speed manual transmission and a limited slip differential that control the power of a turbo-charged, four-cylinder engine. Inside, bucket seats (rear are split folding with a pass-through) are wrapped in two-tone Wasabi Charteuse fabric, and the sky can be seen through dual overhead panels like that found in the Nissan Maxima. Other touches include generous use of brushed aluminum trim, 19-inch alloy wheels, racing food pedals, front foglights, rear diffuser and airfoil, and dual exhaust. Rounding off the list are signaling exterior mirrors and a navigation system.
Though the Nissan AZEAL is billed as a concept, Nissan officials admit they will be offering a new small vehicle for 2006, one of a slew of new or redesigned vehicles the company will be launching over the next 18 months. Design VP Campbell suggests that the AZEAL would fit into Nissan's lineup quite well, but again, it's just a concept.
Given the recent success of the Scion tC (the AZEAL closely resembles the tC, but looks more like a smaller Infiniti G35 coupe) and Nissan's desire to give customers the most bang for their buck, we're hoping this concept becomes a reality.
By Thom Blackett
Photos by Erik Hanson