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New Car/Review

1999 Infiniti G20

By John Heilig

Infiniti Full Line factory footage (4:38) 28.8, 56k, or 200k

ENGINE:                  2.0-liter four
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:       140hp @ 6,400 rpm/132 ft-lbs @ 4,800 rpm
TRANSMISSION:            Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:            22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, 23.1 mpg test
WHEELBASE:               102.4 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 177.5 x 66.7 x 55.1 in.
CURB WEIGHT:             3,003 lbs
FUEL CAPACITY:           15.9 gals
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:        13.5 cu. ft.
TIRES:                   P195/65H15
INSTRUMENTS:             Speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, 
                         water temperature, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:               Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, 
                         power driver's seat, power sunroof, cruise control, 
                         air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with in-dash CD player 
                         and cassette player, anti-lock brakes, dual front air bags, 
                         side air bags.
STICKER PRICE:           $23,790

I'm all for entry level luxury cars. But there comes a time when the bar is lowered so much that it tends to detract from the brand. Such is the case for the new Infiniti G20, the entry-level vehicle for Infiniti.

G20 is essentially a Nissan Altima with a smaller engine. And even though the G20 has leather seats and many of the other accoutrements of a luxury car, it's closer to "entry level" than it is to "luxury."

It's not that I didn't like the G20. It's a capable performer. It is powered by a 2.0-liter four that's working hard to deliver 140 horsepower. This is enough power for a fairly light car, and even though it's connected to a four-speed automatic transmission, performance is decent. Most four-cylinder engines, when they're connected to an automatic, whine and cry whenever you ask for power. Not so with the G20. It had plenty of pep and performed well even with the automatic.

Handling was decent as well. We took the Infiniti on the winding road portion of our test course and had a blast zipping around. This isn't a sports car and has no real pretensions of being a sports car, even though the ads tell you the car was refined on the autobahns of Europe. But it is a good performer and it's one that won't get you in trouble when the road has a few bends in it.

Comfort is decent. We had leather-upholstered seats that gave a pretense of luxury. Front passengers sat in individual buckets with a great amount of legroom that made it a nice car to drive. There's also a decent amount of rear legroom, so much that I wouldn't be embarrassed to put my boss back there for a short trip.

Instrumentation was standard, and we had all the goodies that you'd expect from a luxury car, including a digital HAVAC system and extra 12V outlet for your cell phone.

In addition, the G20 had dual air bags up front and side-mounted bags as well.

The trunk is a decent size at 13.5 cubic feet. There's a net to keep smaller objects, such as grocery bags, from sliding around, but in the new car the net was so tight against the bumper end of the trunk that we couldn't put anything in there. I would hope that it would stretch out as the car aged.

I guess my only complaint about the G20 was that it was an Infiniti. If they had a "Nissan" label on the car it would be fine. But with an "Infiniti" label on it, it detracts from the brand that created the Q45 and I30. I would much rather see the entry level bar raised and compromises not made so that people could drive Infinitis rather than Nissans.

Putting an inexpensive sticker on an entry-level luxury car is no way to make a luxury car.