Nissan 350Z (2003-2009): review, specs and buying guide - Page 2: What to pay, what we said, and 'I bought one'

Nissan's mini muscle car is aging nicely and offers simple pleasures from just £5000. Is it all too good to be true?

Rivals

Audi TT (Mk1)

Between £4000 and £5000 gets you a pristine 222bhp first-gen TT quattro. A little more buys the excellent 237bhp Sport , or if you want even more brawn, the 247bhp 3.2-litre V6 quattro.

> Audi TT (Mk1) buying guide

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BMW Z4 (E85)

As with the 350Z, the Z4 is available in both coupe and roadster forms. The 3.0 version has 261bhp and pleasing – if not completely thrilling – rear-wheel-drive dynamics. From around £8000.

> BMW Z4 (E85) 3.0si review

Toyota GT86

In some ways the closest modern equivalent to the 350Z, the GT86 and its Subaru cousin have less power (197bhp) but a similar driver-focused ethos and rear-wheel drive. From around £11,000.

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> Toyota GT86 review

What to pay 

It’s possible to pick up a Z for as little as £4000, but this end of the market is largely populated by imports, modified cars and autos. Good UK cars start at around £5000 privately, with those from dealers from around £6000 for high-milers. A really pristine low-miler with just one or two owners is anything from £8000 to as much as £10,000 – more for a GT4. And remember, you pay less road tax (currently £305) for a car registered before 23 March 2006. After that date, it’s a hefty £535.

What we said

Road test, September 2003 - evo 059

‘It’s responsive, poised and, best of all, it all feels natural and effortless in the way that only rear-drive cars can. Turn into a corner and the steering and roll-rates feel perfectly matched; grip is strong and the suspension puts you in touch with the road but isn’t dictated by it , smothering large and small bumps with equal effectiveness. Even in the damp you have to be quite determined to loosen the tail, and when you succeed it remains tidy and eminently catchable.

‘The steering, which initially feels artificially heavy, soon feels natural, and is partnered by a precise gearshift that is feelsome in a way only a lever stuck directly into the ’box can be.

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‘The V6 sounds fabulous mooching around, though its performance is a bit , well, unexciting. Perhaps it’s deceptively potent , its gutsiness disguised by the linearity of its delivery. At £24,000, the 350Z meets the 180bhp Audi TT head-on and undercuts the Alfa Romeo GTV V6 and BMW 325Ci, while being significantly more powerful. It’s got to be the first choice of the serious driver.’

> Click here to read our BMW 2-series review 

I bought one

‘I bought my 05-plate 350Z from a Nissan dealer in 2009 with 36,000 miles on the clock. They’d serviced it many times over its life so I was comfortable with its provenance. It’s the base model – there were plenty of GT-spec cars on the market but I was determined to get one in blue or black. The chunky silver door handles make colour selection important .

‘I’ve covered about 35,000 miles in it since – everything from trips to the shops to long journeys. In town I get around 23mpg, but elsewhere I can get more than 30mpg. I’m lucky in not having an in-town commute – with extended stop/start driving, the clutch can become tiresome, but find a good B-road and all is forgiven.

‘I’ve done one trackday and it was great to throw the car around as the Z’s grip is so good on the road that it’s rare to be near its limits. The one failing on the trackday was the brakes, which didn’t stand up to the repeated punishment . They will definitely need upgrading before any more trackdays.

‘It’s been very reliable. Only a flat battery has stopped it from running, which was when I discovered the 350Z uses a special battery not widely available. There’s an intermittent issue with a throttle-housing sensor that causes the engine light to come on, but it usually goes out after a few days. A replacement is over £1000, so it’s a quirk I live with! And the boot-release often doesn’t pop the boot up enough to clear the latch, so it takes two hands to open – press the release and lift at the same time. It’s a common problem.

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‘I have thought about replacing my Zed, but then a trip on an empty country road comes along and I gel with it again. It’s a car you really have to hustle to get the most out of; it’s definitely more muscle car than nimble sports car. But it’s very rewarding, and it still looks great . Walking up to it in the car park on a sunny day, the 350Z still looks modern. That makes me hold off selling it , too.’

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