2001 Infiniti G20. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site
Infiniti G20, 1999-2002
The 1990s was an interesting time for Japanese luxury brands in North America. Acura, Infiniti and Lexus jockeyed for position, all aiming to steal market share from the European establishment.
Of the three, only Acura and Infiniti would test the market with compact luxury models. For Acura, that car was the Civic-based Integra, while Infiniti did it with the G20.
While the G20 was ultimately replaced by the G35 – a larger car that could better compete with the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 – it helped prove that there was a market for a four-cylinder, compact luxury sedan.
2000 Infiniti G20. Click image to enlarge
The G20 first reached showrooms in 1991, went out of production in 1996, and then returned in 1999 as a redesigned, second-generation model; the focus of this article is the later-model car.
Like the original G20, the second-generation was based on the Nissan Primera, a car the company originally designed for the Japanese and European markets. The Infiniti version was virtually identical to the Primera, using Nissan’s venerable SR20DE 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine (also used in the Sentra SE-R), tuned for 140 horsepower in 1999 models, and 145 in 2000-2002 versions.
Transmission options were a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic; the G20 went against convention here, though, as the automatic was the base gearbox and the manual only offered in the uplevel G20t (Touring) model.
Fuel consumption was high for a vehicle rooted in the economy segment: Natural Resources Canada ratings for the 1999 were 10.9/7.6 L/100 km (city/highway) with the automatic transmission. Compare that to 8.0/5.6 (city/highway) for the 1.6-litre Sentra, and, more importantly, 8.3/6.4 (city/highway) for the Honda Civic-based Acura 1.6EL (which became the 1.7EL in 2001). In fact, the G20’s ratings were only slightly better than those for the larger and more-powerful I30. By 2002, however, the G20’s ratings had improved some, to 10.2/7.1 (city/highway) with automatic transmission.
2001 Infiniti G20 – photo courtesy SquawHillMotors.com. Click image to enlarge
Nissan products from this era tend to be quite solid, and I’d expect good things from a well-maintained G20, despite the oldest of these cars approaching the 10-year-old mark.
One thing to look out for is starter trouble, according to this thread at G20.net.
Watch out for power locks that like to work all by themselves. This isn’t so much as a reliability issue, but something an owner will want to be aware of. Naturally, the solution isn’t too complicated: carry a spare key in your wallet!
Remember that with older cars, reliability is dictated more by previous maintenance than by a given car’s reliability history.
Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tested the G20 for crash safety.
A well-maintained G20 would be a nice find, given that the top value for a 2002 model is $7,000. At the low end, a nice example should fetch about $4,500.
The G20 is a rare bird. Not many were sold to begin with, and not many of those cars are still on the road – or, at least, not many are currently for sale in the classifieds I searched. Still, if you find a well-maintained example at a fair price, a used G20 would be a decent alternative – smaller, but better equipped – to many mid-sized, four-cylinder sedans like the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, among many others.
Red Book Pricing (avg. retail) October 2008:
It’s always hard to beat a site that’s dedicated specifically to the car you’re after, and G20.net is no exception. It’s a very busy site, and the Maintenance section is quite useful. The G20 sections at InfinitiForum.net and Nissan-Infiniti-Forum.com are also worth a look.
Crash test results
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.
To read more Used Vehicle Reviews by Chris Chase,.