The father of the Nissan Maxima, and the brother of the R32 Skyline.
Enter the Nissan Cefiro.
What is the Nissan Cefiro?
Distributed through the Nissan Satio dealer network, the Nissan Cefiro was a mid-sized sedan that first saw production in 1988. Introduced as the A31 series, this four-door sedan shared a platform with the C33 Nissan Laurel, F31 Nisan Leopard, and the R32 Nissan Skyline. However, after cessation of the A31 series, which also meant dropping the Cefiro’s sporting pretensions, the remaining, stand-alone Cefiro model was withdrawn from production to be replaced by the A32 and A33 Maxima.
Although this version of the Maxima was marketed as Cefiro’s in the Japanese market, it was a completely new design, and thus not related to the A31 Cefiro in any way. Instead, the A32 and A33 Maxima’s were almost sister models to the J30 Maxima that was produced in the same time frame as the A31 Cefiro
In the second generation A32 and A33 Cefiro’s, the rear wheel drive configuration was dropped in favor of a front wheel drive layout and a V6 engine, but in the European, Australian, and new Zealand markets, the second generation A31 ans A32 Cefiro’s were marketed as the Nissan Maxima. In some markets, the Cefiro/Maxima was rebadged, or badge engineered, and marketed as the Renault Samsung SM5.
To confuse the issue even more, Nissan marketed the A31 and A32 Cefiro/Maxima models under the Infiniti flag in the North American, African, and Middle Eastern markets as the Infiniti I30, and a short while later as Infiniti I35’s. Not done yet, Nissan also marketed the Cefiro/Maxima/Infiniti as the Nissan Maxima in the North American market, and although the styling was identical to the Cefiro sold in other markets, Nissan merely made some cosmetic changes to the front and rear ends, and offered this version of the Maxima as a cheaper alternative to the Cefiro proper.
The name “Cefiro”, is the Spanish translation of the word “breeze”.
Origin of the Cefiro
Introduced during 1988 as a direct competitor against the Toyota Mk II platform that produced the Toyota Cresta and Chaser models, the Cefiro was intended to be a viable fourth generation replacement for the Skyline, Laurel, and Leopard model line-ups, all sold through exclusive Nissan dealership networks. The Laurel was sold through Nissan Motor, the Skyline through Nissan Prince, the Leopard through the Nissan Bluebird network, and the Cefiro through the Satio network.
By rights the Cefiro should have received the A30 code designation, “but A31” was decided upon as a result of the merger between Nissan and the Prince Motor Company, at which time the A30 code was awarded to the Nissan Gloria, that was in production from 1967 to 1971.
The first iteration of the Cefiro shared transmissions, engines, and rear suspensions with the Leopard (F31), Skyline (R32), and Laurel (C33), models, except for the diesel engine that was only available in the Laurel.
Things are a little more complicated with the chassis. The actual chassis and front suspension was shared with the Laurel only since it was slightly longer than that of the Skyline; however, the 4WD Cefiro used the suspension and drive gear from the Skyline GTS 4 because it was of the multi-link type, while the strut configuration of the Laurel front suspension worked well with the 2WD Cefiro’s. The 1988 Cefiro’s were also among the first Japanese vehicles to be fitted with a five-speed automatic transmission, which was fitted to the 2.5 L non-turbo model.
1992-1994 Nissan Cefiro
For the first four years of its life, the Cefiro saw relatively few developments, most of which were cosmetic in nature. In early 1990, the overall look of the Cefiro was “softened” with redesigned tail lights, centre console, grille, and interior fabrics. Later in 1990, the Cefiro was face-lifted again with the introduction of the “SE” model, which sported redesigned bumpers, all-new tail lights and centre console, and some minor updates and revisions to the interior.
However, the model released in 1992 saw some major changes, and in particular to the interior and suspension systems. Although it was more expensive than comparable Skyline models, the high level of trim and luxury features went some toward justifying the high road tax that is compulsory for buyers in the Japanese domestic market. Some features of the 1992 model included the following:
During this time, Nissan also took the unprecedented step of building a left-hand drive version of the A31 Cefiro, which were sold in Turkey, South America, and some Asian markets as Nissan Laurel Altima’s, which were all fitted with either carburetted SOHC CA20S four cylinder engines that produced 76 kW (102 hp), or RB24 SOHC inline six-cylinder engines that produced 105 kW (141 hp). These left-hand drive models represented the upper end of Nissan’s model line-up in Turkey up until 1995/1996.
The table below presents an overview of the Nissan Cefiro between the years 1988 to 1994.
When Nissan introduced the A32 Cefiro into the Japanese domestic market in August of 1994, the market orientation of the model was altered from its sporty image, to an upmarket, and slightly bigger executive sedan. However, the A32 was sold as Cefiro’s only in Japan; export models all carried the Maxima badge, although the markets in Singapore and Malaysia preferred to retain the Cefiro branding.
In the European markets, the A32 series was marketed as the Nissan Maxima QX, while in Taiwan, the Yulon company manufactured the A32 under licence to Nissan. The A32 was also sold in Korea, where it was badged as the Renault Samsung SM5.
Overall, the A32 series was re-engineered to the point where it lost all of its sporty features and characteristics. Most notable was the loss of the rear wheel drive layout, which was replaced by front wheel drive and Nissan’s outstanding, and multi award winning VQ series V6 engines. Also introduced into the Japanese domestic market in the late 1990’s was a station wagon version of the A32 Cefiro, in direct competition with Toyota’s Mk II Qualis, which was in production from 1997 to 2000. The table below presents an overview of the Nissan Cefiro between the years 1994 to 2000.
Enter the A33 Cefiro
In December of 1998, Nissan introduced the new A33 series Cefiro into the Japanese domestic market, where trim levels consisted of the 2.0/2.5 L Excimo, 2.0/2.5 L Excimo G, 2.0/2.5 S Touring, and the 3.0 Brougham VIP. However, only the 2.0 Excimo and 2.0 S Touring models were fitted with a five-speed manual transmission. Other variants in the Japanese market included the limited edition "L Selection", as well as a highly tuned and modified version of the “L Selection”.
In the Australian market, the A33 was marketed as the Nissan Maxima, and trim levels here consisted of the S, ST, and Ti, all of which were powered by 3.0 L engines. Although the A33 was also produced under licence in Taiwan by Yulon Motors, production ceased in 2002 to make room for a new joint venture between Yulon Motors and General Motors. In Iran, the A33 is produced by the Pars Khodro Company, and marketed as the Nissan Maxima. The table below presents an over view of the A33 Cefiro/Maxima from the year 1998 to 2012.
Although the Nissan Cefiro in all its shapes, forms, and iterations is generally as reliable as any other vehicle ever produced by Nissan, many owners have reported issues with the effectiveness of the brake system. In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Authority has the details on file of a recall that involved the ECU (Engine Control Unit) of Infinity/Maxima/Cefiro models manufactured between 1998, and 2013. For more details, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Authority at the link below:
End of the Cefiro
Although production of the Cefiro ceased in 2003, the name is retained in some export markets, where the replacement model, the J31 Nissan Teana is sold as the Nissan Cefiro in Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Singapore, Brunei, Latin America and the Caribbean. However, the last assembly plant to use the Cefiro name was the Ghandhara plant in Pakistan, who used the Cefiro name until 2012, when it was replaced with Nissan Teana.