Home » To Infiniti And Beyond: 1998 I30 vs 2002 G20t

To Infiniti And Beyond: 1998 I30 vs 2002 G20t

Sbsd 6 22 2023

Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown! On today’s exciting episode, we’re looking at a couple of Nissans in fancy dresses. But before we get to them, let’s see where you ended up with yesterday’s dead Volkswagens:

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As I expected. That 412 really is a great deal if you’re looking for an easy and unique project. But honestly, the Scirocco isn’t as bad as you all were making it out to be. All the parts are there, and it’s pretty rust-free for a Mk1 Scirocco. That car will make somebody a good project. But I don’t pick the winners; you all do.

Today’s choices are both from Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury division, which came into being in 1989. Japanese automakers were flush with cash, and eager to break into new markets. Toyota moved upmarket with its Lexus brand, following Honda’s lead with Acura, and Nissan followed up with Infiniti. Today we’re looking at sedans from the middle and bottom of Infiniti’s range, from a time when Nissan knew a thing or two about building sporty sedans. Let’s check them out.

1998 Infiniti I30 – $2,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.0 liter dual overhead cam V6, four-speed automatic, FWD

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Odometer reading: 183,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yep

The Infiniti I30 is, for all intents and purposes, a top-of-the-line Nissan Maxima with some minor trim differences. Not that that’s a bad thing; the Maxima of this era was a really good car, marketed by Nissan as a “four-door sports car.” That might have been a bit of wishful thinking, but for a front-wheel-drive midsized sedan of the time, it offered decent performance, certainly sportier than a Ford Taurus or even a Toyota Camry. The I30 added leather and wood to the formula, but for some reason it doessn’t have Infiniti’s signature serif-font gauges or analog clock.


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Under the I30’s hood was a three-liter version of the Nissan VQ series V6, an engine that has gained a reputation for decent power and reliability, if not refinement. A four-speed automatic was the only transmission choice; if you wanted a manual, you had to settle for a Maxima. This I30 runs and drives well, according to the seller, who is the original owner. That’s always a vote of confidence for a used car.

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The only faults mentioned in the ad are a wrinkle in the rear passenger door, and an airbag warning light. The airbag light is probably just a gremlin in a connector somewhere, but it’s probably worth looking into. The sheetmetal damage, well, it is what it is. Between that and the faded clearcoat, this car should be damn near invisible, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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For only $2,500, I think you could do a lot worse. I mean, everyone is going to mistake it for a Maxima, or maybe even a Camry, but who cares? At this age and price, Japanese sedans are pretty much interchangeable anyway.

2002 Infiniti G20t – $2,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.0 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, four-speed automatic, FWD

Location: Camas, WA

Odometer reading: 190,000 miles


Runs/drives? Just fine

This car isn’t the same as any Nissan we got in North America. The G20 was Infiniti’s third model, and was based on the Primera sedan, which the rest of the world got in place of the Altima. It’s powered by that fast-and-furious crowd favorite, the SR20DE twin-cam four cylinder, a stout engine with a strong support network. Unlike most Infiniti models, the G20 was available with a manual, but this car is an automatic.

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This car’s engine is said to run well, and is almost stock. The seller installed an aftermarket tubular exhaust header to replace a cracked exhaust manifold; apparently the header was cheaper. It also looks like someone painted the valve cover at some point, and not well. But hey, compared to the indignities visited upon a lot of compact imports on the used car market, I’ll take some tacky underhood paint.

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Inside, it looks a bit better, though it sounds like things aren’t great under those Wal-Mart seat covers. But then again, at this price, do you care? The body is straight and rust-free, and the paint looks reasonably good. The seller says the car runs and drives well, but notes a rattling noise on startup, which is almost certainly timing chain-related. It’s a common issue on the SR20, and a reasonably harmless one, from the sound of it, as long as the noise goes away quickly.

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The seller also says the fuel economy is excellent, though if their frame of reference is the Nissan Armada in the background, that might skew their perceptions a little bit. Any small car will get excellent mileage compared to that. Still, it’s a nicer-than-average small sedan, blessed with an engine for which parts will be available forever due to its popularity, for an even better price than I originally thought – this car was listed at $3,200 when I first looked at it.

Tell most people you drive an Infiniti, and you’ll get a lot of blank stares. Show them the car, and anyone with a vague sense of automotive styles will recognize it as Nissan-adjacent at least. And that has been Infiniti’s problem all along: No one knows exactly what they’re supposed to be, other than fancy Nissans. But fancy Nissans from back when Nissans were good can make for some good inexpensive used cars. Neither of these is going to raise anyone’s pulse, but they both should provide some pleasant but cheap transportation for a while. Which one will it be?


Oh and before I go, I have a request: Find me another Cadillac. A great one was posted to our Discord server, and I won’t have much time tomorrow to look for cars, so you are all officially now on a quest for a cheap cool Caddy. Post it to the Shitbox Showdown channel on Discord, and we’ll let them duke it out tomorrow.

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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11 months ago

I actually vaguely recall test driving a G20 with a manual transmission when they were new, just out of curiosity. It wasn’t awful. And before I’m accused of condemning with faint praise, let me just say that there are plenty of cars I’ve driven that never even rose to the level of ‘wasn’t awful.’ This is a MANY years ago of course… what little I remember beyond it feeling adequately drivable was that it felt a bit heavy for it’s size, came with leather and the full usual compliment of gizmos (probably accounting for some of the weight), and that the engine felt up to the task of moving the car around. The clutch and linkage wasn’t difficult to use, even for a first drive. It wasn’t rip-snorting by any stretch of the imagination… it just didn’t feel underpowered for what most drivers would ask of it. It really wasn’t too bad.

AFAICR, it’s the only Infiniti I’ve ever driven (and a Cube is the only Nissan I think, though if the current Sentra could be had with a manual, I think a lot of us-sort-of gearheads would want to drive it).

11 months ago

Ok, I’m back…been in a coma since 1989 when Infiniti came out since they were so boring…I’ll take the silver one!

Mike F.
Mike F.
11 months ago

Hmmm… can opener or toaster? Toaster or can opener? I guess I’d go with the I30 for sentimental reasons. My wife had a ’97 Maxima (with the MT) and it was a pretty fun car to drive. And she got over 300K on it before it finally died.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
11 months ago

i30 for me. It’s the better vehicle of the two.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
11 months ago

You posted the same price for both cars

Farty McSprinkles
Farty McSprinkles
11 months ago

I chose the G20t because I hate gold cars. These are just appliance vehicles someone paid way to much for in the past, so I don’t think it matters. I have an intense dislike for Nissan, so that is probably factoring in my attitude towards these.

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