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A Nissan Violet by any other name will be as sweet

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You don't know that a Nissan Violet is a car, not a flower? But only in Japan. In the United States it's called Stanza. Introduced in 1982 as a front-drive replacement for the old Datsun 510, Nissan now has added a 19831/2 notchback sedan to the Stanza line, which up to now has come as 2- and 4-door hatchbacks alone. Mechanically, the two cars are the same.

The Stanza is one more reason for Detroiters to burn the midnight oil.

The Japanese, in fact, seem to reach no end in the flow of highly refined, smart-looking cars at a competitive price.

The stylish, efficient, and very manageable Stanza notchback carries a sticker price of $8,699 but is going out the dealership door at significantly more, including air conditioning, sunroof, and other goodies. A luxury car needs all those things, right?

The Stanza is important to Nissan because it enables the No. 2 Japanese automaker to expand its position in the more-profitable upscale market at a time when it is restricted by the third year of Japan's voluntary curb on car exports to the United States.

Like the two hatchbacks, the notchback Stanza uses the same 2-liter, overhead-cam, NAPS-X (antipollution) engine and 4-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts up front. The ride is firm and the car does a good job as a highway cruiser. In city traffic it is nimble and quick.

Interior room is substantial, with space equivalent to a compact. Even so, ''three in the rear'' will depend on the size of the occupants. Optimistically, Nissan supplies seat belts for three.

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