TOKYO -- Nissan Motor Co. is still sorting out which small car to bring to the United States.
The company had said the Cube, a boxy tall wagon akin to the Scion xB, was a likely candidate. But the automaker also is considering other models: the Tiida, a compact five-door hatchback with a spacious interior; and the Tiida Latio, a sedan version of the Tiida. The Note, another five-door hatchback, is a long-shot possibility.
Nissan is looking for a small car to slot below the Sentra.
The success of Scion and the BMW Mini has convinced Japanese carmakers that there is a substantial, though not huge, market for smaller cars in the United States.
The Tiida, Tiida Latio and Note were three of six new Japan-market models that Nissan unveiled in Tokyo last week. The others were the Fuga luxury sedan, which will become the next Infiniti M45, the Lafesta compact minivan and Murano SUV, which is sold in the United States.
The Cube: Early favorite for the U.S.
The Tiida: Could be ready in a year
The Latio: A more conservative choice
The Note: A long shot for the U.S.
Nissan could decide to bring more than one to the United States.
The Cube was the early favorite for the United States. The next-generation Cube will be engineered to meet regulatory standards worldwide. It will be eligible for sales in any market.
If sold in the United States, the revised Cube likely would come with a 2.0-liter engine, rather than the 1.4-liter, 98-hp engine that powers the vehicle in Japan, insiders say. But the next generation won't be ready for sale in Japan until 2007.
The Cube has some powerful backers. Asked which model he would prefer to see in the United States, Shiro Nakamura, Nissan design director, says, "I personally favor the Cube."
The Tiida is engineered for global sales and could be ready for the United States in about a year. It was promoted as an alternative to the Cube in part because of its larger engine. A 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine will power the Japan model, on sale this month. A larger, 1.8-liter inline-four engine is expected to be optional.
The Tiida's interior length, measured from the accelerator to the rear-seat hip point, is as long as that in the Infiniti Q45 sedan.
But some at Nissan worry about whether the Tiida would sell well in the United States, where hatchbacks often have foundered. They favor the more conservatively styled Tiida Latio (pronounced TEE-dah LAH-chee-oh).
The Tiida Latio will offer the same spacious interior and engine choices as its hatchback sibling. It goes on sale in Japan in late October.
Its detractors compare the car's bland styling to the weak-selling Toyota Echo. They argue that a good-looking hatchback such as the Tiida is a safer bet.