Nissan 200SX

30 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Nissan 200SX
Nissan 200SX

David Morley

Classic car design is, arguably, the art of getting all the elements right. It’s why we revere some cars for their outstanding balance of performance, handling, appearance and standard equipment.

Of course, many of the vehicles that have hit the bullseye over the years would be just also-rans if all car makers were as successful, and it remains that a high percentage of makes and models are flawed in at least one aspect of their specification. The original Nissan 200SX that landed in Australia in 1994 is a brilliant example. To drive it was to understand that it was a finely balanced car with a ripper, turbocharged engine and great handling.

So what robbed it of classic status? Simply that it was a fairly ordinary thing to look at. It wasn’t unattractive in any conventional sense, rather it lacked the visual appeal to go with its performance image.

Its successor, which was launched in Australia in 2000, retained the original’s dynamic abilities, but wrapped them in a sexier body. And just to prove the theory we’re talking about here, the latter version has gone on to achieve somewhat classic status.

Of course, that also means that it’s a more expensive second-hand proposition. Which makes the first version a bargain buy.

Under the unprepossessing sheet metal, the 200SX was a relatively pure design exercise in the context of sporting coupes.

Unlike Toyota’s Celica and Honda’s Prelude (which held the marketing balance of power), the 200SX didn’t use the mechanical platform of a mass-market sedan. Where its competitors were front-wheel-drive, the 200SX got its own rear-drive platform with a four-cylinder engine mounted north-south. For the purists, the car had already scored some important points.

Handling was a great balancing act between ride comfort that was acceptably civilised and cornering that was enthusiastic indeed. The 200SX also steered well and gave the impression that it liked to be driven hard.

Of course, the engine is a highlight of any performance car – and Nissan obliged. The 2.0-litre engine used double-overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, as well as a turbocharger to boost the power and torque. Maximum power was 147 kW (the same as the much bigger and heavier Holden Commodore of the same vintage) and the turbo ensured the engine was big on mid-range torque and flexibility as well.

The base model was only available with a five-speed manual, while its more luxurious siblings had the option of a four-speed automatic. While the automatic gearbox worked well with the flexible, turbocharged engine, it lessened the driving fun for many.

The 200SX was available in three trims: Sports Limited, Sports and Luxury. But they were more or less mechanically identical, so even the base model still provides the thrills. It doesn’t, however, provide the same level of safety, with no standard airbags and no anti-lock brakes (ABS).

For a driver’s airbag you had to move up to the Sports and for both front airbags, the Luxury was the solution. At least both the Sports and Luxury got the ABS brakes.

Things to watch out for now include poorly repaired crash damage as insurance on the 200SX was never cheap and some owners may have gone without, resulting in cut-price repairs.

Nissan 200SX

The turbocharger and engine should be checked carefully as these cars have often been driven hard. Any blue smoke from the exhaust is bad news and hints at expensive repairs in the not-too-distant future. Be wary, too, of cars that have been modified (many were).

Big exhausts, uprated turbos and big wheels and tyres were all popular fiddles, and can have a direct impact on safety, reliability and roadworthiness.

Another thing to check is that the car has an Australian-delivered compliance plate. Many early 200SXs were parallel (grey) second-hand imports and needed to be modified to comply with local laws. Many came from Asian markets (which aren’t always kind to cars) and may be harder to insure.

That’s not to say you’d never buy a parallel import, but beware paying too much as locally delivered cars are worth significantly more.

Grey import, or not, the 200SX stands as a car that should have done better than it did.

The 200SX brought all the dynamic elements together and presented them as a harmonious and balanced end product. If only it had looked a little sexier.

What to pay

Prices for a mid-’90s 200SX have held up well and dealers are still asking as much as $19,000 for good ones. Buying privately will yield a better deal if you can live without the warranty offered by a licensed dealer. Subtract at least a few thousand for a grey import, at which point they can be worth considering.

Nissan 200SX
Nissan 200SX
Nissan 200SX

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