Nissan 200SX 2001 Review
It’s a good thing that Nike has a trademark to protect its swoosh. If it didn't, it would be the best badge to whack on the back of the latest in the Nissan sporty coupes.
The new 200SX is a swoosh car, with a certain amount of swish in looks and equipment. It's one of the trendier cars on the road, with value in a class where the Subaru WRX sets the standard.
Coupes are always sold on their style, which explains the sales leadership of the Toyota Celica and the popularity of Honda's Integra. But the SX is different. It's a muscle car as well as a looker, with a turbo-charged engine and plenty of gear to ensure quick, enjoyable driving.
The SX has been around for a long time as a sort of mini-Skyline GTR without the outright bang, or bucks, of the Godzilla car. It's a lot like a Nissan version of BMW's 3-Series coupe in some ways, but with the souped-up engine.
The new SX arrived at the very end of last year, with a new model split between Spec S cars, from $39,990, and Spec R, from $43,990. The basic performance gear is the same, with a 147kW turbo motor that also produces 265Nm of torque, a six-speed manual gearbox, anti-skid four-wheel discs and fully independent suspension linked to meaty Bridgestone RE010 tyres.
The emphasis is still on sports seating in front. Standard equipment includes CD, twin airbags, air-con, remote central locking and electric windows and mirrors. The Spec R gets a multi-stack CD player, glass sunroof, side skirts and rear spoiler.
It's impossible to look at the SX without lining up its rival, the WRX. The Suby is cheaper and quicker, as well as more practical, but doesn't have the looks of the Nissan. On that front, the SX matches up against the Celica and Integra in the same price category, but has them easily covered on performance.
The SX has a tonne of go and comfort. It's not good for families and the boot won't cope with more than a weekend away, but that's not the point. This car is Nissan's performance flagship and, in the fully loaded Spec R with the sportier six-speed manual shift, it's almost impossible to beat on a bang-for-bucks formula.
There are plenty of other cars for people who want some sizzle, including the hotrod SS Commodore and the rival XR Falcons, but they don't have the looks of the coupe. The Spec R has the body bits, and some people will prefer a quieter drive. But the engine really honks, with a raw response that's been tuned out of most 21st-century cars.
Lots of turbo-motors put the emphasis on bottom-end torque for smooth and easy driving. The Nissan is loaded with top-end go - even the torque peak is delayed until 4800 revs and maximum horsepower doesn't hit until 6400 revs.
The SX needs to be worked hard to give its best. It also means, with rear-wheel drive, that it's a car that needs a bit of care. Push too hard, especially on a bumpy surface or a wet road, and the SX can turn and bite. But it can also be pushed with shattering attacks on the redline that aren't available in anything else at the price.
Even the WRX, which is a little quicker in a 0-100km/h sprint, doesn't feel as quick. That's also because the SX is a bit raw, with an engine that can get a bit coarse, but also because it's a low-slung speed machine with an edgy feel.
The SX isn't totally convincing. It's quicker than the Celica and Integra Type R, and has the lovely old rear-drive feel that the latest front-drivers can't provide. But the raw feel of the SX, and some of its downmarket trim and finish, doesn't do the car justice.
Price: $43,990 as tested (Spec R manual)
Engine: 2-litre four cylinder with double-overhead camshafts, fuel injection, turbocharger and intercooler.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or four-speed auto, rear-wheel drive.
Body: Two-door coupe
Dimensions: Length 4445mm, width 1695mm, height 1285mm, wheelbase 2525mm, tracks 1470/1460mm front/rear
Fuel tank: 65 litres
Fuel consumption: average on test 12.9litres/100km
Steering: power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Suspension: Fully independent with front MacPherson struts and rear A-arms with coil springs and links
Brakes: Anti-skid four-wheel discs
Wheels: 6.5x16 alloy
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Nissan 200SX from $39,990
Subaru WRX from $43,800
Toyota Celica from $39,970
Honda Integra Type R from $40,990
Range and Specs
Lowest price, based on third party pricing data