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New Car/Review

1998 Nissan 200SX SE-R

by John Heilig


SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide


ENGINE:                  2.0-liter DOHC inline four
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:       140 hp @ 6400 rpm/132 ft-lb @ 4800 rpm
TRANSMISSION:            Five-speed manual
FUEL ECONOMY:            23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, 24.3 mpg test
WHEELBASE:               99.8 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 171.8 x 66.6 x 54.2 in.
CURB WEIGHT:             2586 lbs 
FUEL CAPACITY:           13.2 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:        10.4 cu. ft.
TIRES:                   P195/55R15
INSTRUMENTS:             Speedometer, fuel level, water temperature, 
                         digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:               Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, 
                         power sunroof, cruise control, air conditioner, 
                         AM-FM stereo radio with cassette and in-dash CD, 
                         anti-lock  brakes, dual front air bags.
STICKER PRICE:           $18,816

The biggest problem with the Nissan 200SX was that I drove a Mitsubishi Eclipse the week before.

The 200SX is a nice sport coupe, powered by a 2.0-liter 16-valve four-cylinder engine that develops 140 horsepower and drives the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. In its class, the 200SX is perfectly adequate. It's economical, with EPA ratings of 23/31 mpg City/Highway and a test mileage of 24.3 mpg. For a car that carries a sticker price of only $18,816, it accomplished its purpose well. But it just didn't have the zip of the Mitsubishi.

But again, we're talking about cars that have two different markets and cars that are built for two different purposes.

Nissan updated the 200SX's exterior for 1998 with new taillights, multi-parabola headlights, new front and rear bumper fascias and a new grille. Our tester was the high-performance SE-R with the 2.0-liter engine. The other trim levels are powered by a 1.6-liter DOHC four.

The engine in the 200SX is more than adequate for the car. We were able to accelerate quickly and maintain all the highway speeds we needed. We used the 200SX in some "urban guerilla" situations and ended up spinning the wheels when we encountered wet roads. In fact, the engine may be too much for the car.

With the five-speed gearbox, we were able to choose the correct gear for the situation. I felt that the shifter was wishy-washy and not as precise as I would have wanted. While I never mis-shifted, there was always the question of whether I'd find first, third or fifth when I started moving the lever.

Front suspension is independent with MacPherson struts and Nissan's unique Multi-Link Beam suspension. There's a Multi-Link Beam at the rear as well that allows for greater interior space.

Front seats were comfortable individual buckets. The rear seat bench offered more legroom than the Mitsubishi. Behind the rear seat was a decent trunk; 10.4 cubic feet with the rear seat back up and more than double that with the seat back down.

Instrumentation was a speedometer, tachometer fuel and water temperature gauges. We had other neat accessories, such as a power sunroof, in-dash CD, power windows, mirrors and door locks, and a long list of features that belied the price.

Nissan has had some difficulties selling their cars, and I don't think it's because of the vehicles themselves, but because of some quirky advertising. The 200SX is symbolic of the kind of vehicles Nissan offers. It appears to be well-built and has decent performance. It has some negatives that I felt could be improved upon, but all in all it's a nice vehicle at a decent price.