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SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide

1996 NISSAN 200 SX SE

by Tom/Bob Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 15,669
     Price As Tested                                    $ 16,837
     Engine Type                            1.6 Liter I4 w/SMPI*
     Engine Size                                  97 cid\1597 cc
     Horsepower                                   115 @ 6000 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               108 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   99.8"/66.6"/170.1"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     2379 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  13.2 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                      175/65R14
     Brakes (F/R)                                      Disc/drum
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Five-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                 45 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.33


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            28/37/33
     0-60 MPH                                        9.8 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17.9 seconds @ 79 mph
     Top Speed (Est.)                                    109 mph

     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

(Nissan used to be know as Datsun, and under that name, Bob Hagin developed an affection for its small high-performance sedans beginning with the rare-but-fast Datsun RL411 four-door of '67. Tom Hagin also likes small Datsun/Nissan sedans but wishes that the '96 200SX he was given had been the quicker SE-R version)

BOB - The Nissan 200SX enjoyed a long and lustrous 11-year career in the Nissan lineup. From '77 to '88, the 200SX was the "sporty" small coupe of the stable but apparently the name was dropped due to old age. Last year it was resurrected and attached to what had been the hot- rodded Sentra SE-R coupe, but with the new name came a couple of slight differences. Now the 200SX comes three ways: Base, SE and SE-R and all are built on the longer-wheelbased Sentra platform. This means that there's a couple more inches of leg room for those brave enough to crawl over the front seats to ride in the back.

TOM - Come on, Dad, it's not that bad. It's just getting tougher for you to go through the necessary entrance gyrations. Once you get back there, the place is pretty comfortable for two but trying to shoe-horn a third passenger in back would amount to cruel and unusual punishment. I think that the extra room comes from the down-scaled multi-beam rear suspension that took the place of the fully independent system that was on its NX and Sentra SE-R predecessor. The Nissan guys say that this system is better, but I think the old IRS gave crisper handling.

BOB - The average driver won't notice the difference, Tom, and that includes me. But the car has plenty of snap to it for such a little popper. It's only 1.6 liters in displacement but it puts out 115 horsepower in the SE version that Nissan gave us. I'm not crazy about the fact that we got the automatic model but I have to admit that it makes squirting through downtown traffic lots easier than if it had the five-speed stick shift.

TOM - That engine is fairly high-tech, too, but today almost all cars sport four valves per cylinder and multi-port fuel injection. It also sports a variable valve timing system that lets it develop good low-speed torque at 4000 revs but then lets it run up to 6000 without running out of steam. The engine peaks out at 6900 but the power tapers off a bit at that speed. The top speed of the SE that we had is 111 mph, but I was told that its potential is even higher - although Nissan engineers have put a limiter on the engine to keep the speed down.

BOB - Well, that engine speed limiter doesn't bother me since I don't plan to go that fast anyway. I'm more impressed with the way the car handles. Being the middle-of-the-range version, this SE has sway bars on both ends as well as the more sporting suspension tuning of the quicker SE-R version, but lacks its 140-horse, two liter engine. It also uses 14-inch alloy wheels and 175/65R tires which are a bit less assertive that the 15 inchers of the SE-R version. The steering is very quick with three turns lock-to-lock and all three versions of the 200SX are essentially like peas in a pod.

TOM - The interiors are pretty much the same, too. They all have tachometers, although it's a little pointless unless they go with a five-speed. The front seats are comfortable enough but I wish that they had a little more side support to go along with the ability to toss the car around through quick turns. If I was ordering this car, I would have gotten the optional anti-skid brakes, too. When this system is put on the SE, it gets disc brakes in the rear as well as up front.

BOB - SE models come well-equipped with such items as air conditioning, a nice stereo, and power windows and door locks.

TOM - Cruise control, power steering and alloy wheels are standard, but a small rear spoiler is a $149 option.

BOB - And the sunroof is $449 extra. These little Nissan sedans sure have come a long way since I worked on those RL411s back in the 60's - but I don't think that they're any faster.

TOM - I vaguely remember the one you had, Dad - it had wooden wheels, and, didn't you used to time that thing with a sundial?