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SEE ALSOL Nissan Buyer's Guide

When the second-generation Nissan Sentra was introduced earlier this year, the 2-door coupe versions gave a nod to the 70's nostalgia trend with a familiar name: 200SX. Back in the late 1970's, Nissan introduced the 200SX sports coupe as an affordable, fun little brother to its popular 280Z sports car. Cars have a way of growing up in size, performance, and price, and the perky 200SX became the sophisticated 240SX. A second-generation 240SX was introduced in 1994, and, while it was and is a wonderful small luxury coupe, it is a long way up the ladder from the original 200 SX concept. Since the demise of the original 200 SX, the Sentra SE-R sports sedan and NX2000 coupe took over its niche. The NX disappeared a few years ago, and the Sentra SE-R was a low-profile sports sedan in the Q-boat tradition of the original Datsun 510 - short on flamboyant style, long on performance and value. When time came for a new Sentra, the coupe got more style and a different name, going full-circle back to 200 SX. It combines style with the latest technical innovations, a surprising amount of interior space, and plenty of performance. It is a truly practical sports coupe, available in three trim levels with two different engines. It is the fourth Nissan product to be "made with pride in Smyrna, Tennessee".

During a week of test drives on city streets, interstates and mountain and valley roads here are my impressions of the latest top of the 200 SX line SE-R.

APPEARANCE: The new 200SX fits in a niche between the previous stealth-cruiser Sentra SE- R and the flamboyant old NX coupe, and looks the part. Sleeker than a sedan, roomier and more practical than a sports car, the revived SX is a stylish addition to the Nissan lineup. Its closest resemblance to the old Sentra is in front, where there is also more than a passing resemblance to the flagship Nissan Maxima. The rounded side view is pure post-Altima Nissan, highlighting a spacious greenhouse. The high rear deck helps both the sporty image and luggage capacity. Monochrome trim, alloy wheels, and low-profile tires give the SE-R version a very sporting appearance.

COMFORT: The 200 SX SE-R has a very good mid-priced sports interior with a couple of tips to Seventies nostalgia. The op-art seat and door trim are more than slightly reminiscent of certain German sports cars of the late '70s. Fortunately the resemblance is more than merely visual, with low-fatigue seating and a cockpit arrangement designed for serious driving. Visibility is very good, with adequately-sized and well-placed mirrors. The SE-R features power-operated mirrors and door locks, cruise control, and air conditioning. Unusual in a sports coupe is a real back seat. Shaquille O'Neal may not fit, but two average-sized adults can travel in comfort in the back seat. Access is helped by strategically-placed grab handles, and the rear seat back folds down with a 60/40 split for extra carrying capacity. The trunk is quite spacious and has a low-liftover-height lid for ease of use.

SAFETY: All 200 SX models have dual front air bags, side-guard door beams, and front and rear crumple zones. Base and SE versions have front disc and rear drum brakes. The SE-R has discs on all four wheels. Antilock brakes are optionally available on SE and SE-R models.

ROADABILITY: The 200SX is a well-balanced real-world sports coupe. The ride is grand touring firm, not old sports car harsh. Front suspension is independent. Power is transmitted to the front wheels by a limited-slip differential for sure-footed traction. A version of Nissan's patented multi-link beam suspension graces the rear. On the road the SX SE-R is poised, maneuverable, and fun.

PERFORMANCE: The 200 SX SE-R has a 140-horsepower twin cam, 16-valve engine, developed from that in the previous Sentra SE-R and NX 2000. Those two cars were beloved for their spirited performance, and the 200 SX SE-R is no different. It's the sort of car that can't help putting a smile on your face. Our test car had the optional 4-speed automatic transmission, which highlighted the engine's broad torque spread and made city driving in traffic on steep hills almost tolerable. The 5-speed stick is more sporting, but the automatic is a good alternative for the increasingly-crowded urban jungle.

CONCLUSIONS: The 200 SX SE-R is the latest affordable, fun car from Nissan.


       Base Price             $ 16,069 
       Price As Tested        $ 16,909
       Engine Type            V-6, sohc 24v, smpfi?????
       Engine Size            2.0 liter/121 cid 
       Horsepower             140 @ 6400                         
       Torque (ft/lbs)        132 @ 4800 
       Wheelbase/Length       100"/170"
       Transmission           four-speed EC automatic w/overdrive
       Curb Weight            2600 lbs.
       Pounds per Horsepower  18.6
       Fuel Capacity          13 gal.
       Fuel Requirement       Unleaded regular (87 oct)
       Tiree                  Goodyear Eagle RS-A P195/55 R16 M+S
       Brakes                 vented dixc/disc  ABS optional
       Drive Train            Front engire/front drive        
       EPA Economy - miles per gallon   
         city/highway/observed       4/31/25.7
       0 to 60 mph                   8.7  sec
       1/4 mi (E.T.)                 16.1  sec
       Coefficient of Drag  (Cd)     .33