With the Infiniti G20, the new Sentra, the Pathfinder and the 300 ZX, Nissan has some excellent vehicles in its lineup this year. Unfortunately, the 240 SX isn’t one of them. It’s a good car, but it falls short when you compare it with less expensive models from other makers.
For years, nearly every new model from Japan set standards for something – be it price, reliability, performance.
But the 240 SX is just average.
The new Saturn 2+2 and the Ford Escort GT are domestic sport coupes that compare favorably with the 240 SX – and both cost at least $2,000 less. The Honda Prelude and the Toyota Celica – at roughly the same price as the Nissan – are two foreign cars that also should be compared with the 240.
ENGINE, TRANSMISSION, PERFORMANCE
Power is generated by a 2.4-liter, DOHC 16-valve four cylinder that produces 155 horsepower. Even with an automatic transmission, performance and gas mileage in the test car was respectable.
The 240 SX suffers from a loud engine. At about 5,500 rpm (the redline is 6,900 rpm), the aluminum powerplant sounds like an out-of-control chainsaw. The engine is more quiet when cruising.
Unlike nearly every other small car of its type, the 240 SX is a rear-wheel-drive car. It sprints to 60 mph in about 8 seconds. The 240 SX delivered a solid 25 miles per gallon in combined city-highway driving with the air conditioner on.
The four-speed overdrive automatic is an adequate gearbox. It gets the job done without fuss, but it does not stand out in any way.
STEERING, HANDLING, BRAKING
Nissan is emerging as a leader in suspension technology. The company’s Infiniti division introduced full active suspension this year on the Q45 luxury sedan, and the 300 ZX has been praised the world over as one of the best-handling cars money can buy.
Some of what Nissan learned in building the Q and the 300 has made its way to the 240 SX, which can be ordered with four-wheel steering. The test car didn’t have this option, but it still handled well.
The steering is tight and sharp. The suspension is firm, yet not uncomfortable; the ride is very athletic. However, I think the 240 SX deserves a better set of tires or maybe it needs a recalibration of the four-wheel disc brakes.
On wet pavement the front tires lock up easily and the car slides helplessly. Perhaps anti-lock brakes should be made standard.
FIT, FINISH, CONTROLS
This is the 240’s weak point. The interior looks chintzy. The bumpy brown cloth covering the seats, door panels and glove box vaguely resembled burlap and the headliner appeared to be stamped out of some type of cardboard-like material.
The air conditioner took far too long to blow cold, and the instrument configuration is questionable. The tachometer is a standard round analog gauge. The speedometer, however, is an electronic digital unit to the left of the tachometer.
The seats – what Nissan cal ls ”contoured monoform buckets” – are not particularly comfortable and they lack adjustments to make them so. The front seat belts recoil into holders mounted on the sides of the transmission tunnel, stealing rear foot room.
The steering wheel rim blocks several key switches and indicator lights.
There is no question that the 240 SX will be dependable, that it is well-built, that it has lively performance and that it delivers good fuel economy. But it today’s competitive market, those traits are required and expected items. The 240 SX has some good points but it doesn’t measure up to the competition.