Let’s talk about the philosophy of sporty coupes. Beginning with the granddaddy of them all the Mustang they have been snazzy, affordable transportation. So to judge them, you need to look at three things: styling, price tag and performance. The newly designed 1995 Nissan 200SX SE-R does a super job in two of those categories. But that may not be enough for aficionados.
She: Sporty coupes like the original Mustang sure do stick in your consciousness. Even today, I can picture the red one with the black top that the cheerleader down the street’s boyfriend would pick her up in. As memorable as my white go-go boots and first tube of Yardley’s Good Night Slicker lipstick. I don’t know if the Nissan will be as memorable as the Mustang is almost 30 years later or if it even needs to be.
He: Close your eyes, and the 200SX is a terrific little car. It’s as nimble as a cricket. Quick as a roadrunner. But it’s as homely as an armadillo and not nearly as interesting to look at.
She: I think you’re being too hard on the Nissan. And I don’t think armadillos are homely. Besides, that makes it sound tank-like almost. It’s not. It’s got subdued styling with a hint of boxiness, but that’s because it borrows so much of its sheet metal from the Sentra. But there are sporty cues, too, such as the rear spoiler and sloping hood.
He: Put a rear spoiler on an armadillo, and you still have an armadillo. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to sound like an armadillo basher. And I would recommend the 200SX to friends, especially those shopping with teen-agers for a first car. Just bear in mind that this isn’t the sexiest two-door coupe on the street. And those buyers tend to be mighty fickle.
She: I would definitely buy the SX if I had a teen-ager. “Sexy and “car in the same sentence for anyone still in high school would launch me into a major anxiety attack.
He: Geez, don’t get so excited. You sound too much like a mother.
She: There’s no crime in being a mother. Besides, I got excited just looking at the sticker for the SX. I love seeing no charge, line after line. Granted, that may just be due to the way the car is packaged in the SE-R edition, but it makes you feel like you’re really getting something for your $16,000. The only extra was the power sunroof. Otherwise, stuff like a keyless entry system, power windows and A.C. were standard.
He: I’m impressed that Nissan could pack so many features into the SE-R package for that kind of dough. Just like what Ford did with the Mustang back in ’64. The 200SX just lacks the Mustang’s panache. Yes, I know, the Mustang nowadays is something totally different, more akin to a muscle car than the original. But if you’re in the market for a sporty coupe, for the same money, I’d much rather have an Eagle Talon or a Mitsubishi Eclipse.
She: I liked the roominess in the rear, which is sometimes hard to come by in a sporty coupe. But the real reason I grabbed the keys to t he Nissan whenever I could is that it is zippy and fun to drive. And isn’t that the real reason for buying a sporty coupe?
He: Nope. Especially not in a state where the speed limit is still 55 or less in most areas.
She: Now who sounds like a mother?
He: OK, would a mother rave about that great little twin-cam 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in the 200SX? It’s one of the most powerful in the class. It makes 140 horsepower, and really scoots. The SX may not look as slick and jazzy as a Chevy Cavalier or even a Saturn SC, but it’ll run away from both those cars, especially on a twisty road. And with the SE-R package, you get an upgraded suspension package with front and rear stabilizer bars and four-wheel power disc brakes. My only complaint here is you have to pay extra for antilock brakes which, incidentally, were not included on our test car. Oops, there I go, starting to sound like a mother again.
She: So what you may get with this sporty coupe is a memor e feel and ride but not a car that will haunt your memory.
Anita’s rating: (above average)
Paul’s rating: (above average)
What we liked: Great performer; good value; zippy engine; lots of rear seat room
What we didn’t like: Forgettable styling; generic cabin; watch out for blind spots; no ABS on test car.
1995 Nissan 200SX SE-R
Type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, four-passenger sport coupe.
Price: Base, $15,269; as tested, $16,109 (includes $390 destination charge).
What’s new for ’95: All-new for 1995.
Standard equipment: Tinted glass, front fog lamps, AM/FM cassette stereo with four speakers, power windows, power locks, cruise control, front bucket seats, rear window defroster, intermittent wipers, dual cupholders, tilt steering column, door map pocket, alloy wheels, rear spoiler, keyless remote entry system, security system, leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Safety features: Dual air bags, side-impact door beams, antilock brakes (optional).
Options on test vehicle: Power sunroof ($450) .
EPA fuel economy: 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway.
Engine: 2.0-liter I-4; 140-hp at 6400 rpm; 132 lb-ft torque at 4800 rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed manual.
Competitors: Acura Integra GS-R, Honda Civic EX coupe, Saturn SC coupe, Dodge/Plymouth Neon coupe, Ford Probe, Chevrolet Cavalier Z24, Pontiac Sunfire GT, Eagle Talon, Mitsubishi Eclipse.
Specifications: Wheelbase, 99.8 inches; overall length, 170.1 inches; curb weight, 2,536 pounds; legroom, 42.3 inches front/31.4 inches rear; headroom, 39.1 inches front/35.4 inches rear; shoulder room, 52.1 inches front/52.9 inches rear.
12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan*: $867
Where built: Smyrna, Tenn.
*Rates based on an average family of four from the Livonia area whose primary driver is age 40 with no tickets who drives three to 10 miles each way to work. Rates reflect multicar discount and, where appropriate, discounts for air bags and seat belts.