This Review is from Edmund's Automobile Buyer's Guides
1997 Nissan 200SX
Vehicle Tested: 1997 Nissan 200SX SE-R
Base Price of Test Vehicle: $17,219 (includes destination charge)
Options in Test Vehicle: Anti-lock Brakes, Power Sunroof, In-Dash CD Changer
Price of Vehicle as Tested: $18,836 (includes destination charge)
by Christian J. Wardlaw
Two punks driving erratically bore down on the family sedan. The first was driving a beat-to-hell Honda CRX, and he rode the Camrys tail uncomfortably closely. The second piloted a brand-spanking-new Nissan 200SX, replete with dealer advertising tags front and rear. When the road widened to four lanes, the weaving CRX wheezed alongside my family on the right, windows down, Tupac blasting from within. Next came the new 200SX, freshly minted engine running near redline, skinny driver slouched in a gangstas protective position behind the B-pillar, baseball hat turned backward. He and his pal were playing a dangerous game of vehicular tag, and I quickly tired of it. With a push of the accelerator, the Camrys V-6 engine revved up and we blew past both of them, leaving them choking on bland, non-descript sedan dust. "Ha!" I thought as the Camry slowed, "Thats what you guys get for buying girlie-mobiles with no cojones."
Everybody liked the 200SX SE-R. In fact, no other car weve tested in the past two years has met with such universal approval. My wife thought it would be a perfect car for her mom, who needs to replace her 1987 Chevrolet Nova sometime very soon. Greg Anderson, our online editor and resident photographer, had his wife drive the 200SX for a day, and she deemed the car perfect except for the paint color. Down to Colorado Springs the 200SX went where it appealed to graphic artist John Davis and his longtime companion, Dolores. Autumn Sunburst reminded her of the color that her first Volvo was painted. When Anderson and Davis found out Nissan was ready to reclaim the 200SX and send it to auction, a war started over whom would be able to purchase the car. Rock, paper, scissors solved that issue. Davis got first dibs.
The in-dash disc changer had eaten my new Janet Jackson CD (thanks to my idiocy, not an ergonomic flaw with the car), and Id been attempting to extract it from the dashboard slot. As I looked up at the road, a Crown Vic with a light bar passed on the left, while I passed a Dodge Caravan on the right. A glance at the speedometer confirmed the bad news. I pulled over before the Douglas Country sheriff could get the Crown Vic turned around.
"Can I see your license and registration, please?"
I handed the officer my license and the form Nissan had me sign when I took possession of the car. From the glovebox I fished out a California proof of insurance.
"I clocked you at 54 mph in a 40 mph zone, while passing on the right."
Ayuh. But see, I was trying to get my CD out of the disc changer and I wasnt paying attention to my speed. I live right here in the neighborhood, and know the speed limit is 40 mph.
"Well, Ill let you off with a warning this time, but if I catch you speeding again, Ill give you a ticket."
So, if you admit you know what the speed limit is, and you confess that you werent paying attention to your driving, you actually get out of it? Wow, thats almost scary. Hopefully, the gangsta wannabe in the nearly identical girlie-mobile 200SX SE got nailed later in the week, because he actually deserved a ticket.
In short, we all loved to drive the 200SX SE-R. Otherwise, the car was rather dull and unexceptional. Exterior styling is contemporary, but devoid of character. Inside, muted black and gray tones were the rule, and all the gauges and controls were logically placed for easy use. Unfortunately, the markings on the climate controls and the stereo were fussy and sized too small. The seats, while comfortable, did not offer a height adjuster to raise them from their position at floor level. The gearshift was unusually tall for a sporting car, and throws between ratios were precise but long. The sunroof on our test car was quite noisy when open, and the stereos sound quality was mediocre at best.
At least the 200SX is equipped with useable interior space and a sizable trunk. My wife and I had no trouble toting baby Sarah around in her rear-facing car seat, thanks to the easy-entry feature on the front passenger seat and an unobtrusive dashboard forward of the front passenger. There was also plenty of room in the trunk for the assorted detritus that accompanies all travel with infants. We found the split-folding rear seat to be quite handy, though we would have preferred a true hatchback to the current coupe configuration. But then wed have to give up some structural rigidity, and the car we drove was tight and rattle-free at 20,000 miles. As the end of our week with the 200SX SE-R approached, we had decided we didnt want to give it back.
"So, are you guys coming to pick up the Nissan today?"
No, we arent. We wanted to get you the 1998 Blazer, but Billy Bob (name changed to protect the innocent) has decided he doesnt want to give it back just yet. The Volvo wagon isnt in from Utah until tomorrow, and then it goes to service. Can you guys sit tight with the Nissan a few more days?
(c) 1997 Edmund Publications Corporation