3rd May 2022

Modern Classics - The Nissan 200SX

Overlooked when it was new – the Nissan 200SX today offers a heady mix of 200 turbocharged horses, a well-balanced rear-wheel drive chassis, and optional manual gearbox that together administer the perfect antidote to modern mundane motoring.

The 200SX wasn’t new when it finally arrived in the UK in 1995. Production of the S14 – the last-but-one in a long line of S models but the only one officially imported into the UK – began in 1993 and ran until 2000. Its rather unadventurous styling was tidily rectified in 1996 with a more aggressive front end, a muscular stance, and squintier headlights, while the 200SX badge replaced the coupe’s similarly unadventurous original name – Silvia.

Standard equipment levels were generous, with air conditioning, six-speaker stereo and a limited-slip differential, while later Touring models added leather upholstery, 10-disc CD changer, and a sporty body-kit.

A 146mph top speed and 0-60mph in under seven seconds meant the SX found favour with those looking for the unconventional choice. Performance Car magazine even went as far as to place it third in a ten-car coupe shootout, praising it for “ripping mid-range acceleration” once they’d finished deriding its “Japanese blandness.”

In later life, that tail-happy character and unstressed motor meant it went on to catch the eye of many a drifter. Excellent JDM aftermarket support ensured 300bhp and more was easily attainable, with modifications ranging from mild to wild and everything in between. The standard of work varies, too, although the Nissan’s faintly anti-hero status tends to attract the knowledgeable and enthusiastic more than the reckless.

Today an untouched 200SX in the classifieds is a rare find indeed, and likely to be the less-revered four-speed automatic model. DVLA data suggests there are now around 860 on UK roads – 630-odd of which are manual – while another 2,500 of various vintages lie quietly SORN in garages, awaiting their turn in the sun. Their numbers have been bolstered over the years by fresh imports from their native Japan. Many spent much of their time travelling sideways and that warrants a careful check for accident damage and past repairs.

Drearily-named it may have been. But to drive it was anything but.

Showroom standard or modified to the eyeballs – what’s your preference? Tell us in the comments below.