By Jeremy Cato
If you want an affordable rear-drive sporty two-door, you arguably have one
choice – the Nissan 240SX, a two-door ultimately phased out in 1998.
In fact, in a world of mostly front-drive sports coupes, the 240SX stands
out from the pack because its engine not only drives the rear wheels, but
the car itself proved to be a responsive handler with a taut suspension and
a reasonably comfortable ride.
It was that way from the time Nissan first unveiled the 240 in the fall of
1988 as a 1989 model. And it continued for the 1991 and 1995 model years,
when Nissan updated the 240SX
The 1995 240SX, like most of its competitors from that era, is powered by a
four-cylinder engine. The 155 horsepower four-cylinder in the 240SX was the most powerful standard engine in the class of ’95.
However, all its competitors from that year except the Toyota Celica offered
much, much more powerful optional engines, albeit still with four-cylinders.
Some generated more oomph through turbocharging, others via fancy valve
timing. If you want a six-cylinder in this class, your choices
are two other also-discontinued coupes: the Ford Probe and Mazda’s MX-6
Mystere (both sold with optional 165-horsepower V6s).
In ’95, Nissan offered two versions: base SE ($23,790) and upscale/sportier
LE ($26,990). For ’95 and later years, the 240 was offered only in coupe
configuration. Previously, Nissan offered both hatchback and coupe versions.
While the steering is sharp and reactions agile, the rear-drive layout leads
to poor traction on slippery roads. If you want pure ride comfort, the SE is
softer, but it also surrenders something to the firmer-riding LE.
All ’95 240s came pretty much loaded: dual airbags, power door locks,
windows and mirrors, CFC-free air conditioning, AM/FM cassette, cruise
control and alloy wheels. The LE added 16-inch wheels (versus 15-inchers on
the SE), high-performance all-season radials, front and rear spoilers, fog
lights, leather upholstery and black-on-white gauges. The LE also came with
front AND rear stabilizer bars and firmer shock setting for better handling.
Overall, the 240SX is a pleasant car to drive, but its real strengths are in
clean, elegant styling and overall reliability. The cabin is tight, even
though Nissan lengthened the wheelbase and the car has a wider body. The wraparound
cockpit design creates a closed-in feeling, also. Head room is limited for
taller folks and the rear seat will prove tight for anyone but a young
child. Still, the rear seat back folds flat to enhance cargo space.
Pre-1995 240s were introduced with a 140-hp. version of the 2.4-litre
four-banger. Power from that engine is adequate, but not breathtaking.
Moreover, this engine was notorious for being a bit rough when pushed hard, and
for running out of oomph a bit too soon before hitting its 6,500 rpm
Nissan noted the criticism and took action with enhancements for the 1991
car. The changes included a new cylinder head with double overhead camshafts
and 16 valves instead of the 12 in the old engine.
Tricking out the engine in this way added 15 hp to the 240 and stretched the
redline to 6,900 r.p.m. Transmission choices during those model years
included a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic.
For 1991, Nissan also made changes which affected the 240’s sporty nature.
In particular, electronic four-wheel, speed-sensitive steering was made
available for a short time. This patented Nissan system, which had been
available only on the 300ZX, delivers an almost instant application of
countersteer before cocking the rear wheels in the direction of the turn.
According to Nissan, the countersteer makes for crisper turn-ins.
Other handling characteristics of the 240 were unchanged. That’s not
surprising because the basic suspension set up remained unchanged in ’91:
rear multi-link, and independent struts up front.
The ’91 240 offers a responsive but somewhat harsh ride. Tire noise is
evident in the rear cargo area. Drivers will find controls and instruments
easy to find and use.
Nissan made some cosmetic changes to the 240 for ’91. They included new
alloy wheels on the SE and LE models, and on all cars a smooth new front
bumper cover; the nostril over the bumper in the old car were
Pricing? Very affordable. And because quality has proved quite good (one
recall in the 1990s), this car is a recommended buy.
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.