Nissan 240SX is First Produced

The 240SX is a two-door compact car that was introduced to the North American market by Nissan in 1988 for the following model year.

It replaced the outgoing 200SX (S12) model. All versions of the 240SX were equipped with the 2.4-liter inline 4 engine (KA24E from 1989–1990 and KA24DE from 1991–1998). Two distinct generations of the 240SX, the S13 (1989-1994) and the S14 (1995-1998), were produced based on the Nissan S platform. The 240SX is closely related to other S platform based vehicles, such as the Japanese-market Silvia and 180SX, and the European-market 200SX.

The first generation of the 240SX can be divided into two distinct variants: Zenki and Chūki. Each of these variants came in two distinct body styles: hatchback, which was offered in both base and SE trim, and coupe, which was offered in base, LE and SE trim levels. Both styles shared the same front bodywork as the Japanese-market Nissan 180SX, featuring the sloping front with retracting headlights. This bodywork distinguishes the coupe model from its Japanese-market counterpart, the Silvia, which featured fixed headlights. Both styles in all markets share the same chassis, and with few exceptions, most components and features are identical.

The Zenki (前期, lit. early period) or "Pig-Nose" was sold for model years 1989 and 1990. It was powered by a naturally aspirated 140 hp (105 kW) 2.4 liter SOHC KA24E engine with 3 valves per cylinder instead of the turbo-charged and intercooled 1.8-liter DOHC I4 CA18DET offered in Japan and Europe during these years. Four-wheel disc brakes were standard, with antilock brakes available as an option on the SE. Both models were offered with either a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission. "Coupes" offered a Head-Up Display (HUD) with a digital speedometer as part of the optional Power Convenience Group. It shared the same chassis as a z32.

The Chūki (中期, lit. middle period) or "Shark-Nose" was available from model years 1991 to 1994. This gave the car an overhaul that included a minor update of the exterior and a small upgrade to the engine. The Zenki front bumper was replaced by a smoother, more modern-looking front bumper cover. Also a new "LE" hatchback trim package was added that included leather interior. The SOHC KA24E was replaced by the DOHC KA24DE, now with 4 valves per cylinder, producing 15 more horsepower, for a total output of 155 hp (116 kW). An optional sports package including ABS, a limited slip differential and Nissan's HICAS four wheel steering was now available on hatchback models. In Canada, a VLSD (viscous limited slip differential) was standard on all cars.

In 1992, a convertible body style was added to the lineup and was exclusive to the North American market. These vehicles began life in Japan as coupes and were later modified in the California facilities of American Specialty Cars (ASC). For the 1994 model year, the only available 240SX was a Special Edition of the Convertible body style all of which were equipped with the 4-speed automatic transmission.

The S13 was known for its sharp steering/handling (thanks to front MacPherson struts and a rear multilink suspension) and relatively light weight (2700 lb) but was regarded in the automotive press as being underpowered. The Nissan KA24E engine, while durable, was a heavy iron-block unit that produced meager power for its relatively large size. It was only modestly improved by the introduction of the DOHC version in 1991. These engines are the primary difference between the North American 240SX and the world-market Silvia/180SX/200SX. Other differences include: VLSD on all Silvia/180SX/200SX and Canadian 240SX vs. VLSD standard only on USDM HICAS models; available digital climate control in Japan vs. mechanical slider control in North American cars; and manual seatbelts standard in Japan and Canada vs. automatic restraint seatbelts in America. The Canadian model also had daytime running lights located in the lower vent holes.

Nissan calls it the 240SX.
Better you should refer to it as the baby Z.

Nissan dumped the 200SX designation-along with the car-and came up with the all new 240SX for 1989.

The subcompact SX coupe was resized, restyled and renamed the 240, with the number referring to the 2.4-liter, 12-valve, 140-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine. Psychologically, the 240 designation was used to associate the new car with the original 240Z sports model that proved to be so successful for the Japanese automaker.

That 240Z has evolved into the 300ZX, which also was resized, restyled and re-energized for 1989.

The old 200SX looked sporty but didn`t act it. The 240SX looks and acts like a performance machine. Somewhat a 300ZX in miniature.

The 240SX comes in two versions, the SE fastback (Autos, Oct. 18, 1988) with sharply slanted roof line and the XE notchback with a stand-up formal roof line. We test drove the XE.

In either body style, the 240SX is an attention-grabber. Up front, body- colored wraparound bumpers, concealed headlamps and an air dam provide a clean, crisp but powerful look. In back, the slightly raised, slightly rounded deck also sports body-colored wraparound bumpers.

The 2.4-liter 4 is lively, and one reason the SX performs very Z like. A five-speed manual is standard, a four-speed automatic with overdrive controlled by a push button on the gear lever is optional. Our test car was equipped with automatic, a quiet unit didn`t seem to rob the 2.4 of its pep.

Where the 240 stands out is in ride and handling. Lots of cars look sporty, few have the road manners of the 240SX. It hugs the pavement without wavering in or out of a tight corner or turn. The 15-inch, all-season, steel- belted radial tires grip the pavement. Four-wheel, fully independent suspension and front and rear stabilizer bars smooth rough spots.

The power steering requires very little effort. Turn the wheel, and the car responds quickly and accurately. The driver is in control, not just along for the ride. The 240 is a rear-wheel-drive subcompact and the weight distribution helps contribute to almost nonexistent body sway, roll or excessive lean.

Four-wheel power disc brakes harness the power and bring the car under control. Antilock brakes are a $1,400 option, but only on the SE, not the XE. Nissan said there are no immediate plans to offer antilock brakes in the XE because it has proven to be a low request item in the SE. You have to suspect $1,400 is what`s keeping buyers away from a braking system that ensures fast, true stopping regardless of road conditions or surface.

The 240SX is built on a 97.4-inch wheelbase and is 178 inches long. The dimensions pinpoint one of the car`s shortcomings-room.

No problem up front, but forget about carting adults in the rear. Nissan needs to redesign those rear seats and use thinner padding or raise the roof line to allow ample head room. We thought the notchback XE with its formal standup roof line would offer welcome headroom relief versus the slanted SE fastback. It doesn`t.

At least the rear seat backs fold down to allow added storage space, probably the most common usage unless you have tiny children with minuscule heads who could fit in back.

Front seats have the size, but not necessarily the comfort we expected. The wide buckets have side bolsters that sweep out along the occupant`s torso and help keep driver and front-seat passenger in place in sharp corners and turns. The buckets were very comfortable in the SE version we previously drove. In the XE, the lower seat back was a bit too firm and rigid and would have played havoc with long-distance driving.

The car we drove had the optional heads-up speedometer display in the windshield. Little green digits give you a quick speed reading on the windshield glass without having to hunt for the speedometer. U nlike the display on GM models, which is dead center along the bottom of the glass in the driver`s field of vision, the Nissan unit is slightly to the left of eye view. That location seemed to mean less glare and was easier to see than if in the center of the glass.

But the heads up display is part of a $1,350 package that includes cruise control, power windows/door locks/mirrors and upgraded radio with cassette and is a stiff price to pay for a quick glance speed reading.

Standard equipment includes power brakes and steering, tinted glass, dual mirrors, tilt steering wheel, AM/FM stereo, intermittent wipers, rear window defroster, hood/trunk/fuel filler inside-release levers, quartz digital clock, visor vanity mirrors and automatic safety belts that fasten around your upper torso when the ignition key is turned on and release when the key is turned off.

The notchback XE coupe starts at $13,249 with manual, $14,079 with automatic.

Replacing the 200SX with the 240SX has been a good move for Nissan. Sales in the first six months of the year totaled 38,417 units, almost a 300 percent increase from the 10,112 sold in the period a year earlier.

For automakers, the entry-level sport coupe market has always been tough going. Technology and performance enhancements change rapidly and enthusiast drivers can hardly be counted on to be loyal to a brand. The 1990s were a particularly dynamic time, as many Japanese automakers began to enter the market. It helped to have an edge, though, and the Nissan 240SX came to market with perhaps the most substantial edge of all: rear-wheel drive.

At the time, most of the Japanese entry-level sport coupes were front-wheel drive. While this layout offers many practical benefits, it is inferior to rear-drive in terms of maximum performance potential. While it's hard to say exactly how directly Nissan's choice of drivetrain helped sales, it sure helped the car deliver on its promise of entertainment. Early reviews praised the 240SX's sharp and balanced handling and made more than a few comparisons to the Porsche 944.

The Nissan 240SX was also composed and comfortable on the road thanks to Nissan's then-new multilink rear suspension -- an obvious advantage over Detroit's rear-drive pony cars and their non-independent rear suspensions. For motivation, Nissan equipped the 240SX with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine. Performance was decent, too -- at first. This big four provided a fair amount of torque, but its lack of horsepower and rough, noisy operation became less acceptable as the years went on.

Nissan regrettably reused the engine for the 240SX's second iteration, which also coincided with the company's decision to reposition the 240SX as an "affordable luxury coupe" with less emphasis on sport. Whether due to these decisions, the general decline of the sports coupe market or both, Nissan stopped importing the 240SX to our shores by the end of the '90s.

Looking back on it now, the Nissan 240SX's appeal largely depends on the year and how desirable you happen to find rear-wheel drive. Oddly, many car enthusiasts looking to modify their import car for better performance have found the car's rear-drive layout quite appealing. As such, the 240 has enjoyed a rather notable revival, especially as more people have learned that non-U.S. 240SXs (called Silvias, 180SXs or 200SXs) came equipped with a potent turbocharged engine that can be obtained and swapped into a U.S.-spec 240SX.