Monday, May 21, 2012

Used Car Review - Nissan 200SX Silvia (1997-1998)

With the "huling hirit sa tag-init" phenomenon, you want to do things before the summer season ends. And you want to try something new.  How about drifting? The ones that you see in Initial D and Wangan Midnight? Wanna give it a try? Myk Belmonte tells you to know this popular drift machine first.

1997-1998 Nissan 200SX Silvia

Plus with bonus Lady Gaga music video on the end of this article!

Did you know that the original Silvia - introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1964 - had 554 units produced from 1965-1968? The introductory model was a hand-built coupe based from the Fairlady convertible and with styling inputs by Count Albrecht Goertz. The low production numbers and the slow method of construction assured each unit rolled out is unique and valuable. The Silvia nameplate would reappear until 1974.

Five generations later saw the launch of the Silvia S14 in 1995. And with the rounded styling, this contributed to the increase in size than actually occurred. Wheelbase and track were both increased, which lead to slightly improved handling. Various names were used worldwide, with the Silvia name saw usage in Japan; 200SX in other markets; 240SX in North America; and (prepare to drool) as the AREX Elite 901 in Taiwan. Despite falling sales worldwide, the S14 would hang on until 2000.

Filipinos had mixed reactions with the 200SX Silvia's arrival in early 1997. With ordinary motorists - those who are not car enthusiasts - got shocked with the P1.15M price. Why do I say so? A two door coupe, which does not have the capacity of ferrying four people in comfort would cost that much (P1.15M is not unusual today). It comes out as a CBU or completely built unit which was a factor for the unheard price. And the bummer? Only an automatic transmission was the sole choice, given the car's potential. With the last example being sold in 1998 (200 were brought in), the 200SX Silvia is a rarity in the used car market.

Value and Costs
With its rarity, a 200SX Silvia would cost in the range of P490,000-P700,000 - locally sold unit or used import from Japan. The price range houses various units with varying state of condition, from the stock ones to units that are abused the most. If you want a Silvia, better find a stock unit (no engine modifications, and not raced) since problems won't mushroom. If you are checking out a Japan import, go all stock and stick to a unit that seen daily driver usage.

Thanks to the influx of used imported units from Japan, replacement parts - such as the water pumps, ignition coils, suspension bushings, and engine rebuild kits - are easier to obtain but sometimes hard to find. Waiting for weeks for original parts upon ordering is the only choice for most. Engine oil, oil filter, and air filter prices are similar to any Japanese sedan and they should be available. Maintaining one should be done regularly and monitored religiously.

Exterior and Interior
With the Silvia's round profile, couple it with the long hood line, short trunk, and impressive street credibility, it makes people stare at it, even those who don't know the make and model of the car. The sporty grille with projector headlights, factory driving lights, chin spoiler, wraparound rear tail lights, garnish, and sleek rear wing screams "I'm ready to go", even when it's stopped. Colors offered back then were blue, black, red, green, and violet.

Open the doors and there reveals a civilized driving position, that its closest rival - the front wheel drive Mitsubishi Eclipse - cannot match. Interior space between the steering wheel and the driver is balanced, with the space built for humans, not for some mutated specie, which is a deficiency of some front-wheel-drive cars. Dashboard layout is good, with controls for the climate and audio are placed within driver reach. It can fit four passengers, short trips only; while long ones can cause the two in the rear would experience cramps and have a hard time walking.

Powering this beast is a SR20DET 1,998cc 4-cylinder producing 200hp at 6,400rpm and 272Nm at 4,800 in stock form. Adding modifications, such as a boost controller, front-mounted intercooler, and a free-flow exhaust will haul this car through the quarter mile in a hair less than 14 seconds. You'll be shocked to know that with extensive engine modifications, this has the potential to reach 400hp on tap! But modifying one is an exercise since the automatic transmission won't last long. But with this, watch out for engine temperatures, since it can kill the engine.

Driving Impressions
The Silvia is one fun car, and that's for sure. Drive it on the open road, and it feels right at home. Be careful with high speed cornering, with the automatic tranny would downshift (common when tackling corners) you will encounter a phenomenon called power over steer that can put your rear somewhere it shouldn't belong. It could be a good companion in the city, but with some compromises. The automatic transmission with an engine with turbo can result to a sluggish off-the-line response with any throttle input short of pedal to the floor.

There are vehicles that are not for everyone, and the 200SX Silvia is one of them. You can currently enjoy this rare beauty at less than a million grand. Now, with you already considering one and holding the wheel, why not drive it on the open roads (road trip time!)? A caveat, pick your passengers accordingly and drive prudently. Now, set some budget for some engine mods and drifting lessons and you can now enjoy summer.

The Good:
  • Excellent engine
  • Side-sweeping fun companion
  • Sleek looks
The Bad:
  • Why U no offer manual transmission? 
  • Good luck finding a stock unit
  • Some parts are not readily available
The Pick: You cannot be picky this time, but go for a stock unit.

Engine: 1,998cc SR20DET turbocharged I4 gasoline
Power: 200hp @ 6,400rpm
Torque: 272Nm @ 4,800rpm
Fuel Consumption: 4-6.5km/L (city), 10-12km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Suspension: Front independent McPherson strut, rear multilink

Price (New): P1,150,000
Price (Now): P490,000-P700,000
Rivals: Mitsubishi Eclipse
On Sale: 1997-1998

Nissan Mantrade - 812-6879
Nissan Commonwealth - 932-0428
Nissan Ortigas - 635-5888

Photos courtesy of

As promised, here's that music video from Lady Gaga. Since the day that this article would be published is the day of her concert also:


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