Foreign Affairs: Nissan Tsuru, Mexico

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
foreign affairs nissan tsuru mexico

As wonderful as the American marketplace is, there’s an entire world — literally — of cars out there that we just can’t get our hands on. In TTAC’s new series, “Foreign Affairs,” we look at forbidden fruit that you can buy brand new around the world.

The Mexican new car market is remarkable. While plenty of good new cars come across the border, inciting at least one presidential candidate to threaten penalty taxes, its domestic market still continues to sell older gems, some of which are built to older safety standards. Even the Beetle was built there long after its sell-by date.

The car that fascinates me, naturally, is one I’ve previously owned: the Nissan B13-chassis Tsuru, known here in the U.S. as the 1991-94 Nissan Sentra.

The Tsuru is popular most likely due to its bargain basement cost. A basic model can run as low as $7,040 USD after promotional savings. I’m sure the model’s long lifespan has also contributed a massive secondary market in parts and spares, as this has been used as a taxi all over the country for years.

I doubt it’d be a good Uber ride, though.

Only a few major changes have been made over the years — primarily some restyling of the grille and headlamps. The option packages look a bit different than what we would typically see here, as well. The base model doesn’t offer air conditioning or power steering, but has a standard anti-theft alarm and remote unlocking. While the base 1.6-liter engine won’t be particularly quick, its light weight will at least make it nimble.

I still wish Nissan would offer something like this — since we know they will still build the basic car — with some performance features like the big SR20 engine, and sell it here in the U.S. As worn out as my 1991 SE-R was, it was still more fun to drive than any current, smaller car from Nissan.

[Images: Tsuru, Nissan Mexico; Faded Sentra, © Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars]

Chris Tonn is a broke classic car enthusiast that writes about old cars, since he can’t afford to buy them. Commiserate with him on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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  • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on Mar 10, 2016

    For those who admire the Tsuru, damn the safety aspect, I feel your pain. No, its not as safe as new cars, okay, but it represents a good car no matter that, and its still popular and being manufactured and sold today. I am not a huge fan of the Nissan Sentra. I had a 1985 coupe and drove several of the 1990s bodystyle this one still is. Its not my nirvana of compacts, and I much prefer the two door (never drove the SE-R) if I was to have one, but I more than understand yout desire to have access to the Tsuru. Lets be honest, by the time a 2016 Tsuru is 25 years old and thus eligable for import by non-Mexicans, itll be older and in far worse shape than this: Personally, I like the silver wheels, but for $7-8k, you could build a new car from that. Rebuild/replace/upgrade? the drivetrain, body, paint, interior done to your specs (vinyl and rubber or leather and carpet with sound deadner). Get the updated Tusuru grille, headlamps, etc from Mexico. I like it, itd look sweet. I also like the F-150 (V-6) and F-250 (V-8) trucks they built all through the late 2000s after the model (which did poor in crash tests, with airbags) was replaced in 2004 in the US (continued as Heritage for one year). It got an updated grille and headlamps that would look amazing on a 97-03 F-150, 97 F-250 light duty or first gen Expedition. I love the little Fiesta-based Courior coupe-utility (not based on the current Fiesta we get), although I think its out of production and has no hope of entering the US for our consuption anytime soon. Latin America is a haven for forgotten US cars and trucks. Ford Falcon in Argentina until 1991! 1968-72 F-series in Brazil until the 1990s as well. Both with updated styling Im envious of. Cars like the Chevy Opala and Ford Landau put the similar-sized US models to shame. GM's Chevy Inline 6 contined so long, it got a Vortec head and was put in Tahoes, Suburbans and pickups until the late 90s at least! I would love to get my hands on it! AVortec Inline 6 based on the bullet proof early 6's and not the crap that was in the Trailblazer? Yes! There is an early 1990s Chevy Suburban K1500 not far from me, Chevy 350 engine sat with water in it. Interior vinyl and rubber. Flat green exterior. 4Wd, off road tires, 3" suspension lift, good trans/case/rear. Id put that Vortec Inline 6 in there and love it! No it wouldnt be fast, itd be great at what I want. Fast is for something not the size of a studio apartment. The point is, there is a tresure of awesome American (and non-American including American branded) cars and products out there.

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