Buy/Drive/Burn: Forgotten Japanese Compacts From 1988

buy drive burn forgotten japanese compacts from 1988

They’ve got two doors, sporty intentions, and names people forgot long ago. Today we cover three oddball offerings from the latter part of the 1980s.

Will you take home the Nissan, the Mitsubishi, or the Subaru?

(Comments on recent editions of this series tells me some of you need a refresher on the rules.)

The late ’80s was an odd time for Japanese two-door offerings, and many of the designs were square-jawed, early-80s holdouts. While the 1990s and its aero shapes were fast approaching, the new cars weren’t ready just yet. Today we spend some time picking through these forgotten leftovers.

Nissan 200SX

Nissan’s Silvia model took on different identities depending on market, and in North America was badged as the 200SX. Available for the 1984 model year, initial engine offerings included 2.0-liter naturally aspirated and 1.8-liter turbo examples. But that was short lived, as for the 1987 model year the turbo went away and was replaced with an SE trim. Said SE had the 3.0-liter VG30 engine from a naturally aspirated 300ZX. Power was upgraded in 1988 via a five-horsepower boost; 165 horsepower then traveled to the rear via the five-speed manual. Limited in production, only 5,000 of each trim made it to North America for the model’s final two years of 1987 and 1988.

Mitsubishi Cordia

The Cordia was the Eclipse’s forgotten predecessor. Equipped with engines between 1.4- and 2.0-liters in displacement, the Cordia was front-drive only in North America (other markets had four-wheel drive versions). After Mitsubishi’s new offering arrived in the United States for the 1983 model year, it was promptly reworked for 1984. A facelift brought exterior styling revisions and a newly available 2.0-liter with a turbo attached. That engine (today’s selection) provided 135 horsepower through the five-speed manual. Not inconsiderable in a liftback weighing just about 2,000 pounds. Of special note is the crazy futuristic digital dash option, an early offering for a rather inexpensive car.

Subaru XT6

Rounding out today’s trio is the angular Subaru XT6. Starting out as just “XT” for 1985, the new coupe was a sign of Subaru’s future as the company tried to step away from its 1970s designs (often considered cheap looking or ugly). Consequently, the XT was the first Subaru designed with fun rather than practicality in mind. The original 1.8-liter boxer four was joined for the 1988 model year by the brand new 2.7-liter H6. Subaru injected some added sporting potential into its coupe with the new 145-horsepower engine, which replaced the turbocharged four-cylinder as top trim. Today’s XT6 is front-drive, equipped with a four-speed automatic. Loaded with technology, the aircraft-inspired interior of the XT6 was not replicated on any other car.

Three Japanese options, all of them forgotten. One must burn (and only one). Which will it be?

[Images: Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru]

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  • THX1136 THX1136 on Sep 27, 2018

    Like the styling of the 200SX (probably since it reminds me of the car I did own at that time - 84 Shelby Charger). So either drive/buy for the 200SX. The other two I have no strong feelings for - probably burn the Subie and buy/drive the Mitsu depending on the day. I'd rather borrow it to drive than the Subie - rather own the 200SX.

  • Gearhead77 Gearhead77 on Sep 27, 2018

    I had no idea this 200SX could be had with a V6. 3/4 Z car without the “heavy” styling of the same era Z? That’s a buy. I’ve grown to like the angular Subie and only learned a few years ago that HT6 was a six cylinder boxer. I love the interior. I’d drive the Subaru. Not that I don’t love the Mitsubishi, but it’s the least interesting of the three. Burn it.

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.