Buy/Drive/Burn: Forgotten Japanese Compacts From 1988

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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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.

  • Golden2husky Have to say he did an excellent job on the C7, especially considering the limited budget he was given. I am very happy with my purchase.
  • Marty The problem isn't range; it's lack of electricity in multi-unit building parking. All you need is level 1 - a standard 120v wall socket - and if you're plugged in 10 hours overnight you get 280 miles per week or more. That's enough for most folks but you can use public charging to supplement when needed. Installing conduit circuits and outlets is simple and cheap; no charge stations needed.
  • 2manyvettes Tadge was at the Corvette Corral at the Rolex 24 hour sports car race at the end of January 2023. During the Q&A after his remarks someone stood up and told him "I will never buy an electric Corvette." His response? "I will never sell you an electric Corvette." Take that Fwiw.
  • Socrates77 They're pinching pennies for the investors like always, greed has turned GM into a joke of an old corporate American greed.
  • Analoggrotto looking at this takes me right back to the year when “CD-ROM” first entered public lexicon