(first posted 8/27/2015) Not too long ago, there was a time when new car buyers looking for a coupe could pick from a cornucopia of offerings, in every size, shape, and class imaginable. From once being the most popular choice of body style among most car lines, the 2-door coupe fell from grace in relatively little time. Today there are just a handful of new coupes left, primarily in the form of somewhat affordable muscle cars, not-so-affordable luxury coupes, and very not-so-affordable supercars. As for truly affordable coupes, well…
There was once a thriving class of automobiles commonly referred to as “sport compact”. Predominately (but not exclusively) populated by 2-door coupes of Japanese origin, this class of vehicle offered sporty styling, reasonable performance, and a price that was within budget of many first-time new car buyers. Flash forward to the present day, however, and I can think of just three coupes currently sold in the U.S. that fall into this class: the Honda Civic, Kia Forte Koup, and Scion tC. The Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ also may fall into this category, though they are a bit pricier, starting above $25,000. Still, five total vehicles isn’t much to choose from, considering that over 25 sedans are available in the U.S. for under $25,000.
At the time this 1992 Nissan NX2000 was purchased new, Nissan alone offered no less than four coupes to choose from. Replacing the 1986-1990 Pulsar NX, the 1991 NX ditched the “Pulsar” prefix, funky multi-configurable rear end, and very 1980s angular styling. In its place, this third generation NX brought rounded, “aero” styling and only one fastback-styled roof-line.
While the overall design of this car was largely unmemorable, with inoffensive flowing lines, the NX did exhibit one of the most unusual front-end treatments of its time. The very deeply-inset headlights combined with its grille-less, “bottom-breather” nose made for a very anteater-like appearance (even more so on Euro-spec models a less-prominent lower valance). While it doesn’t bother me too much, I’m sure some potential buyers were turned off by it.
Still based on the Sunny/Sentra chassis, North American NXs were available with either the 1.6L or 2.0L inline-4s that were also found in the Sentra. Power from the base NX1600’s 1.6L was a rather pedestrian 115 horsepower, but the NX2000’s 2.0L produced a healthier 140 horsepower and 132 pound-foot of torque. With a curb weight of around 2,600 pounds, the NX2000 offered respectable performance for the time, with a zero-to-sixty time of under 8 seconds; lower than competitors such as the Mazda MX-3 and Honda del Sol. The NX2000 also received upgraded brakes, beefier tires, and a lowered ride height over the identically-powered Sentra SE-R for slightly better handling.
While the NX and Sentra may have sported very differentiated exterior styling, their close relationship was made clear once one entered the interior. The Sentra’s instrument panel was carried over, as were the seats. NX’s did, however, gain unique door panels and a center armrest. Most NXs were also equipped with glass-paneled T-tops, another once common sight among new cars.
Whether it was the car’s styling or just a sign of the declining market for cars of this type, NX coupe sales were not very strong and the car was dropped in North America after just three years. Another Sentra-based coupe would arrive two years later, the 200 SX, though it failed to earn much of a reputation for sportiness. For what it’s worth, Nissan does currently offer the $30,000 370Z coupe, as well as the $100,000 GT-R coupe. The previous generation Altima coupe sought to bring back a sporty and affordable coupe to Nissan’s lineup, although sales were predictably not high enough to warrant a next generation.
Even though they may not be very profitable, I would argue that there still is a viable market for cars of this type. While they may not offer any greater performance over sedans, the general styling of most coupes tends to project a sportier image. As someone within the demographic that the once-vast 2-door sport compact segment was aimed at, I can certainly say I’d be apt to consider a vehicle of this type. Unfortunately, today’s very narrow range of sport compact coupes just doesn’t excite me in the way that even this 1992 Nissan NX does.