Barker’s worst Japanese coupes: Nissan 100NX

Barker’s worst Japanese coupes: Nissan 100NX

Last month, Chris Barker outlined his plan to pour scorn on ten unsuspecting Japanese coupes. Well now it’s time to get serious, with the humble and much maligned Nissan 100NX the first victim.

Of course, this is PetrolBlog. A place where the unfashionable have a home. A place of solitude, where cars like the Nissan 100NX are amongst friends. So after Chris has presented the case for the prosecution, PetrolBlog will deliver some kind of defence.

Nissan 100NX: the prosecution

According to that old adage, beautiful things come in small packages. And I guess if they’re referring to Doctor Who’s new assistant, Baby Bels and Lego figures, then they’re definitely on to something. But that theory is blasted straight out of the water when confronted with the nightmarish automotive vision of the Nissan 100NX.

OK, the Nissan 100NX was, admittedly, diminutive in stature, yet gargantuan in hideousness. Designed, presumably, as an entry level/peasant spec Nissan 300ZX, this abomination indeed came with a wheel in each corner and a steering apparatus designed to sit directly in front of the driver. And the similarities started and ended there.

OK. I tell a lie. They both had a targa roof in common. Unfortunately a targa top doesn’t a sports car maketh. If further proof is needed, just take a ganders at a Rover 218 Coupe of a mid-1990s vintage. The Nissan 100NX was a breed apart, mind.

Nissan 100NX targa

A hateful, snotty nosed little street urchin that you’d turn a blind eye to if you happened on it being bullied on the mean streets of downtown Bishop’s Stortford. A car so meaningless and futile that I’m bereft of anything even remotely positive to say about it. A car that fronted a measly 1.6-litre engine that catapulted the horrid little blighter toward the distant (and still distant. And still very distant. Not there yet. What time’s dinner tonight, mum?) 60mph horizon in a tortoise-tastical 10.5 seconds.

And to ensure that 100NX owners kept The Samaritans on speed-dial, with a keen tailwind and a steeply raking downhill gradient, the 100NX would ‘hit’ 121mph full tilt. Wikipedia best sums it up, when, within the first paragraph of its unbiased description, it suggests; ‘The NX was, loosely, an evolution of the Nissan Pulsar NX/Nissan EXA sold from 1987–1990 and the Nissan Sunny lines of the 1980, merging the Nissan B13 and N14 lineages’. ‘Nuff said.

Nissan 100NX: the defence

Come now, Chris. Let’s not be beastly to the 100NX. You need to remember that the car was launched back in 1992, and things were very different then. It was a year full of disappointments, like England’s miserable showing in the Euro Championships and the end of Oracle on the television. It was also the year where our collective heads were filled with the images of an MP who allegedly had a thing for a Chelsea football shirt, along with a taste for toes.

Against such a backdrop, the Nissan 100NX was a much sunnier proposition. Indeed, it was a whole lot brighter than the Sunny it was based on.

Yes, a 1.6-litre engine developing 89bhp – later increased to 101bhp – was a pretty miserable amount of power for a car with sporting intentions. But on the plus side, it could deliver as much as 40mpg.

Of course, this meant you’d end up spending less time showing off your fancy targa-top in the petrol station. Still, it would have looked very smart parked outside the One Stop on the corner of Primrose Avenue. And it undercut the Rover 216i Coupe by some £2k. Admittedly, PetrolBlog would have opted for the Sunny SR and saved a further £1k, but that’s not the point.

German registered Nissan 100NX

And does it really look that bad in 2014? If you wait until midnight, turn off all the lights, stand a mile or so back and squint a little, it could almost pass as baby Nissan Skyline. And it’s the kind of car young drivers should cut their teeth on, before upgrading to more illustrious motors. Resist the temptation of a £199 per month payment plan on a basic city car, and opt for some Oriental targa goodness. Albeit of the Leyton Orient variety.

Just over 600 and left and yours for half a bag of sand. It’s a veritable steal.

Not convinced? Then allow this slightly disturbing, yet delightful TV advert to seal the deal.

Main images © Nissan. German image courtesy of Wikipedia.


Written by Chris Barker

Chris’ first memory of cars, was one of being perched upon his father’s knees, carefully turning the steering wheel of a 1968 Triumph Herald 1200 as he helped his dad reverse the car up the driveway at home. Since then, Chris has owned a gaggle of predominantly 1990s-manufactured sports cars of a Japanese parentage and distinctly European-flavoured hot hatches (his chosen field of automotive passion, along with iconic sports wagons), including a brace of Golf GTis, a clutch of Impreza WRXs and a warm embrace of Celica GT4s.

11 Comments

  1. Ant

    I’m siding in the “pro” camp on this one. 10.5 seconds looks a bit naff today but then everything these days has about twice the power it did back in the early 90s. An MX-5 of similar vintage is only a second quicker. Back then, it wasn’t unknown for your average family hatch to do the sprint in 13 seconds or so, so the NX was probably quite peppy in comparison.

    I quite like the looks too. Better from some angles admittedly but I reckon it’s improved with time. 90s simplicity helps – a corresponding vehicle today would be something like the Hyundai Veloster, and those are a riot of weird lines and odd proportions. A toned-down design and a glassy cabin is quite appealing now.

    Never driven one and I can’t imagine it’s much cop to drive, but again, today it probably has the novelty factor at least. Hydraulic steering, or a throttle body connected by cable rather than electronics to your pedal.

  2. Ben

    Definitely in the ‘pro’ camp. Like an 90’s X1/9 that doesn’t rust?

    Again, haven’t driven one – and remember the Bluebird of similar vintage was sort of horrible, but I actually quite like the look of it.

    Better or worse than a Toyota Paseo??

  3. Peter Counsell

    I am with Barker on this one, albeit not as rabidly as him, but then frankly who is?

    Putting myself back to the early 90s, there was somebody at work who had a 100NX and my feelings for that vehicle were not positive. It seemed to fit into a niche for which there was no real demand. I didn’t and still don’t get the design.

    I do of course recognise that I have no love for Japanese car design in general, which will rather discount me from the whole of this series. Well-made, reliable and so on, but not actually nice to be in. Interiors matter. A lot.

    On a passing note, though, the last photograph by the river shows how much of a difference a pleasant location makes to a car’s perceived value.

    Is one worth £500 now? Yes. Would I? No.

    1. Chris Barker

      Peter, consider your cheque in the post, as I seem to be under attack from all angles by a gaggle of car folk who must still remain a little bleary of eye/sight after all the recent festivities/sherries. The 100NX as you so rightly suggest, served no purpose and created a futile niche of all it own making, and if one must solely rely on a picturesque press shot to ensure that it’s shown in a favourable light, then it doesn’t say much about the rudimentary product. Plus, it seems absurd/laughable that any Teutonic car buyers would ever entertain the idea of buying such a nothing of a car; going on the assumption that the postcard on which the 100NX is superimposed appears of a Bavarian postcode.

      1. Ant

        It didn’t *really* sit in its own niche though. It was just one of a great number of small, hatchback-based coupes available in the early 90s. Think Honda Civic Coupe, Toyota Paseo, Vauxhall Tigra, Hyundai Scoupe, Mazda MX-3, and a little later stuff like the Puma and Megane Coupe. It arguably served as much purpose as any of them – even if it ultimately missed the mark.

  4. rotation

    I’m going to say ‘no thanks’ on this one. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but it seems unmemorable. I like Japanese cars of the 1990’s, and I can’t remember this car from ‘back in the day’ at all.

  5. Dano

    I drive an NX, and admittedly ive come across some hate, people seem to know liggle about these cars, and there is no mention in the article about the GTi version which came with the much beloved SR20DET engine, if you dont know that engine you should probably be reading about knitting or cakes or something else that requires no testicles.
    The car itself is small, but i use it as my daily driver, with a wife and 2 kids with little hassle, after a couple of modifications (larger wheels and a straight thru exhaust as the original is designed to restrict it more than needed for noise purposes) it proves to be a sporty ride for the times where the wife and kids are at home.
    I find keeping it below 4-5k RPM means i get really good fuel efficiency, but in all fairness keeping it off the limiter when it sounds the way it does is hard ;)

    Just a little note to finish with i paid a measly £190 for a car that needed just a touch of welding and some breakpads to pass its MOT… how many people can say that about a 20 year old car?

    1. Chris Barker

      I resent the implication that as the author I may lack testicles and/or make a habit of perusing cake and knitting periodicals, however I respect your automotive purchase and the fact that it gives you such pleasure when the odds are seemingly stacked so heavily against it.

      In my defence this piece wasn’t, admitedly, exhaustively researched, and serves merely as a light-hearted slight at selected vehicles which, arguably aren’t as aestheticly desirable and/or performance-readied in standard form as some of their more illustrious brethren/stablemates. Each to their own as they say, and the opinion of the author is just that, an opinion, fostered in a (hopefully) humourous manner.

      Happy motoring!

  6. essebibi

    Sorry to resurrect an old post, but I had one of these (Gti) and I don’t agree.

    There were three main versions of the 100nx:
    – 1.6 automatic
    – 1.6 manual
    – 2.0 Gti manual

    The first two are slow, very slow. The third was quite fast.
    We are talking 1989, 8.2 seconds 0-60 was a great time.
    143 hp for a 2.0 was a good figure.
    The SR20 DE was perhaps the most respected 4 cyl. engine at that time (except the mighty v-tec).
    This car was way faster than any standard golf gti of that period.

    Happy motoring

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