Then vs. Now: 1998 Nissan 240SX Vs. 2013 Juke Nismo

Daniel Byrne
Not long ago, coupes were popular; nowadays, crossovers are big sellers. This 240SX wears eighteen-inch wheels from a Nissan 350Z.

Joe Montana or Tom Brady? Madonna or Lady Gaga? The first love or the new flame? It’s in our nature to look in the rearview mirror, to measure the brightness of the present against the best of the past. It’s no different with car enthusiasts. For all the areas in which automobiles have improved—safety, performance, efficiency, reliability—they still live in the shadow of the past. The great thing about cars, though, is that we don’t have to rely solely on our memories. We’ll never know how twenty-eight-year-old Michael Jordan would have fared against twenty-eight-year-old LeBron James, but we can find well-kept classic cars—the icons that enthusiasts worship—and pit them against their modern equivalents. That’s just what we did with these seven matchups. It’s throttle cables versus direct injection. AM radios versus infotainment screens. Old-car patina versus new-car smell. So, was it really better then? Come back next Thursday for the next entry in this series.

Open the center console in Joel Stevens’ 1998 Nissan 240SX SE, and among the spare light bulbs and relays is a note he found under the windshield wiper from a stranger asking to buy his car.

That passersby desire a sixteen-year-old car shows how much enthusiasts still respect the 240SX. And for good reason: this type of affordable, athletic, rear-wheel-drive coupe had vanished until the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S siblings were launched for 2013.

We start the 240SX with its thin metal key—remember those?—and appreciate the cabin’s lack of adornment. Behind the three-spoke steering wheel is a quartet of simple, legible, white-faced gauges. No instruction manuals are needed.

Time to slot the tall shifter into first gear and put the 155-hp four-cylinder to work. It has the low-end pull of a larger engine yet keeps growling toward its redline. You can heel-and-toe easily, the steering wheel sends coded messages about the front tires’ traction, and the car settles into a solid squat through corners. This sport coupe douses you in adrenaline with every move.

Jump to the present. Automotive tastes have changed. A generation of drivers raised in Ford Explorers and minivans now covets crossovers, not coupes. As a result, we wind up driving a Juke Nismo alongside the 240SX. Yes, the closest modern equivalent to Nissan’s well-loved coupe is a funky crossover.

A front-wheel-drive crossover? It sounds like the antithesis of the 240SX, but in many respects it fits the same mold. The Juke is affordable yet fun, an aspirational model for young drivers who don’t want a dowdy Sentra—just as the 240SX was in 1998. Did we mention that the Juke Nismo has a six-speed stick and a 197-hp turbocharged engine?

It can’t match the 240’s sense of urgency, but keep the turbocharger spooled up and the Juke Nismo dashes, darts, and zooms. Despite standing nearly a foot taller than the 1998 coupe, the Nismo digs in and hangs on in turns.

Unfortunately, its step-stool driving position doesn’t impart the same sensation of speed, and the electric power steering is overly light. The Juke will never quicken the pulse with unexpected oversteer on a frosty morning. The illusion of speed comes from a red-accented body kit and an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel.

The Juke Nismo does an impressive hot-hatch impersonation, but the older and cruder 240SX is the little Nissan we most desire. At least until the IDx makes it to production.

1998 Nissan 240SX SE2013 Nissan Juke Nismo
Engine2.4L I-4, 155 hp, 160 lb-ft1.6L turbo I-4, 197 hp, 184 lb-ft
Transmission5-speed manual6-speed manual
Curb Weight2862 lbs2930 lbs
Price$22,489 ($32,300 after inflation)$23,800
Value Today:$5000-$7000
Cristian Rodriguez Taulis
S14 240SX all day. Juke is an awful crap.
Floyd Richard Burdett
If I "HAD" to ride in a Joke..I mean a Juke...I would ride all crunched up in the back seat, where the tinted windows would keep me from being recognized by anyone... :P
Fabrizio López Coppola
The juke
Alex Pancamo
So an old joke vs. a new one? And the scary part is that the Juke is lower than the rice rocket.
Keith Godwin
I had two 240SX Nissans. A 1991 and a 1996. Both new and they were excellent cars and for their time pretty simple but enormously effective in the handling and dependability departments. Probably the car closest to the original 240Z that Nissan has made. Great memories.
Frieder Steinle
Juke! fresh and courageous!
Jorge Escudero Basurto
Nissan Joke never
Taylor Ely
Matt Elston
240SX -- no contest.
Paul Olsen
Josh Hoover
I don't even have a joke for the nerds who say juke
Adam Andre
the 240sx!!! whoo hoo!
John Ceragioli
I'll take the 240SX, the Juke looks like a dog rubbing it's butt on the floor!
Matthew Boisvert
240 by a long shot! I miss those cars!
Tom Champion
Richard J. Auchus
I'd pick the Juke. More practical.
Bertrand Grenier
La nostalgie je prendrai la Nissan 240SX, histoire de se rappelé les bon souvenir
Robert May
S14 240SX. The juke is ugly and is a microcosm for what's wrong with cars today. There needs to be more cars like the 240. Although the owner of the S14 put too large of wheels on his car. The proportions are way off.
Rick Mente
The 240, no question. I would be able to get a good model with a proper manual transmission. Plus that Juke looks like the Renault that it is. Renault has ruined so many good things in this country.
Kenneth Simpson
Patrick Tremblay
Elaine Bythebeach
Don Furr
You mean choose between a timeless classic and a forgettable joke, right?
Harold Fiallo
Juke no doubt
John Kurtz
Patrick Pat Kaletta
240 Sx
Junaid Qureshi
Juke of course
Paul M Tyson
Juke nismo
Matt Reims
Tony Schnellmann
Chris Prather
Scott Garrow
1998 240sx without a doubt.
Jimmy Pham
Judd Osborne
Craig Stishenko
R35 or bust. The rest is rubbish. Heck even the R35 had a brutal interior. I'll take the more expensive one, sell it. . . And buy something nice. . .
Abhishek Bidhuri
those alloys
Johnny Kush
Definately the 98 240
Bayan Pour
Senkathir Selvan
No doubt...the 240SX...its the Silvia... Who wana miss the fun of RWD...??
Iris Agosto
1998 240sx
Shusaku Yamasita
Tim Kastner
Jay L. Kabinoff
The 240SX by a long shot. The Juke is the ugly stepchild.
Cory Butterwick
nissan should be taking notes of the comments, bring back inexpensive rear drive
Bill Northcut
240 SX
Chris Woodall
Chuck Brunson
240SX all day long. I miss I expensive RWD coupes.
Aldrich Yu

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