Editorial

Which Of These Three Affordable Japanese Sports Cars Would You Prefer To Crash In?

It's a factor to consider when shopping for one of these cars.

Choosing the perfect car is an outright challenge and for most people it is often dictated by one factor: price. But shouldn't safety be your top priority? What we’ve done is compile a list of cars, similar in spec and price, and assessed the safeness of each. The cars we decided to focus on are Japanese sports cars from the 1980s. So, if you’re looking for a 1980s Japanese sports car you only need to make one decision, all prices being equal: Which would you prefer to crash in?

Let’s start with the Starion. Released into the wild by Mitsubishi in 1982, this turbocharged, 2.6-liter four-cylinder sports car had up to 200 horsepower, could spin in circles, and could also break down. In fact it did that a lot. It also sometimes came with ABS and a limited-slip differential. Seeing as how ABS is safe, but the Starion didn’t always come with it, and sometimes came with LSD, which isn’t necessarily safe, it almost seems like the safest option would be to get a Starion with ABS and no LSD. At least the Starion keeps you on your toes: you never know what you’re going to get. Still, crash tests showed almost favorable results.

Just remember that things could always be worse. For instance, the seat belts could stop working.

Yes, things could be worse, but only maybe with the Nissan 240SX. In 1992, this car came with the KA24DE engine, a dual-overhead cam 2.4-liter inline-four. It had open slip (in its base model), and was with ABS in earlier years in its SE model. So if you got an SE, you’d have ABS and still an open-slip. Nevertheless, the 240SX did well with safety, at least according to Kelly Blue Book. Make no mistake, the 240SX is just as capable of crashing into a tree as any other car, possibly due to its wheelbase, a feature that makes it almost too easy to drift. You could always go for the all-out version. The SE model starting in 1991 had ABS, a limited-slip differential and Nissan's Super-HICAS system.

That was all-wheel steering, where in the middle of a drift the rear wheels would cause you to spin in a circle and off of a cliff.

Finally we come to the Toyota MR2, second generation. This car was magnificent in many ways. Its engine was mid-mounted, and it had exceptional handling being that it was basically a go-cart. It came with ABS and side impact bars, but only one airbag, and it belonged to the driver. The mid-mounted engine makes for some sharp cornering, and that can get dicey very easily if the driver is not used to it. It didn’t have a whole lot of power, at about 130 horsepower out of its 2.2-liter inline-four, but that’s OK because the mid-mounted engine provided plenty of danger in the way of handling. Let it be said that it’s a tough choice to consider which car is more dangerous.

What makes it more fun is that it’s almost impossible to find official safety ratings for any of these cars. Some forum users, however, swear by the MR2’s ability to keep occupants safe.

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