The Datsun 1200 is a second-generation Nissan Sunny that was launched in Japan in 1970. It was a little larger than the first generation and was designed to primarily compete with the very popular Toyota Corolla at the time. The car has a history that dates back to 1966, when Nissan introduced a new compact car called the Nissan Sunny. This car remained in production through various generations until 2004. It was relaunched in 2006 and remains in production today across various markets. However, it is not produced for Japan, Australia, and a few other markets.
The 1200 had a MacPherson strut suspension in front with disc brakes as an option and a very frugal 1.2L A12-Series engine. It was available as a five-door and three-door wagon.
The Datsun 1200 was available with a twin-carburetted engine with its top-end GX trim level, but this was mostly for the Japanese market. The car got a small facelift two years after its launch, in 1972, with a new grille, hood, and a few other small changes. The 1200 GX was designed to perform against competitors like the Toyota Sprinter Trueno and Corolla Levin, which were performance-enhanced versions of the Sprinter and Corolla models.
The Datsun 1200 made quite an impression on the racing track too, making its debut at the Fuji 200 Mile race on November 23, 1970. It was part of the fairly monopolistic TS1300 class, but it won an incredible victory that day. The Datsun 1200 was highly regarded here and in New Zealand for its ability to be converted into a rally car. Even today, the 1200 is considered the second-best entry-level car by Datsun.
The Datsun 1200 has a 1171cc engine that, when combined with a 5-speed manual transmission, delivered a fuel economy of 17.3km/L in real conditions, and this would be one of the most defining characteristics of the car, especially in the United States. Apart from this, the car was also popular for its attractive yet simple body styling, which also came in a sedan, coupe, and wagon. The car had an internal designation B110, and although it remained fairly unchanged during its production life, it had the same A12 engine.
Initially, the Datsun 1200 came in base, GL, and Deluxe trims only, but the GX was introduced later on with higher specifications, a broad strip on its sides, and back panels that were black. The car got new taillights and grilles in 1972, and the last B110 version was introduced as the GX-5 in the same year. This Datsun 1200 GX-5 had an improved interior, a 5-speed transmission, and sports stripes. It was the most popular model in those days and was sold at very high prices. By 1973, the Datsun 1200 would be replaced by its third generation, which is also known as the 120Y.
The Datsun 1200 did not have much in terms of equipment or interior comfort. It was a bare-boned car that delivered a minimal driving experience. The standard equipment available from the base model included a 2-speed heater-demister, electric clock, vanity mirror, lighter, carpet, inertial reel seatbelts, and low-back bucket seats with no headrests. The higher-end models got all these features with wool-trimmed seats, a front bumper that was now black as was the new window surround, tonneau cover, pillar panel and sports stripes, and Datsun-exclusive white mag wheels.
Most models received some optional equipment to be fitted in their car, although many of them were meant to enhance the performance. These options included a convenient fibreglass canopy that had sliding side, interior, and rear windows, nudge bars, halogen lamps, centre console, spoiler with air dam, cowling scoops, and flares.
The Datsun 1200, as mentioned before, competed with the Corolla and Sprinter. On the racetrack, it was able to beat the competition as the B110 and marked the beginning of years of dominance. However, there were some more competitors in the background, particularly from Mazda, Daihatsu, and Mitsubishi. The presence of all these cars in the market in 1970 could have easily shot the small car market up to the top of the automotive industry, but tough local protection prevented this from happening.
When the Datsun 1200 was introduced, light cars like the VW Beetle, Corolla, Torana, and Escort accounted for around 40 per cent of car sales. Without sales limits or tariffs, these small cars, especially the Datsun 1200, would have shined spectacularly; the Datsun 1200 may have even competed with other big cars present today.