The Datsun 200B was introduced as a replacement for the 180B, and it was sold in many countries from 1977 to 1981. A year after its introduction, the assembly of the sedan version of the 200B began locally and the wagon followed soon after. As a design departure from the 180B, the 200B came with an opera window at the rear.
Right after its launch, the 200B was slammed by critics because it seemed to have more problems than its predecessor. Nissan responded and soon came up with an updated version to the old 200B in 1979. The new version had some significant changes, including an updated dashboard and better handling. The engine vibrations that were transmitted through the car’s frame were significantly reduced. A mass damper comprising of a steel structure with rubber spring support was fitted to the front of the cross member to absorb the vibrations caused by the engine.
Additionally, the engine mounting was altered to bring down transmission vibration and noise. As an added measure, compound rubber pads were used to insulate the rear cross member from the structure of the body.
In 1978, Datsun came up with a refined version of the 200B called the SX. The new SX version had a front spoiler, alloy wheels, revised grille along with better seat and door trims, tachometer, and better suspension. The SX version was a vast improvement, as it was less noisy at all rev ranges and provided better riding comfort. This version of the 200B came only with a 4-speed floor shift gearbox and was available in blue, white, and red colours.
The engine of the Datsun 200B was a big upgrade from the L-series engine of the previous 180B.The car had a 4-cylinder 1952cc engine that put out 72kW. The 200B came with a 4-speed manual or a 3-speed automatic gearbox. The initial imported versions of the Datsun 200B had the independent rear suspension. Soon after, the locally assembled models were fitted with coil springs with trailing arms. The wagon version of the Datsun 200B still had a live axle in the rear with leaf springs. Although it seemed like a huge technological setback, the incorporation of leaf springs turned the 200B into a better handling car.
The wagon had the maximum ground clearance at 4360mm while the GL/GX sedan had the minimum at 4330mm. All versions had a turning circle of 10m, which made it ideal for cities. While the sedan had a 60L fuel tank, the station wagons came with smaller 55L fuel tanks.
The later 200B models came with ‘phase-matched’ wheels, which meant the tyres’ stiff sections matched the lowest-rolling-radius sections of the wheels. This ingenious phase-matched wheel design greatly reduced vibrations and increased riding comfort. Additionally, the new 200B could be easily manoeuvred through sweeping bends.
The 200B still suffered from a bit of understeer but only at higher speeds. The updated versions of 200B also came with new front disc brakes that had slim-line Colette sliding head callipers. These new brakes had a longer life, and heat dissipation was good. Additionally, they required less effort from the driver.
At its prime, the Datsun 200B was one of the top 4 best-selling 4-cylinder cars in the country. This car was ideal for family buyers as it provided them with a lot of interior room. The 200B was extremely reliable, which more than made up for the traditional styling of the car.
The car came with contemporary Japanese styling and was available in three versions: sedan, station wagon, and coupe. The sedan had four doors, the station wagon had five doors and the coupe version had two doors The new versions of the 200B had more headroom and legroom for the passengers. Foam was used in the body panels to reduce sound transmission. The updated 200Bs came with single-piece carpets as opposed to the earlier two-piece ones, thus improving sound suppression.
The 200B was big leap from the 180B as far as the cabin is concerned. The seats were locally designed and custom-made to suit the Australian build. The driver’s seat had better lumbar support and a refined spring, which made the ride more enjoyable. Cloth was used as the standard for seat covers. The GX versions came with velour interiors. All the 200B cars came with faux leather soft steering wheel with a thickly padded centre console. The GX version came with standard features like ignition key illumination, trip-meter, and rear window demisting. Another good standard of the GX version was the 7-second delay intermittent windshield wiper mode. All the instrument panel glass covers had an anti-reflective coating to enhance visibility.
The biggest competitor for the Datsun 200B faced was the Mitsubishi Sigma. The Sigma was launched in 1977 and continued production until 1983. It had a bigger 4-cylinder, 2555cc engine with an output of 73kW. The Mitsubishi Sigma provided a richer riding experience and smooth performance and was remarkably fast with a top speed of 163km/h. The Sigma outshined the Datsun 200B in road handling, speed, braking and ride comfort. However, the Sigma had fairly substantial ‘C’ Pillars at the rear which cut down driver visibility. Although Sigma soon became the market leader in the 4-cylinder arena, the 200B still continued to draw consumers with its updated versions that were more suited for rough driving styles.