Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know about and expect during
the most important election of our lifetimes

The Nissan Presea Was The Integra Fighter That Couldn't

Illustration for article titled The Nissan Presea Was The Integra Fighter That Couldnt

Nissan built a rival to the Acura Integra back in the 1990s, but nobody seems to remember it. Part of that, I’m sure, is because the car was never sold in the United States. Another part, I’m also sure, is because the car had absolutely no styling.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled The Nissan Presea Was The Integra Fighter That Couldnt

Look at the Nissan Presea. It’s not an ugly car. I’d call it handsome, both in its proportions and its general look. The car was a four-door quasi-hardtop, meaning that it was designed to look like it was a hardtop, but it wasn’t exactly.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled The Nissan Presea Was The Integra Fighter That Couldnt

If you’re not exactly familiar with the term “hardtop,” don’t feel bad. The design style is almost completely extinct by now. It was big in the 1950s, and it just meant that the sedan had no b-pillar. Put all the windows down and it was like being in a convertible with the top up.

It might not have been the most structurally sound construction, but it was a good look, one that had a resurgence in the Japanese carmaking world in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It was a way to make a luxurious car that was still on a small platform, a good way to make healthy profit margins without busting up Japan’s tough vehicle size-based tax scale, as Curbside Classics noted in a discussion of this trend.

Illustration for article titled The Nissan Presea Was The Integra Fighter That Couldnt
Advertisement

The car that we know from this little movement best was the Acura Integra, a kind of fancy quasi-hardtop version of the Civic. It had a bit of style, and thanks to Honda’s existing good engines and good chassis, the car absolutely dominated America’s idea of a tuner/import car.

The Nissan Presea followed the same formula. It was a fancy quasi-hardtop version of the Nissan Sentra. That meant it had the same chassis and the same engines. Yes, this included the tuner’s beloved SR20, a dual overhead cam 2.0 liter four cylinder that people run up into the four-digit horsepower range.

Advertisement

But does anybody make a thousand-horsepower Presea? No they do not.

The Presea sits forgotten, a car never sold here that’s too dull for anyone to go out and import. There’s a bit of a fascination for these things in Southeast Asia (check out this second-gen Presea Facebook fan group here), but not really anywhere else.

Advertisement

There’s got to be a parallel universe where Nissan’s compact cars were just a little bit more fun to drive, more tuner-friendly, where Sentra SE-Rs stood above Civic Type-Rs, where Preseas litter the streetcorners of wrong-side-of-the-tracks neighborhoods across America instead of Integras. There’s no good reason for this not to be the case.

Illustration for article titled The Nissan Presea Was The Integra Fighter That Couldnt
Advertisement

But for some slight differences, we never saw the Presea, and the rest of the world largely shrugged as well. I’ll think about it often when I wonder about how good a car needs to be to succeed in the market, and how little stands between greatness and anonymity.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

devils-rotary
The Devil Drives a Mustang (Rotary Pending)

You want to talk Integra fighter? Let’s talk about the G20. Some years ago I had a friend who drove an Infiniti G20, which is a USDM Nissan Primera. He swore up and down that it was the better alternative to the Acura Integra that no one knew about. According to him, it handled just as good as the Integra and was nicer on the inside.

You know what? I could see his point. The handling comment I think was abit of hyperbole but it handled just fine. And the SR20DE engine was easily the equal of B18A and B18B equipped Integras, which were all Integras that were not GS-R’s or Type-R’s. And I could see his point on the interior.

Integra

G20

Pictures don’t do it justice, but the Integra was always nice but a little on the tight side. The G20 was certainly roomier.

I say that anyone who picked a G20 over an Integra LS was not insane.