Car reviews - Nissan - Pulsar - GX 5-dr hatch
Good size, versatile hatch interior, lusty performance from Holden 1.6 and 1.8 engines, comfy seats, ease of parts and servicing
Room for improvement
Slightly bitsy interior
20 Jun 2003
THE Nissan Pulsar was also sold by Holden as the Astra. Nissan produced the Pulsar as a hatchback and a sedan but the hatch was much more popular and was available with four levels of equipment.
The base model GL came with a 1.6-litre engine only, tinted windows, height-adjustable steering wheel, AM/FM radio, cloth trim and the option of an automatic transmission.
The next equipment level, the GX, added power steering, electric mirrors and the option of the larger 1.8-litre engine while the top level GXE had the same equipment as the GX plus a four- speaker sound system and intermittent wipers.
The sports oriented Pulsar Q was based on the GX with a tachometer, rear spoiler, "viscous-coupled" limited slip differential and changes to the suspension.
There were also limited edition specials based on the GX with the 1.8-litre engine. The Reebok had colour keyed bumpers and Pulsar Q suspension while the Sports hatch had special interior and exterior trim and a four-speaker sound system.
In June, 1989, the Series II Pulsar with a minor facelift was released. The GXE was discontinued and rear drum brakes replaced the discs on the GL. A high-mounted stop light is the easiest way to recognise the Series II.
The Holden Family II 1.8-litre powerplant became standard on the GX in 1989. It has lots of power at low and medium speeds, which makes the Pulsar responsive and pleasant to drive. In manual form it also means a lot less gear changing.
Transmissions are either a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic with a locking torque converter to reduce fuel consumption.
Pulsar underbody mechanicals are conventional front-wheel drive. The steering is rack and pinion and independent MacPherson struts are used at each corner.
On-road fuel consumption for the Pulsar is good thanks to the engine characteristics and sophisticated engine management system. Reasonable driving should see a manual transmission version average 10 litres per 100 kilometres.
The 1.8-litre engine has more power than any of its rivals except for the Toyota Corolla Twin Cam. Combined with a very competent chassis, this provides excellent all-round performance with safe, predictable handling and good brakes.
The engine is not a high-tech multi-valve wonder but gives nothing away in the important areas of driveability and low cost maintenance and repair.
Spare parts are readily available and competition from brand line manufacturers on fast moving parts keeps prices down to affordable levels.
The Pulsar has aged well with no particular problems with under body mechanicals, body rust or paint fade, provided normal preventative maintenance has been carried out.
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