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Car reviews - Nissan - Pulsar - Q 5-dr hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Looks, practicality, performance, comfort, refinement, versatility, utterly reliable
Room for improvement
Not much really

25 Jun 2003

BY the start of the 1990s the small sporty hatch segment was possibly the most fiercely contested segment of the automotive market, not only by the Japanese but by European makers who took up the challenge of the Japanese domination.

The Nissan Pulsar started life in 1983 as a rather lacklustre 1.3-litre hatch/sedan but after several redesigns and switching to Australian manufacture at Nissan's Clayton plant in Victoria, it began to cut the mustard in the late 1980s as a serious contender.

When the restyled version was released in 1991, it was awarded the Wheels magazine Car of the Year award and was right up there with its numerous rivals.

The Pulsar Q was introduced in 1987 as an upmarket model, featuring a peppy 1.8-litre, fuel-injected engine which was a dramatic improvement over the base Pulsar's 1.4 carburettor version. Holden also sold a version of the Pulsar as the Astra but this was discontinued in 1991.

The 1991 all-Nissan Pulsar Q was offered with a choice of 1.6- litre, twin cam, 16-valve engine or an even more sporty 1998cc all alloy version, offering sports car performance.

Our subject car, the Pulsar Q 1.6 five-door hatch, is powered by a 1596cc, twin cam, multi-point fuel-injected engine driving the front wheels through a four-speed auto or five-speed manual box. The engine features variable camshaft timing, giving excellent torque at lower rpm, a strong point of the car.

The suspension is all independent with MacPherson struts and coil springs at the front and Chapman struts with two parallel links at the rear.

Steering is power-assisted rack and pinion with speed sensitive boost.

Braking is by power-assisted ventilated discs at the front and solid discs at the rear. A diagonal split system guards against total brake failure.

Styling of the Pulsar is most attractive with more rounded lines replacing the square cut shape of the earlier model.

Bumpers are colour matched to the paintwork and a small rear spoiler adds a sporty touch.

The hatch design allows for a large boot area, the backs of the rear seats folding forward to form a generous luggage space.

Cloth seats and trim, carpet and four-speaker sound system add luxury touches to the interior.

Road performance of the Pulsar Q is excellent, the 1.6-litre engine delivering its power strongly from low speed and continuing throughout the range.

The suspension gives a firm but comfortable ride, the low profile tyres providing accurate steering response, while the brakes are strong and fade free under severe use.

Handling is precise with a touch of understeer if the car is pushed very hard into tight corners, but otherwise very stable.

The 1991-1992 versions of the Pulsar were made at Clayton but after the plant was closed in 1992 they were fully imported from Japan.

The model has a reputation for reliability and long life, particularly in country areas, and there are no typical faults. Nevertheless, it always pays to have a prospective purchase checked over by your Automobile Association or an expert in the marque.

The Pulsar Q hatch is one of a number of very evenly matched contenders in its class. Its strong points are an outstanding engine, attractive exterior and interior appearance, excellent road performance and a reputation for reliability.

Significantly, the Pulsar Q has the best retained value of all the cars in its class and for this reason alone it is an excellent buy.

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