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

Our Opinion

We like
Looks, performance, refinement, comfort, practicality
Room for improvement
Still an everyday Pulsar to look at and sit inside, though that's not necessarily a bad thing

25 Jun 2003

THE Nissan Pulsar has been one of the most popular small, front- wheel drive cars on the market since the original N10 model was launched in the early 1980s.

The fourth generation Pulsar, known as the ES or N14 model, was released in October, 1991.

Nissan's Australian engineers had put a lot of effort into developing the locally-assembled versions of the Pulsar to suit local conditions and driver preferences.

The effort was rewarded by automotive commentators of the day giving the Pulsar the thumbs up and it was generally regarded as one of the best all-rounders in the small car sector.

Body styles are either sedan or hatchback, both of which have four doors.

The versatile hatch was the biggest seller and there were four versions available, with the GLi and Q at the lower end of the price range and the Ti aimed at luxury buyers.

The most expensive model, though, was the SSS which aimed to attract younger, enthusiast drivers with its sportier styling and equipment list.

The SSS came with a good quality four-speaker radio/cassette, central locking and electric mirrors. An engine immobilisation system was standard while air-conditioning and cruise control were options.

One of the Pulsar's strongest points is its willing all- aluminium, 2.0-litre engine.

A bonus from the service viewpoint is the twin overhead camshafts are chain driven, so there are no belts to replace or have fail.

The engine is powerful, with 104kW, and has plenty of torque (178Nm). This gives the SSS more performance than its rivals with good mid-range torque making it easy to drive in stop/start traffic.

The suspension is the almost universal design of small front- wheel drive cars with firmer springs and shock absorbers to suit the sporty character of the SSS.

The result is a good, safe handling car with minimal body roll or understeer. Wide wheels with 195 section, low profile tyres give the SSS plenty of grip on the road.

Nissan shut down its Australian manufacturing plant in early 1993 and the local Pulsar was replaced by one built in Japan.

The imported SSS looked substantially the same with a minor front end restyle which added driving lights beside the fog lights.

Changes to the equipment list were a mixture of good and bad news. Electric windows became standard equipment while the anti- lock brakes were moved to the options list, which also included an electric sunroof. The engine immobiliser was deleted.

An automatic version of the SSS is worth about $850 to $1000 extra on the used car market but these are fairly uncommon.

The Pulsar SSS is definitely one of the better small, fast and practical four-door hatchbacks that can be bought for a reasonable price.

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