U12 Pintara (Mk8 Bluebird)
1 Aug 1989
“Project Matilda”, Nissan Australia’s great gamble to take on the popular Toyota Camry, was such an unqualified failure – it even floundered as a rebadged Ford Corsair under a short-lived model-sharing agreement – that, as the front-wheel drive U12 Pintara, it contributed to the company’s withdrawal from local manufacture.
Dated styling (it was launched overseas in 1987), inconsistent quality control and refinement issues were to blame.
Two four-cylinder engines powered the four-door sedan and – from October ’90 – five-door hatchback variants.
A revised CA20E 2.0-litre yielding 83kW of power and 160Nm of torque motivated the base GLi and fleet-chasing Executive models, while a new 96kW/189Nm 2.4-litre KA24E unit was found in the private-buyer focussed Pintara T and luxury Ti.
In April ’90 the TR.X sedan was introduced with the latter motor to lure a younger demographic. It featured firmer suspension, a bodykit and viscous-coupling limited slip differential shared with the Ti.
A minor update in December ’91 saw the range receive exterior and interior trim alterations.
But buyers kept away as the recession bit hard, forcing ongoing price cuts.
Nissan needed the excellent N14 Pulsar, also released in late ’91, to fire immediately if it was to continue making cars here.
But despite glowing reviews, Pulsar sales were slow as punters baulked at its new higher price, since years of discounting degraded the brand.
Nissan pulled the plug here in October ’92.