No thrills but Pulsar no dill
Nissan’s Pulsar has a reputation for reliability, writesGRAHAMSMITH
YOU have to wonder about car companies that dump a name that has become popular and replace it with a name that no one knows.
Ford did it with its top-selling small car, the Laser, then had to watch as its small-car sales dropped dramatically. Nissan did it when it replaced the popular Pulsar with the oddly named Tiida.
The Pulsar nameplate dates back to 1980 and over the years earned a reputation for solid reliability, good value for money and economy of operation.
By the time the N16, the last of the line, was released in 2000 it was a well-equipped, good-sized small car that performed well, was economical and gave little trouble.
If it had a problem, perhaps it was that it had become tired. It was a car for those of us with grey, or no, hair, and was not hip enough to appeal to younger buyers.
THE N16 Pulsar sedans were built in Japan and were the first launched in 2000. The five-door hatchbacks came from England and arrived in the middle of 2001.
It was no beacon of contemporary style, admittedly, but it was a goodlooking small car with pleasant proportions and clean lines. Perhaps it was too nice and didn’t have the sort of edge young buyers wanted.
There were four versions of the sedan at launch, starting with the LX and working up through the ST, sporty Q and luxury Ti. When the hatchback came a year later, it added ST and Q versions to the range.
The Pulsar grew larger over time and the N16 was quite a bit bigger than the models that went before it, but that extra size translated into decent interior room.
Rear passengers may have suffered a little for space, but those in the front enjoyed generous room.
Like the exterior, there was nothing flashy about the Pulsar’s interior.
It was laid out logically and was comfortable.
Mechanically, the Pulsar was quite a conventional front-wheeldrive model.
There were two engines on offer. The LX entry-level model had a 1.6-litre double overhead camshaft four with fuel injection, which produced 83kW and 140Nm.
It was an economical engine, but the 1.8-litre engine that powered the rest of the range had a little more zip.
With more performance, thanks to its 92kW and 161Nm, the 1.8-litre enables the Pulsar to stay on the pace in the heavy going around town.
Both engines were available with either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed auto.
The Pulsar was light and nimble, making it a breeze around town and easy to park.
On the open road it was quite composed, with a supple suspension able to soak up most of what was thrown at it without being upset.
The ride was compliant and comfortable for a small car and its handling was well balanced.
ON THE LOT
THE LX sedan was the price leader for the N16 and can now be bought for $8000-$12,000, but models with the 1.8-litre engine are a better buy.
They’re not only more pleasant to drive, with the extra power available from the larger engine, but they also hold their resale value better.
ST sedans can be found for $8000-$15,000, similar hatches for $9500-$15,500.
The sporty Q sedan costs $ 9500-$ 18,000 and hatches $10,500-$18,000.
For a luxury ride, go for the Ti sedan, for $10,000-$15,000.
IN THE SHOP
THE Pulsar has a good reputation for build quality and reliability.
Nothing serious seems to go wrong with them. Look for a service record to make sure of a regular maintenance routine.
Before the N16, Nissan used a chain to drive the camshaft, but both the N16 engines had belts. Make sure the belt has been changed according to the service schedule.
Many Pulsars were used by the rental industry, which means they accumulate kilometres quickly and can be driven by uncaring drivers.
Any Pulsar with a higher than normal odometer reading could well have been a renter. Negotiate hard to lower the asking price on a car that appears to have a rental background.
IN A CRASH
ALL models have a driver’s airbag, but some also have an airbag for the front passenger and anti-skid brakes.
AT THE PUMP
THE N16 is generally an economical car. It should do 7.5 to 8.5 litres per 100km in general use.
THE BOTTOM LINE
WELL-BUILT, reliable small car that will cut your fuel bills.
Fuel miser: the N16 Pulsar was a good-looking small car with pleasant proportions and clean lines. It is value for money and economical.