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Used car review Nissan Pulsar N14 1991-1995

image Brad Ball with his 1994 Pulsar Q and at 297,000 km the only mechanical failure the Q had was a broken CV joint. Photo Gallery

Graham ?Smithy? Smith reviews the used Nissan Pulsar N14 1991-1995, its fine points, its flaws and what to watch for when you?re buying it.

The N14 Nissan Pulsar was touted the best new car of 1991 with highly rated engines and impressive build quality, and time has only served to enhance its reputation.

It wasn’t that 1991 was a slow year for the motor industry. Cars such as the highly rated Honda NSX sports coupe, the awesome four-wheel drive Nissan Skyline GT-R, BMW 325i, Honda Legend, Volvo 960, Mazda 929 and TR Mitsubishi Magna/Verada were among the cars launched that year, and there were plenty of new small cars that gave the Pulsar a run for its money.

Mazda’s 121 ‘bubble’ was new that year, as were the Nissan NX, Honda Civic, Hyundai Lantra, but it was the Pulsar that was rated the best of them all.

MODEL WATCH

The Pulsar was offered in two body styles, a practical five-door hatch and a more conservative four-door sedan, both front-wheel drive. There were also a number of models offered as well, these beginning with the entry level GLi, the value-packed and popular Q, sporty SSS, and luxury Ti.

The styling came in for a little criticism at the time of the launch, but it was soft and rounded, and quite inoffensive. Its looks might not have been groundbreaking, but it has stood the test of time quite well and looks good on the road even today.

Importantly the Pulsar was rated highly for its build quality and had a solid feel. The quality of its production was regarded as among the best in its class and better than many higher priced cars of the same era. It seems the initial build quality has translated into reliability in service.

Two fuel-injected four cylinder engines were offered. One was a 1.6-litre unit that was standard on the GLi and Q. It was locally assembled and had a simple but effective form of variable cam timing on the inlet camshaft. Although not as complex as others it nevertheless gave the Pulsar plenty of bottom end flexibility for easy drivability and miserly fuel consumption, while at the same time delivering impressive zip at the top end. Peak output was put at 81 kW and 147 Nm.

The other engine, available as an option in the Q and standard in the SSS and Ti, was an imported 2.0-litre twin cam unit that boasted 105 kW and 179 Nm.

There was a choice of an excellent five-speed manual and electronic four-speed auto, which were well matched to the engines and user-friendly.

The Pulsar’s handling was widely praised with a nice balance and reassuring stability, while the ride was also well controlled if a little firm.

Inside, the Pulsar won many fans with the quality of its trim and plastic bits and pieces. Road noise levels were thought to be a little high and there was some criticism of the rear seat room, which was compromised by Nissan’s use of its vertical strut suspension system that cut into the rear accommodation space. But if you only need to carry two adults and a couple of kids there was more than enough space, and the impressive load space behind the rear seats more than made up for any perceived lack of rear passenger space.

The rather basic GLi Pulsar had an adjustable steering column, central locking and radio/cassette sound, the Q was much better equipped with four-wheel discs, power mirrors and steering and sports wheels, while the Ti was the best equipped of all with air-con, premium sound and cruise. The sporty SSS boasted alloy wheels, fog lights, sports suspension and a sports steering wheel.

An update in 1993 saw more features and a revised model line-up including with the LX, Ti, Q and SSS.

ON THE LOT

Pulsars are quite highly valued such is their popularity. 1991 GLi 1.6 hatches and sedans will be priced between $3000 and $4500 with autos $400 more. Q hatches from the same year will be valued between $3200 and $5000 with the 1.6, autos $400 more and 2.0 motors worth another $500. The hot SSS hatch will set you back between $4500 and $6200.

Moving ahead to 1995, the end of the N14 run, 1.6 Q hatches will be between $7000 and $9500, 1.6 Ti hatches between $7500 and $9500, and SSS 2.0 hatches from $8700 to $11,100.

IN THE SHOP

The trade prefers the performance of the larger 2.0-litre motor over the 1.6 which some people think is underpowered, but reports that both are durable and trouble free. Both engines have a cam timing chain, not a belt, which means regular replacement is not required and breakage is not something you have to be concerned about. Regular servicing is still needed though, and the timing chain does need to be periodically retensioned.

The gearboxes, both manual and auto, give long service and there are few reports of problems. Likewise with the drive shafts which are durable as long as they are properly serviced and the rubber sealing boots remain intact. Like the drive shafts on all front-wheel drive cars the boots keep out dirt and other road rubbish that can quickly chew up a drive joint.

The Pulsar body and chassis is tough and generally robust.

OWNERS’ VIEWS

Owners of the N14 Pulsar are united in their view that it’s a great car.

Jean Trickey bought her 2.0-litre, auto, five-door hatch Ti new in 1991 and has done 69,000 untroubled kilometres in it. She says it’s a great car.

Graeme Wilson of Dromana also bought his Pulsar Q new in 1991 and has done 173,000 kilometres in it. It is regularly serviced and other than normal consumables like tyres (at 110,000 km), one set of discs pads, one battery (after eight years), two headlight globes, an interior light globe, and a turn signal flasher can, he hasn’t had to replace a thing. A slight oil leak from the reverse light switch is the only problem he’s experienced. Graeme uses his car daily, and regularly gets 6.7 L/100 km, and loves the flexibility of its hatchback layout.

Mt Macedon’s Brad Ball owns a 1994 Pulsar Q that is about to turn over a remarkable 310,000 km. It has been serviced every 10,000 km. It doesn’t burn oil, is on its original clutch and exhaust, and regularly gets 600 km on a tank full of fuel. Brad reports the only mechanical failure has been a broken CV joint at 297,000 km. He says it’s “awesome”.

LOOK FOR:

• sturdy strong body

• miserly fuel consumption

• zippy performance

• responsive handling

• bland styling

RIVALS

• Mazda 323 – 1991-1995 – $4700-$12,800

• Honda Civic – 1991-1995 – $4000-$13,000

• Ford Laser – 1991-1995 – $3900-$10,300

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 16 comments

  • I bought a 1993 pulsar q. It's over 20 years old but only had 90,000kms on it. I love it soooooo much. My daughter is not embarrassed to be seen in it like she was in my old Commodore. (she is 7 going on 15) I hope all the good reviews are correct because I will be at uni for the next 4 years which means no money for big repairs. My friend has has a pulsar for about 8 years and had no major trouble. I just love my new old car

    Kristy Watts of Victoria Posted on 01 April 2014 11:06am
  • i have a 1992 n14 hatchback sss pulsar even though i only have had it for five months i love it. i got my car off my uncle and growen up with the car and i love it to bits and i am gald it is my first car. i love how great it is on petorl to how great it is with the performance of the car i just love my sss.

    Dylan Young of port augusta Posted on 25 February 2014 11:07am
  • My wife bought a secondhand N14 2.0L Pulsar Ti in 2001(10yrs old), and it still runs perfectly. Now reached 500,000 km, no major drama. Replaced started motor once and radiator thats it. Towing heavy trailer to/from Melbourne at least 5 times, runs smoothly. Just the mufler is started to rusted abit and pinch a hole that crate a bit of noise last month, went to Supercheap Aut and bought a metallic wrap and wrap it... ALL Good... Recently thinking of selling off but I just love this car alot, decided to keep it until it give up on us...

    Chilmoa of Maitland Posted on 15 July 2013 11:51am
  • I had a 1991 Pulsar for 2 and a half years and i passed it on to my mother who had it for another 8 years. I loved it, nothing ever went wrong with it, and i did several long distance drives without a drama. I'd still have it now if it wasnt for the back seat and boot space not being big enough for all the bits and pieces associated with having young babies and children!

    Nicole W of NSW Posted on 11 April 2013 11:35pm
  • I have had my 1991 Q for nearly 20yrs.... I am 54.. and still drive it like a hoon... with stereo pumping... lol... one change of clutch.. 1 set of engine mounts.. and still drives like a dream.. and other just minor things. and I really pushed her ALL the time.... no smoke.. I LOVE HER... every mechanic tells me NOT to get rid of her... Great engine... I also had a 120Y Station Wagon for 22 years... and found out only a couple of months ago it was still alive and well.. being driven by a young man and goes to 'Meets" all the time in her... Love my Nissans.. and hope to acquire my next Pulsar to last me the next "hooning" 20 years... NO.. I will NOT change... I hope to be flying around corners when I am 70... smile Goooo the Nissans.......

    Deb Courtenay of Manly, Queensland Posted on 27 March 2013 12:48am
  • Anyone have the factory reset code for the radio after replacing the battery? I inherited a Q from my grandfather.

    Simon Threadgate of Rutherford NSW Posted on 08 November 2012 7:45pm
  • 700km rubbish... how about 450 auto or 500 manual...

    mick mcdonald of Sydney Posted on 20 October 2012 5:16pm
  • I inherited my parents 1993 N14 1.6l Pulsar and it is an incredible little car, the main problem I have is that the clearcoat on the gold metallic paint is severely peeling now and the plastic dash surround has cracked in several places. I flog it every day to and from work and it still gets 6.7- 7.2L/100Km, handles well, stops well but just a little noisy from road noise. I replaced the radiator at about 175,000km due to a hairline crack in the top tank and at the moment I have no aircon due to a broken hose. I think I will keep this car for quite a while longer yet.

    Steve Warren of Gordonvale Far Nth Qld Posted on 06 May 2012 10:26pm
  • well i got my 91 sss n14 a year ago, i love it.. although it could always do with more power,it shows its heals to cars with far bigger sized engines.. ive added a front strut brace a rear sway bar and in the proces of getting some king springs and slotted front discs.. i think its going to make a great little weekend track car.. futre plans are to bolt on a turbo and run 4-6pnd as for fuel well costs me 50 every 2wks on 98 v-pwr' iwouldnt run anything less. if your thinking of buying one, well get it checked, but i think they are a great little car and tidy ones are hard to find. ive been lucky mine is a mint red one with matt blck 17's looks the goods..

    trippy sss of sunshine coast qld Posted on 11 April 2012 9:51pm
  • I bought my '92 SSS new in early 1993, and I'm amazed to report that it has now done over 750,000km without requiring any major work. (Okay, one new clutch and 2 wheel bearings, but thats it!). It is bullet-proof, and still fun to drive - I love my Pulsar!

    Dan Tarrant Posted on 13 January 2012 10:40pm
  • Mine is a 1994 SSS which I have now owned for 3 years. For a car that was first introduced 20 years ago it drives very well. Still competent handling and brakes, very nice steering, good fuel consumption, still reasonable equipment levels, excellent engine performance and a shape and appearance that is starting to prove to be fairly timeless. Its just ticked over 250,000 and the engine and gearbox are still sound. Best car I've ever owned.

    John of Canberra Posted on 14 October 2011 10:55pm
  • Mine is a 1994 SSS which I have now owned for 3 years. For a car that was first introduced 20 years ago it drives very well. Still competent handling and brakes, very nice steering, good fuel consumption, still reasonable equipment levels, excellent engine performance and a shape and appearance that is starting to prove to be fairly timeless. Its just ticked over 250,000 and the engine and gearbox are still sound. Best car I've ever owned.

    John of Canberra Posted on 14 October 2011 10:55pm
  • My pulsar sss is something special, I wanna make it a track day car. It's small, light, great engine response and great handling. Great idea or what? Suggestions please.

    Joey of Sydney Posted on 20 July 2011 3:44pm
  • I have a 1991 Pulsar GLi (bought new) and it's been terrific. No major problems and the hatch load space has been so versatile. Carried 4 door filing cabinets, full size bikes, etc. The flat load space (ie, the base of the rear seats flips over and the back comes down on it) seem rare these days sadly. Am dreading replacing it when it reaches the end of it's life. Anyone seen any hatchbacks with equivalent load capacity these days? They all seem like bigger "smalls" cars but don't have the load space/versatility of the N14 Pulsar :-(

    Stephen of melbourne Posted on 07 July 2011 6:54pm
  • I have a 1991 N14 Hatchback Q with the SR20DE [2.0L] engine and it gets me 700km+ on a full tank. Costs me $50 to fill it up with Premium Unleaded. I love how its a smooth, comfortable, reliable car, but you can put your foot into it and have the twin cam kick in and feel the true power this car really has. I love my car. I wouldn't trade it for anything else.

    Catherine Walsh of Andamooka, South Australia Posted on 18 February 2011 7:38pm
  • I want to know how many kilometres it travels on a full tank and will it get me to Darwin and back from Melbourne? Yes I just love the Nissan/Datsuns. Ta ever so

    Kathy Carr of Melbourne Posted on 11 November 2010 2:51pm
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