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Used car review Nissan Pulsar N16 2000-2006

Graham ?Smithy? Smith reviews the used Nissan Pulsar N16 ? 2000-2006, its fine points, its flaws and what to watch for when buying it.

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 the Laser, a top selling small car, and then had to watch as its small car sales dropped dramatically, and 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 not hip enough to appeal to younger buyers.

MODEL WATCH

The N16 Pulsar sedans were built in Japan and were the first launched in 2000, while 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 good looking 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.

Like all cars 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 seats enjoyed generous room. Like the exterior there was nothing flashy about the Pulsar’s interior. It had everything you wanted, was laid out logically, and was comfortable.

Mechanically the Pulsar was quite a conventional front-wheel drive 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 gave 83 kW and 140 Nm.

It was an economical engine, but the 1.8-litre engine that powered the rest of the range had a little more zip and made the best buying. With more performance, thanks to its 92 kW and 161 Nm, the 1.8-litre enabled 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.

On the road the Pulsar was light and nimble making it a breeze around town and easy to park. Out on the road it was quite composed with a supple suspension that was 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 and secure. It was a good all-rounder.

ON THE LOT

The LX sedan was the price leader when the N16 was new and can now be had for $8000-$12,000, but the models with the 1.8-litre engine make better buying. They’re not only more pleasant to drive with the extra power available from the larger engine, they will hold their resale value better when it’s time to sell.

ST sedans can be found for $8000-$15,000, similar hatches for $9500-$15,500. The sporty Q sedan will cost $9500-$18,000, hatches $10,500-$18,000. For a luxury ride go for the Ti sedan, which sells 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, which makes them a good used car buy. When checking look for a service record to make sure of a regular maintenance routine. The Pulsar engines have a chain taking care of the cam timing so there’s no servicing needed.

Many Pulsars were used by the rental industry, which usually means they accumulated kilometres quickly and were sometimes driven by uncaring drivers. Bear it in mind that 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 ABS anti-skid brakes.

AT THE PUMP

The N16 is generally an economical little car, and well worth considering if you want to cut your fuel bills. On average it should do around 7.5-8.5 L/100 km in general use.

LOOK FOR
• Pleasant looks
• good performing 1.8-litre
• low fuel consumption
• well built
• little goes wrong
• good all-rounder

RIVALS
• Toyota Corolla – 2001-2006 – $10,500-$18,000
• Holden Astra – 2001-2006 – $9500-$19,500
• Mazda 323 – 1998-2003 – $6000-$17,500

THE BOTTOM LINE
Well-built and reliable small car that will cut your fuel bills.

RATING
78/100

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 17 comments

  • Had mine N16 hatchback since 2007. Currently 190,000 and no problems*. Paint was peeling off at the back, but nothing a can of matched paint from repco in skilled hands couldn't fix. Had to replace the thermostat after 12 years, but that is normal. other than that, service it regularly and have no surprises. * allegedly in 2008 the solenoid burned out, and had to be replaced, but in hindsight, the calim was made by a mechanic who (as it later turned out) would routinely "make up problems" and charge a lot to fix those problems. I would not be surprised if it just was a dead battery.

    Alex of Sydney Posted on 24 February 2014 9:02pm
  • my LX N16 sedan got to 220,000 km and i noticed it had lost coolant and couldn't work out where it was going, got almost another 10,000 on the clock then it started to run rough two days later it started to get hot on the temp gauge, called RACV only to be told it was the thermostat. Then on a long trip carrying water with me it almost overheated numerous times until it got to the point I couldn't get any further done the research and it turns out its the head gasket that has gone. Being such a reliable car till two weeks ago.

    Leigh Posted on 27 October 2013 9:50pm
  • I had an 2003 pulsar ST which had 110k on the clock. The head gasket went at 115k and after that it burnt more oil. On a 500km trip it used most of the oil in the engine (About 4 Litres) After that I traded it in for a new car.

    Stuart Posted on 18 August 2013 7:10pm
  • Use 15w40 it's thicker and makes it run better

    Joshua newman of Perth Posted on 21 January 2013 11:34pm
  • got a nissan pulsar n16 2004. my car has done nearly 128,000 kms. the engine has started burning the oil i am using is castrol magnetec 10w-40. any suggestions.

    Karan Bajaj of Melbourne Posted on 13 January 2013 8:54pm
  • I have had my 2004 Nissan Pulsar ST-L for 5 years it has been the best car I have had, I have had no problems other then replacing the bearings in the air con pulley and is excellent on fuel still runs really well, smooth drive. I love how it has a rear aero foil it makes it look really sporty compared to the ones that dont have it. Im selling mine now only because I have won a new car and I will be up set to see it go. Over all I absolutely love my Pulsar.

    Amy Smith of Newcastle area Posted on 08 December 2012 12:30pm
  • I have purchased a pre-owned Nissan Pulsar N16 STL , 2004 model. It had 34,000 km on the odometer. All good for about 4.5 years. Then crank angle sensor needed replacing, then head gasket leaked, now dead transmission. It has done 230,000 km. I am not a hoon so I can't see how my driving could have contributed to the dead transmission. Mechanic was not too surprised by the carked tranny. I am not impressed though.

    Dan Posted on 02 March 2012 8:43pm
  • I seem to be only getting 280km to a tank in the city, this seems bad, 2003 nissan pulsar q sedan, why?. Any answers...

    andrew of sydney Posted on 25 February 2012 8:02pm
  • My Dad bought one of the 2004 Pulsar Q hatch N16 … long story short, at around about 140,000km the car started burning really badly. Then about 5 weeks ago the compression rate in the cylinders was way down and we had to get a rebuilt engine which ended up costing about $4,500 to get it fixed. The oil part of the story only happens to the hatch, because the sedan has a different engine. So my word of advice, don't get the hatch get the sedan N16.

    Luke Jones Posted on 10 September 2011 4:16pm
  • Bought the ST sedan two years ago mechanically it runs perfectly but during winter or the colder mornings while the transmission is still cold it tends to jerk from gear to gear but after a few K's it runs fine have had the tranny serviced twice know and according to the mechanic it is in perfect working condition. i just thought people would like to know that.

    Mario Micic of Melbourne Posted on 14 December 2010 10:04am
  • I bought hatch in 2001 and still have it. No problems at all. I change the oil every 6-12 month by myself and never been repaired. It used to be little hard to start up in some very cold morning, but it fixed it self up after a front bump replacement (my wife drove it to a wall). I drove it from Sydney to Canberra yesterday, all the way 100-125 Km/h even up the hill, only used 2/3 tank of petrol.

    Li Xin of Sydney Posted on 02 October 2010 12:12pm
  • n16 hatch,we have driven around for 2 years at 105,000 klms,was turned of at my wifes work,she did her shift and car would only turn over normally but not start?rang mobile repairer,he replaced crankangle sensor,engine cam module,but not problem,turned out was antitheft unit burned out by computer,then all key inition parts had to be recalibrated,5 of them,the cost was $1289.00,ive heard people have paid between $1500 and $2000,so expect the worst!

    fred corten of silkstone ipswich qld. Posted on 30 June 2010 8:31pm
  • I bought an N16 in early 2004 and still have it. 6 years already and have had no issues with this car, just regular servicing, most economical car that does it's job, better than a Corolla for value.

    M Sharma of Sydney Posted on 01 May 2010 9:04pm
  • I can't praise these little legends enough as I have an uncle in Singapore who has had two of these as they look really good and practical.They were known as Sunny or Sentra over there and I was a passenger in there lovely cars.You can't compare these to the C11 Tiidas that replaced them

    Franz Chong of 5000 Posted on 25 April 2010 12:06am
  • I've just parted with a n15 sedan and moving into a n16 hatch and i cant praise these little legends enough cheap 2 run reliable and after a head on safe in a crash would take a pulsar anyday ....

    Frank Kelly of Brisbane Posted on 28 October 2009 6:28am
  • can’t seem to find out how many kilometers the odometer should have for a 2003 model nissan pulsar lx n16

    Mark James Posted on 13 July 2009 5:30pm
  • I am looking at a sedan for my daughter and have a hatch for my wife, I found your article to the point and accurate in regard to the hatchback that I have.

    Stuart Duncan of 4655 Posted on 04 July 2009 9:23pm
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