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Used Nissan Pulsar review: 1995-2001

The proud SSS badge dates from the 1960s when Datsun, as it was then known, put it on its sporty sedans. Cars such as the Bluebird SSS were tearaways then, and the most recent SSS, the N15 Pulsar, also was a standout.

The Pulsar SSS was the performance leader in its class. The N14 model that preceded the 1995 N15 was popular with young buyers who wanted the day-to-day practicality of a hatch without losing performance or handling.

Model watch

THE N15 Pulsar was an all-new, fifth-generation model released in 1995.  It was longer and wider than its popular predecessor, meaning more leg and shoulder room for passengers.

But it was bland-looking, round and dumpy.  The SSS wagon-styled five-door hatch took getting used to.  It was hard to know whether it should be called a hatch or a wagon, because it more closely resembled a wagon.

Quirky looks aside, it was a serious small sporting hatch with a handy power-to-weight ratio of 10.87kg/kW.  Power came from Nissan's SR20DE 2.0-litre, double overhead camshaft, four-cylinder engine, which had four valves a cylinder and fuel injection.  At its peak it put out 105kW at 6400rpm and 179Nm at 4000rpm.  It could reach 100 km/h in little more than eight seconds and had a top speed of more than 180 km/h.

All that power went to the front wheels through a slick-shifting, five-speed manual gearbox.  There was also the option of a four-speed auto, but quite why you would want one in a hot hatch escapes me.

The Pulsar's suspension was a mix of MacPherson strut at the front and a multilink beam at the back.  There were coil springs and anti-roll bars at both ends. Handling was sharp and precise.  The steering was rack and pinion with power assistance, and the brakes were discs all round.

The sporty picture was finished off with attractive alloy wheels, standard with the SSS.  Inside were a premium four-speaker sound system with CD player, air-conditioning, sports seats and power windows.

A minor Series II update in 1998 can be identified by a revised mesh grille with the Nissan badge fitted to a centre vertical bar.

In the shop

Not much goes wrong with the N15 SSS. The body remains tight, so there are few squeaks or rattles, the interior trim wears well and the plastics don't fall apart.  Mechanically the 2.0-litre motor is a gem.

Jerry Newman of Nissan specialists the Cheltenham Service Centre says the cam timing chain can rattle if the car hasn't been serviced regularly to Nissan's recommendations.  Timing-chain rattle can also develop at high mileage, but the noise is more a nuisance than a sign of impending doom.

Newman also says it's important to use the Nissan recommended 7.5/50W oil or an equivalent, because heavier oils can tend to clog the engine internals and lead to damage.  The drivelines are generally trouble-free, but check the CV joint boots, which can crack and split.

Owner's view

Dominic Sequeira owns a 1998 N15 Series 2 Pulsar SSS with 75,000km on the odometer.  It's comfortable for daily driving, has plenty of grunt and is the right size for heavy traffic. He has had no problems with it, but says it can be thirsty if driven hard and it prefers premium unleaded.

"Glen" owns a 1999 SSS manual 2.0-litre Pulsar hatch which he says has been totally reliable.  It is economical, has excellent performance around town and responds well to mild revving to give a nice kick in the back.

Kay Hamer-Finn's 1999 SSS has done 90,000km without the need for major work.  As president of the Nissan Datsun Sports Owners Club, she regularly competes in club events. Her SSS has the original clutch, and has had no engine problems.

David Sporle says the N15 was a good car, but not great.  It was where the cost-cutting measures started to show, Nissan deleting such things as fully adjustable seats and leather around the gear stick.

Ian Bock bought his Nissan Pulsar SSS new in 1999.  It has done 113,000km and has been very reliable, though he was disappointed that the front discs needed replacing at 63,000 km. It returns an average of 9.73L/100km.

The bottom line

Bland exterior camouflages a pocket rocket, which offers great handling, plenty of get up and go, and impeccable reliability.

Look for

QUIRKY wagon-like styling
LARGER size means roomier interior
SIZZLING performance
SAFE handling
IMPECCABLE reliability
TIMING chain rattle

Pricing

Year Price From Price To
2001 $2,100 $4,290
2000 $1,800 $5,390
1999 $1,800 $5,280
1998 $1,800 $5,280
1997 $1,800 $4,070
1996 $1,800 $4,070
1995 $1,800 $4,070

View all Nissan Pulsar pricing and specifications

Pricing guides

$2,935
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$1,800
Highest Price
$4,070

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
LX 1.6L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $2,400 – 4,070 1995 Nissan Pulsar 1995 LX Pricing and Specs
LX Limited 1.6L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $1,900 – 3,300 1995 Nissan Pulsar 1995 LX Limited Pricing and Specs
Q 1.6L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $2,400 – 4,070 1995 Nissan Pulsar 1995 Q Pricing and Specs
Solaire 1.6L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $2,100 – 3,630 1995 Nissan Pulsar 1995 Solaire Pricing and Specs
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist

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