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The Nissan Pulsar is a compact car manufactured by Nissan that was originally conceived as a front-wheel drive replacement for the Nissan Cherry (also known as the Datsun 100A/120A). Almost all of the models produced were of a front-wheel drive configuration. From the 1980s, Nissan did offer four-wheel drive models, and in the early 1990s, the all-wheel drive turbocharged Nissan Pulsar GTi-R.
N10 series (1978-1982)
The Pulsar was first released in 1978. The N10 series Pulsar was exported to Australia with the Datsun Pulsar name. This model was known as the Datsun Cherry or Datsun 100A/120A/130A/140A/150A in Europe and the Datsun 310 in the US. The Nissan Langley, from 1980, was a more upmarket Pulsar.
The Pulsar was available as a three or five-door hatchback sedan, a two or four-door van or station wagon, a two-door fastback coupe with wraparound rear window, and a short-lived four-door fastback sedan.
A mid-term facelift brought new E-series engines for 1981 and 1982.
N12 series (1983-1986)
A more angular version was announced in mid-1982. This model was also built in Italy by Alfa Romeo as the Arna (named after the joint venture which created it, Alfa Romeo Nissan Autoveicoli), using Alfa Romeo engines. Confusingly, the Italian models were also sold with Nissan badges, in Japan as the Nissan Pulsar Milano and in Europe as the Nissan Cherry Europe. At Alfa Romeo, the Arna was meant to replace lesser versions of the popular Alfasud, but never had the Italian car's appeal. By this time, Nissan had more or less standardized its naming policy worldwide, so as a Nissan it tended, with few exceptions, to be known as a Pulsar.
Those exceptions included related models in the Japanese home market. The Nissan Langley was a Pulsar with more powerful engines and four headlights. The Nissan Liberta Villa was a four-door version. The Nissan Pulsar EXA was a two-door coupe version with pop-up headlights.
The Pulsar EXA was known in North America as the Pulsar NX and shared many of its parts with the Nissan Sentra. This version of the Pulsar NX was available from 1983 to 1986 and came with either the fuel injected turbocharged E15ET engine or the carbureted naturally-aspirated E16S engine. The Langley was built in Australia as the Nissan Pulsar, while the more standard Pulsar appeared there as the Holden Astra. The three-door and five-door hatchback versions of the Pulsar were also made available, replaving the old Datsun 310 hatchbacks, but they proved to be unpopular and they were withdrawn from Nissan's North American lineup after one year.
N13 series (1987-1990
In 1986, Nissan's design chief refused to follow the smoother, aerodynamic look of other cars. A squarer Pulsar (N13 series) was released as a result; innovations included a four-wheel drive model. The Pulsar - Astra relationship continued in Australia, with the Langley sold as the Pulsar there and the four-door sedan version of the Nissan called the Vector. The Langley also continued sales in Japan as a "Japanese-spec" Pulsar with a more powerful DOHC 1.8 L engine as opposed to its SOHC counterpart in Australia. The N13 Langley featured other options such as a limited-slip differential, luxurious interior and the much sought-after black headlights, center grille and round Skyline-style taillights. In countries such as New Zealand, the Sunny and Pulsar were combined into a single model, the Nissan Sentra — which differed (apart from the station wagon) from the models sold under the same name in the United States.
In Europe, it was sold as the Nissan Sunny, unrelated, however, to the Sunny sold in Asia. In South Africa it was sold as the Nissan Sabre. There were three and five-door hatchbacks and a four-door sedan.
The EXA was spun off as its own model, with an innovative modular rear end: customers could opt for a coupe, hatchback or an open-top car depending on what they put on. This version of the EXA was available in North America under the name Pulsar NX and was sold from 1987 to 1990. The EXA/Pulsar NX was replaced in 1991 with the Nissan NX coupe.
N14 series (1991-1994)
In 1990, the N14 model finally saw Nissan conform to the rounded look. There was no Holden equivalent. The Vector name continued in Australia in this series, from 1992 to 1995. It continued to be offered in New Zealand as the Sentra. In Europe, the Sunny name continued, applied to three, four and five-door models, alongside the Sunny California station wagon from Japan (called either the Sunny Estate or Sunny Traveller). The Langley and Liberta Villa models were not offered.
This generation was badged as the Nissan Sabre in South Africa, and the Nissan Sunny in Europe. The Pulsar was Wheels magazine's Car of the Year for 1991. Also, a coupe model was offered in this generation, called the Nissan NX100.
The N14 series also saw the introduction of the Nissan Pulsar GTi-R (labelled Sunny GTi-R in Europe). It featured a turbocharged SR20DET engine producing 169 kW (230 hp JIS) of power, as well as an early version of the ATTESA all-wheel drive system, which was developed into the ATTESA-ETS system found on the Nissan Skyline GT-R.
The GTi-R, which was identified as a RNN14 model, was entered by Nissan into the World Rally Championship. However, it did not prove to be very competitive, and many believe it was hampered by excessive weight over the front wheels, causing a deficiency in handling where the car could understeer excessively. The GTi-R raced under the Nissan Motorsport Europe banner. It was more competitive in the hands of privateers, winning the Group N class of the World Championship in the hands of Gregoire de Mevius. It also proved popular in the European Rallycross Championship.
N15 series (1995-1999)
In 1995, the N15 Pulsar was launched and sold in Europe as the Nissan Almera. New Zealand Sentras changed names (to Pulsar) during this generation as local assembly of the range ceased in favour of imports from Japan. Again, three, four and five-door models were offered. The station wagon continued to be from the Sunny, later spun off in Japan into the Nissan Wingroad.
The N15 Pulsar had 1.4 L, 1.6 L and 2.0 L gasoline and 2.0 L diesel engines in the European-market versions. Japanese models had 1.5 L, 1.6 L, and 1.8 L engines.
The N15 range in Japan included the Pulsar VZ-R N1, which was a racing homologation version intended to compete with the Honda Civic Type-R. Producing 200 PS from its 1.6 L SR16VE engine, it claimed the highest specific output for a production car prior to the introduction of the Honda S2000.
N16 series (2000-present)
In 2000, Nissan launched the N16 Pulsar, which included a minivan version (the Nissan Almera Tino or Nissan Tino) for the first time. The Wingroad continues to be sold as the Pulsar Wagon or Almera Traveller in many countries. To keep the Bluebird nameplate alive, Nissan shifted it to the four-door version of the Pulsar, and named it the Nissan Bluebird Sylphy in Japan. Unlike other Pulsars, the Bluebird Sylphy has a chrome grille.
In the Philippines and Taiwan, the Bluebird Sylphy is sold as the Nissan Sentra. In New Zealand and Thailand, the five-door Pulsar is imported from the UK, while the four-door model is essentially a rebadged Bluebird Sylphy. Consequently, each body style has a different front end. In Thailand and China, the N16 Bluebird Sylphy is sold as the Nissan Sunny.
French car maker Renault is now the owner of Nissan and also Samsung Motors. The auto manufacturers collaborated to form 'Renault Samsung Motors' , to produce the Samsung M3 . The M3, launched in 2002, was based upon the Bluebird Sylphy. The SM3 was offered with both a DOHC 1.5 L engine and a 1.6 L CCVT engine, as well as several integrated technologies from Samsung. In 2005, the SM3 was replaced with the SM3-New Generation model, which was based upon the Bluebird Sylphy GT. The Nissan X-Trail was spun off from this platform.
Nissan is expected to replace the Pulsar with models based on the Renault Clio. In Japan, the Nissan Tiida and Tiida Latio sedan replaced the Pulsar in 2004, while Europeans will get niche vehicles such as the Nissan Note to replace the Pulsar.
In October 2005, a new Nissan Bluebird Sylphy was previewed and appeared at the Tokyo Motor Show.