1990 Nissan Pulsar GTI-R owner review

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Aaron
Author
Published
PROS
  • Raw performance
  • Rarity
  • Owners club
CONS
  • Reliability
  • Parts availability

About the Nissan Pulsar

Aaron purchased this Nissan Pulsar used for $11,000 (including all on-road costs) in 2005. Aaron would buy this car again because: “The rawness of these old AWD turbo cars is something you just can’t get in a modern vehicle. Nowadays these cars have appreciated in value significantly due to the popularity of JDM cars from this era, a good one is now valued at around 4x the price I paid at the time.”

How reliable has your car been? Tell us about any issues.

This was irrefutably the single most unreliable car I have ever owned.

The GTI-R was a car born from the WRC homologation requirements of the time, and Nissan gave up after only a short period so the platform did not see long term testing or enhancements. During my 3 years of ownership, repair costs far outstripped the purchase price of the car.

I can’t blame that all on Nissan though, JDM cars are often not well looked after and it pays to take care when importing a car from Japan.

What do you think of the ownership experience with your car?

Using the GTI-R as a daily driver was a fun but harrowing experience. Many days and weeks were spent using loan cars or begging for lifts, while waiting for one gremlin after the next to be diagnosed and repaired.

The driving experience, combined with the excellent support of the local owner’s club, make the GTI-R a rewarding car to own. I would just recommend any potential owners consider it a weekend or fun car option rather than a daily.

Are you happy with the price and features of your car?

At the time, the car was a bargain in terms of bang for buck. I purchased during the period where the 15 year rule existed but was about to be changed to 25 years, meaning when the car arrived it needed only minor roadworthy items attended to rather than a full compliance.

Typical for Japanese performance cars of the time, there was a long list of factory options. My car was fitted with front and rear bash plates, metal footrest, strut braces and an umbrella for those rainy days (though I never used it).

As an overall cost of ownership though, I could have purchased a brand new car for the cost of this one plus repairs. I don’t regret owning this car though, and I would do it all again.

What do you think of the performance and economy of your car?

Owning a high performance JDM vehicle, fuel economy is not high on the list of priorities.

A 50L tank of 98 RON could easily be dispensed with in around 300km, numbers a gas guzzling V8 could beat without much effort.

All of that is forgotten of course when your right foot gets planted and the turbo boost pushes you back in the seat.

My example was fitted with the optional close ratio gearbox, which meant that at a cruising speed of 100km/h it was sitting at near 3000rpm which was great for overtaking but contributed to the horrible fuel economy mentioned earlier.

The GTI-R is often mistaken for other vehicles by those not in the know, common ones I came across were Golf or Starlet, making the traffic light grand prix interesting when surprising other performance vehicles.

What do you think of the technology in your car?

For the era, the technology in the GTI-R was decent. Electric windows, electric folding mirrors, climate control air conditioning and ABS braking were still not yet mainstream features in the average vehicle. A factory option inbuilt umbrella in the driver’s door was a cool feature not often seen except for in modern Skodas or luxury vehicles.

What do you think of the ride comfort and handling of your car?

With a version of Nissan’s ATESSA AWD system, and my example having suspension modifications such as NISMO strut braces and aftermarket shocks and springs, handling in any conditions was more than acceptable.

Ride comfort does take a bit of a hit with the modifications, but I found this car better than similar modifications on my later Mitsubishi Colt.

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Ratings
Overall6.9
Show Breakdown
Technology 8
Reliability 3
Ride & Handling 8
Price & Features 6
Performance & Economy 8
Ownership Experience 8.5

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