Nissan Pulsar
(1995 - 2000)

  • Showing superb reliability (as long as it has been cared for).
  • No-nonsense sold little nugget of a car.
  • SSS variants genuinely fun to drive.
  • Very inexpensive running costs.
  • Disappointing levels of safety.
  • Finding good examples is a challenge.
  • Confirming the vehicles service and general history also a challenge.
  • Aesthetically nothing to write home about.
Overview

Nanna’s car. Go on. Say it out aloud. And be at peace with the stigma of Nissan’s N15 Pulsar before you buy used. Because it generally was, and in some examples still is, reliable motoring that continues to entice buyers on a hard budget.

Today, the N15 generation of Pulsar, arriving in 1995 in departing five years later, also serves as My First Car or a cheapo grocery getter on a shoestring. But there are a few things you need to consider about Nissan’s cost-conscious little hatch and sedan range before you commit, regardless of the extent of your, ahem, life experiences.

Fully imported, well made, decently packaged. There’s a lot to like about the model range that was, even in its time, patently dull if remarkably solid and dependable.

There was quite a bit of choice. Four core variants were offered in the LX, Q, SLX and big-engine SSS, as well as the Plus designation that attached itself to some versions from 1997 onwards. The range arrived from just under $23k in its launched year, but by 1996 you get into the Pulsar from a tenner under $20k for a manual LX hatch or splurge wildly on a full-fruit automatic SSS for around $34k before on-roads.

Clearly Nissan felt it overshot the mark with SSS, offered as a hatchback only, because when the N15 Series II facelift lobbed, in March 1998, pricing plummeted to $25k (man) and $27k (auto).

The staple power unit was the 1.6-litre petrol four producing 86kW and 147Nm: be still my racing heart.

The real action started right at the top of the range, with the SSS 2.0-litre outputting a vastly healthier 105kW and 179Nm. At 8.7sec claimed for the 0-100km/h sprint, the SSS was indeed a little rocket-ship for the times. Throughout the range, manuals are five speed, autos have four.

The shallow end of motoring’s gene pool didn’t offer much in the way of features back when Coolio’s Gangster Paradise topped the ARIA charts. Indeed, N15 is inevitably older than a good many of its younger buyers. What many consider to be fundamental equipment by 2022 standards – anti-lock brakes, air-con – weren’t fitted to most model variants. Particularly the early pre-update versions.

With hindsight, would you stump for a used LX, a base model so basic its highlights are central locking and power steering? If you’re desperate. At least the one-up Q added a driver’s airbag. Either way, you might find examples with air-con – it was optional – but you really need to sniff out an SLX to get such creature comforts as power windows and cassette player. The Plus brought air-con and – gulp – allow wheels and power mirrors.

In the early stuff, you really need the SSS, even if you’re a beginner driver. Why? Because it solely fitted anti-lock brakes in series I range.

Out of the later Series II (MY98) machinery, the SLX is perhaps the pick of the small-engined bunch, particularly if you’re after the sedan version with anything like decent kit. These latter flagships brought ABS, alloys, remote central locking and even a CD player. All Series II variants got a driver’s side airbag.

The N15 was put to pasture in Jul 2000 and replaced by a larger if equally Nanna-certified N16 successor, if without a feisty SSS version in its ranks.

Ads goes here
What goes wrong
  • In terms of the exterior, not a whole lot goes wrong. There are reports of rust under the mirrors but only really with cars located near the ocean, there are also the occasional reports that Pulsars that are fitted with a remote central locking system, the system can lock the doors randomly.
  • Like any 20 year old car, if the exterior hasn’t been cared for, the paint can fade and crack.
  • Inside, there are very occasional reports of lights on the dashboard not working but it should be noted, this is very rare.
  • Mechanically, these are pretty simple machines and many are of the opinion that the N15 was produced when Nissan were at their peak.
  • All N15 engines will show excellent reliability if serviced and maintained correctly however, with the their age now deep into double decade territory, it is critical to check everything made from rubber.
  • We’re talking cooling hoses, brake lines, drive belts and engine mounts as all will wear.
  • Timing chain and chain tensioners can occasionally be an issue. Listen for any rattles on a cold start up and if not seen too, can result in catastrophic engine failure. However, the lower the kilometres travelled and the more cared for, this should not be an issue.
  • Make sure to check the top tanks on the radiator. If it is brown, this is a sign of fatigue and the radiator may pop soon. The remedy is simply fitting a new radiator which should be easy and inexpensive.
Model range, pricing & features

LX

  • Price when new: $18,775 - $24,500
  • Price used: $1,500 - $4,500

The base model LX was available with the 1.8 litre 4 cylinder petrol engine either in a 5-speed manual or optional 4-speed automatic transmission.

The Series 2 edition of the LX brought a Driver’s SRS airbag, remote controlled central locking, air conditioning and a 4-speaker sound system as standard.

Features:

Steel wheels
4x three-point seatbelts
Central locking (manual)
Electric mirrors
Power steering
Steering wheel: height adjustable
Intermittent wipers
Rear wiper/washer
Tachometer
Cloth seat trim
Digital clock
2-speaker security coded sound system
Radio
Cassette player
60:40 rear split folding seats
Cargo cover
Front door pockets

Series 2 Updates:
Driver’s SRS airbag
Remote controlled central locking
Air conditioning
4-speaker sound system

Solaire

  • Price when new: $19,990 - $21,690
  • Price used: $2,000 - $5,000

The Solaire was a limited edition released in the Series 1 of the N15 Pulsar.

Compared to the LX, the Solaire added air conditioning.

Adds:

Air conditioning

Plus

  • Price when new: $19,990 - $21,690
  • Price used: $2,000 - $5,000

The Plus was a limited edition released in both Series 1 and 2 of the N15 Pulsar range.

Compared to the LX, the Pulsar Plus added 14-inch alloy wheels and air conditoning.

Series 2 additions included a Driver’s SRS airbag, Remote controlled central locking, 4-speaker sound system and a rear spoiler.

Adds:

14-inch alloy wheels
Air conditioning

Series 2 Updates:
Driver’s SRS airbag
Remote controlled central locking
4-speaker sound system
Rear spoiler

Q

  • Price when new: $20,185 - $26,360
  • Price used: $2,200 - $5,500

The Q was the mid-range model of the N15 Pulsar hatch range and added body-coloured bumpers/grille as well as adjustable headrests and a 4-speaker sound system.

The Series 2 update also added electric windows and 14-inch alloy wheels, plus the standard Series 2 additions.

Adds:

Body coloured bumpers and grille
Adjustable headrests
4-speaker sound system

Series 2 Updates:
14-inch alloy wheels
Rear spoiler
Driver’s SRS airbag
Remote controlled central locking
Air conditioning
Electric windows

SLX

  • Price when new: $21,125 - $28,680
  • Price used: $2,500 - $7,000

The SLX was the top-of-the-range model for the N15 sedan, and added air-conditioning, electric windows, ventilated disc brakes, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather gear knob, height adjustable driver’s seat and a vanity mirror for the passenger.

Series 2 updates brought the standard Series 2 features across the entire range plus anti-lock brakes (ABS) and 14-inch alloy wheels.

Adds:

Front ventilated disc brakes
conditioning
Electric windows
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
Leather gear knob
Driver’s seat – height adjustable
Vanity mirror for front passenger

Series 2 Updates:
14-inch alloy wheels
Rear spoiler
Driver’s SRS airbag
Anti-lock brakes (ABS)
Remote controlled central locking

SSS

  • Price when new: $23,470 - $34,200
  • Price used: $4,000 - $20,000

The SSS is the top-of-the range of the N15 range.

In the addition to the Q, the SSS features Driver’s SRS airbag, anti-lock brakes (ABS), 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights and sports contoured seats.

The Series 2 update brought remote controlled central locking and a moquette seat trim.

Adds:

Driver’s SRS airbag
Anti-lock brakes (ABS)
15-inch alloy wheels
Front fog lights
Sports contoured seats

Series 2 Updates:
Remote controlled central locking
Moquette seat trim

Should you buy it?

If your budget is in the $3000 to $7000 range, there are very few reasons why you shouldn’t but this generation of Pulsar.

Just like when these were new, the Pulsar is still an affordable, practical and economical no nonsense little nugget of car that is built like a tank and when thoroughly cared for and serviced correctly, should provide excellent reliability, even 20 years later.

Plus in SSS form, it is genuinely really fun to drive.

The only reason you’d hesitate to buy one is that the levels of safety leave a lot to be desired especially on the base spec examples, now that they’re getting older confirming their service history can be a challenge and aesthetically, they are understated to the point of maybe a little boring.

Besides that, the Pulsar is a great thing. If you’re on the tightest of budgets, find a cared for one of these with the right service history and buy it.

Just, don’t crash it.

Warranty & servicing

Warranty:

3 year/100,000kms

Servicing:

12 months/10,000kms

Tech specs

Body Style:

5-door hatchback (LX, Q, Solaire, Plus, SSS)
4-door sedan (LX, SLX, Plus)

Engines:

1.8 litre 4-cylinder petrol (LX, Q, SLX, Plus)
2.0 litre 4-cylinder petrol (SSS)

Power:

86kW (1.8 litre 4-cylinder petrol)
105kW (2.0 litre 4-cylinder petrol)

Torque:

147Nm (1.8 litre 4-cylinder petrol)
179Nm (2.0 litre 4-cylinder petrol)

Transmission & drivetrains:

5-speed manual, front-wheel drive (FWD)
4-speed automatic, front-wheel drive (FWD)

Fuel Consumption:

6.4 – 7.5L/100km

Length:

4120mm (5-door hatchback)
4320mm (4-door sedan)

Width:

1690mm

Height:

1395mm

Kerb Weight:

1065 – 1172kg

Disclaimer

Information correct as of May 6, 2022.

The advice provided on this website is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this advice, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.

Read our full terms and conditions here.