Nissan’s Skyline GT-R is rightfully held in high regard. When it was new, ‘Godzilla’ dominated the racing scene before making a splash on the silver screen. And even today, the R32 and R33 Nissan GT-Rs, along with the Patrol and Z-cars, are high on import fans’ wish lists. However, even when they first debuted, the GT-Rs weren’t exactly cheap. But there was another Nissan GT-R that was significantly more affordable, with its own racing history. That was the Nissan Pulsar GTi-R, and it’s now old enough to import.
What is the Nissan Pulsar GTi-R?
Like the Fiat 500 Abarth, the Nissan Pulsar GTi-R is a hot hatch. Unlike the Abarth, though, the Pulsar has all-wheel drive, like the Lancia Delta Integrale, Toyota Celica GT4, and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. That’s because, as Supercars.net explains, it too was designed for rally racing. Although it wasn’t particularly successful, Driving Line reports, according to Super Street, it made a strong enough impression to be nicknamed ‘Baby Godzilla.’
The Pulsar GTi-R didn’t get the Skyline GT-R’s twin-turbocharged six-cylinder. Instead, the hatchback got a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder pushing out 227 hp and 210 lb-ft, Toprank Importers reports. But, the Pulsar GTi-R did get the same ATTESA AWD system as the GT-R. It also had a 5-speed manual, and only weighed about 2400-2600 pounds (sources differ). 0-60 time is a claimed 5.3 seconds, which is actually ahead of the latest WRX, according to Car and Driver.
There were several versions of the Pulsar GTi-R available. The A-spec car had comforts like A/C, ABS, as well as power windows and doors. The B-spec had most of these niceties removed for weight-savings. In their place, the B-Spec offered performance upgrades like a close-ratio transmission and limited-slip differential. There were also a handful of Nismo cars built with the B-spec’s upgrades, along with a roll cage and strengthened suspension.
Is the Nissan Pulsar GTi-R a good hot hatch?
Although the Nissan Pulsar GTi-R wasn’t as successful as the Delta or Celica, on the streets it can definitely hold its own, Wheels.ca reports. Overall, Road & Track reports, the Nissan Pulsar GTi-R is a well-regarded hot hatchback.
The engine’s turbocharger is relatively small, which means turbo lag is at a minimum. Steering feel is excellent; the steering itself has some weight, but it’s never excessive. The UK’s RAC reports the AWD provides good traction on both wet and dry surfaces. And while 227 hp may not sound like much when the latest Civic Type R makes 306 hp, Hagerty reports that’s equivalent to today’s VW GTI.
PistonHeads forum users do claim the Pulsar GTi-R’s brakes and transmission are somewhat weak. However, Super Street reports one owner was able to tune his car up to 500 hp before needing to upgrade the transmission. Similarly, brakes are a common performance upgrade for many hot hatch owners. It also gives potential buyers the opportunity to change the brake parts for ones more-easily found online.
The Nissan Pulsar GTi-R was offered from 1990-1994 both in Japan and Europe, where it was known as the Sunny GTi-R. All are now old enough to be import-eligible.
Prices, according to Toprank Importers and Duncan Imports, range from $16,000-$20,000. That’s roughly on-par with the Lancer Evo III and Celica GT4, but significantly cheaper than any Skyline GT-R. And as a hatchback, the Pulsar GTi-R is significantly more practical than the Skyline. The ‘baby’ Godzilla may not be as fast, but it still has Godzilla DNA.
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