Nissan Pulsar GTI-R Buying Guide

Rating: 4 out of 5.

When thinking of hot hatches, most people don’t even include Nissan’s version. The mighty Pulsar GTI-R was only produced for four years from 1990-1994. The sole purpose of the GTI-R was to meet homologation needs so that Nissan could enter the FIA Group A rally.

This little compact car had all the markings of a rally car. It was a lightweight, compact, AWD, 3-door hatchback with a turbo four-cylinder engine accompanied by a five-speed manual transmission. Cosmetic touches such as a functioning hood scoop and rear spoiler told onlookers that this car was a little more special than just a regular Pulsar.

The SR20DET engine produced an astonishing 227 hp and 210 lb. ft. of torque. With a weight of only 2,400 lbs, the GTI-R could do 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds, meaning that it could compete with the Porsche 911 of that time. It’s no wonder that some called it the mini GT-R.

Nissan Pulsar GTI-R
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Sadly, the Pulsar GTI-R was never offered in North America, but since it is over 25 years old, you can now own this understated little hatchback for as little as $4,500. We have created an in-depth buyer’s guide to give you as much information as possible before pulling the trigger on this rally inspired hot hatch.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Great power to weight ratio
  • SR20DET has a lot of potential
  • Great handling
  • Functioning aero
  • Cheaper than a GT-R

Cons

  • Small production numbers
  • The transmission is prone to failure
  • Expensive to maintain
  • Can be a little tight for bigger people
  • Hard to find one that hasn’t been abused

Common Issues

Like most 90’s JDM cars, the GTI-R is prone to rust. Most cases report rust in the rear quarter panels and its usually not just surface rust; the problem goes much deeper than that.

Another common issue that most owners had was transmission issues. As we all know, most of these cars didn’t stay stock. Once you turn start adding power, the stock components begin to fail because they were not intended to hold that much horsepower, and the transmission is usually the first one to show signs of failure via the input shafts breaking.

Lastly, not an expensive issue, but a very common one is the clutch pedal mounting bracket. The mount holding the clutch to the bulkhead seems to give way without warning. This is resolved by simply just welding the bracket back to the bulkhead, making it 10 times stronger than the factory setup.

Nissan Pulsar
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Average Prices

This little pocket rocket can fetch a pretty hefty price nowadays, thanks to their rarity. The GTI-R can be had for as little as $4,500, and the prices goes all the way up to $20,000 for a prime example. However, the average prices hover somewhere between the $12,000 to $15,000 mark, so its not a car for someone on a tight budget, but it sure is a blast to drive.

Here are a few examples of the cheapest and the most expensive ones currently available on JDMbuysell.com:

Cheapest:

1993 Nissan Pulsar GTI-R $4,500

1990 Nissan Pulsar GTI-R $7,250

Most expensive:

1991 Nissan Pulsar GTI-R $20,100

1993 Nissan Pulsar GTI-R $19,783

View all Nissan Pulsar vehicles listed for sale.

Comparable Alternatives

As we all know by now, there are several hot hatches from the 90’s that compare to the mighty GTI-R. Not all of them are turbo, AWD models like the true wolf in sheep’s clothing the GTI-R is, but they would give this car a run for its money.

Models and Specifications

Since the GTI-R was Only produced for four short years (1990-1994), there was only one generation. However, there were three different models produced in that time frame. We will be going over those models in this section.

GTI-RA

This version was also called RA/Alpha/Road/Luxury. The GTI-RA was the most common of the common of the bunch, since it was designated for the street. It came with standard road car options such as power windows. A/C, and ABS. Sometime in 1992, Nissan decided to do something rather odd. They removed some of the interior pieces that were strictly offered in the GTI-R and replaced them with off-the-shelf, regular Pulsar parts. To this day no one is quite sure why they did that.

GTI-RB

 The GTI-RB was also referred to as RB/Base/ Beta/Rally/Homologation. If the regular GTI-R was not light enough, the RB version had the common luxuries like the power windows and mirrors, ABS, and A/C removed to save a further 30kg. This version was designed with motorsport in mind, and therefore a close-ratio gearbox was offered as an option. Buyers had the option to add on Nismo goodies such as a limited slip differential and an upgraded suspension as well, making it the ultimate factory rally car. The only thing that gave the RA away on the outside was the lack of color-matched exterior door mirrors.

Sunny

The Sunny was virtually identical to the normal GTI-R, and it was intended for the European market. The only difference was that it lost a total of seven hp due to a slightly different ECU map that was used to make up for the lower octane fuel offered in Europe at the time. There were both LHD and RHD versions of the Sunny. Exterior wise, the only difference was the modified bumpers needed in order to accommodate the larger European license plates.

Production Numbers

Although only 5000 cars needed to be built in order to qualify for the FIA Group A, Nissan saw the popularity of the GTI-R and continued to build them for the next three years. In the end, just under 15,000 vehicles were built.

  • Pulsar GTI-RA = 13131
  • Pulsar GTI-RB = 701
  • Pulsar Unknown = 10
  • Pulsar GTI-R TOTAL = 13842
  • Sunny GTI-R LHD = 668
  • Sunny GTI-R RHD = 103
  • Sunny GTI-R TOTAL = 771
  • GTI-R TOTAL = 14613
Nissan Pulsar
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FAQ

Was the GTI-R offered in LHD configuration? 

Yes! In Europe the GTI-R was named the Sunny and was sold in both RHD and LHD configurations.

Is the GTI-R reliable?

Yes and no. This special edition Nissan Pulsar was designed to be a race car first, and a regular road car second. That being said, they can be a little finicky and we would not recommend using the GTI-R as a daily driver, but rather as a weekend car. 

Are spare parts easy to come by?

Yes. Being a Pulsar at the core, replacement parts are plentiful and easy to find.

Was the GTI-R offered in North America? 

Unfortunately, no. The GTI-R was never sold in North America, although LHD models were sold in Europe, but they are becoming increasingly harder to find. 

Is it difficult to drive a RHD vehicle?

Not at all. Within a week you will feel right at home in the GTI-R’s drivers’ seat.

Sources

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_Pulsar#GTI-R
  • https://www.whichcar.com.au/features/1990-nissan-pulsar-gti-r-fast-car-history-lesson
  • https://www.drivingline.com/articles/1990-1994-nissan-pulsar-gti-r-the-forgotten-hot-hatch/
  • https://performanceforums.com/forums/forum/general/general-discussions/94130-nissan-pulsar-gti-r-s-pros-cons
  • http://www.gtiroc.com/index.php
  • https://www.pistonheads.com/gassing/topic.asp?t=938584
  • https://www.autoweb.co.uk/topeleven/top-12-hot-hatches-from-the-90s
  • https://www.importavehicle.info/2017/03/nissan-pulsar-gti-r-buyers-guide.html

How to Import a Nissan Pulsar

Read our ultimate guide, How to Import a Car from Japan.

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