Nissan Pintara is First Produced
The Nissan Pintara was a mid-sized family of vehicles manufactured by Nissan Australia from 1986 until 1993.
The first generation R31 Nissan Pintara was a mid-sized family car built by Nissan Australia at its Clayton assembly plant in Melbourne. Replacing the previous generation U11 series Nissan Bluebird, it was a version of the Nissan Laurel with a single fuel-injected 2.0L four-cylinder engine, entirely built and sold in Australia to challenge the Mitsubishi Magna. Like the Skyline/Laurel, it was offered in sedan and station wagon form.
A TRX bodykit package was offered for the R31 GX and GXE Pintara Sedans, featuring a front and rear air dam, rear spoiler, side skirts, grille cover, alloy wheels and low profile tyres. Unlike the later U12 TRX it did not feature any mechanical upgrades, merely an additional bodykit.
*GLi, Executive, GX, GXE, TRX - 2.0 L CA20E I4, 78 kW (105 hp)
RWD CA20E, 2 litre 4 cylinder SOHC MPI fuel injected with electronic concentrated control system (ECCS) including electronic ignition. It featured 2 spark plugs per cylinder to help meet emission requirements.
bore and stroke: 84.5 x 88mm
displacement: 1974 cc
compression ratio: 8.5:1
max power: 78 kW (105 hp) @ 5200 rpm (din)
max torque: 160 N·m (120 ft·lbf) @ 3200 rpm (din)
The Nissan Pintara isn't the sort of car that stands out in a crowd - either on appearance or features - however it's basically a sound vehicle, with good standards of comfort, handling and performance.
The trouble for Nissan is that the Pintara competes head-on with long-time market favourites, the Mitsubishi Magna and the Toyota Camry and that can make it tough when you don't really have anything special to offer.
But there are a couple of areas where the Pintara does have an edge over its competitors - there's better rear leg space than a Camry and the 2.4 litre model in particular;, provides better performance. Against the Magna, it has a distinct price advantage.
Unlike the Camry, the Pintara isn't available in wagon form. Instead, Nissan has come up with what it calls the Superhatch - nothing really unusual, but nevertheless a potentially useful model. Both the sedan and Superhatch come in GLi, Executive, T and Ti versions, plus there's a sporty TRX sedan (pictured). Engines are 2.0 litre in the GLi and Executive and 2.4 litre in the rest. GLi's come only with manual transmission and Executives only with automatic, the rest offer the choice of either manual or auto.
Prices start at $18,775 for a GLi sedan and rise to a high of $29,348 for an automatic Ti Superhatch. The popular Executive sedan costs $21,044. Airconditioning is a dealer-fitted option at around $1600.
Styling and features
When released in November 1989, these front-wheel-drive Pintaras introduced much rounder and more contemporary styling than the somewhat boxy-looking previous models however except for the Superhatch and the TRX, they still rate as rather bland and conservative in the looks department.
According to Nissan, a good deal of work went into strengthening the Pintara's original Japanese-designed body to ensure durability in harsh Australian conditions and this shows in the car's generally solid feel over various types of road conditions. However, in terms of detail finish, the Pintara rates only average and in some respects, feels a little tinny. One of the test cars had excessive wind noise about the driver's door due to poor sealing, and paint finish standards are nothing special.
As expected, equipment levels vary considerably between the various models. The GLi doesn't have power-assisted steering and you have to buy a T, Ti or TRX to get rear disc brakes. The Ti also adds things like standard air conditioning, alloy wheels, power windows and exterior mirrors, central locking, viscous-coupling limited-slip differential, higher grade sound system with graphic equaliser and rear headphones plus more luxurious trim and many additional comfort and convenience features. Apart from air conditioning, the TRX has most of these extra features, along with upgraded suspension, tyres and wheels; body skirts and spoilers and sports seats.
Comfort and space
Driver and front passenger comfort in the Pintara is enhanced by Nissan's excellent front bucket seats, as well as having ample padding, they are shaped to properly support the occupant thus minimising fatigue and improving driver control. There's ample leg room for both the driver and front passenger and head room is satisfactory.
Rear leg space is good in the Pintara it's better than a Toyota Camry but not as generous as in a Mitsubishi Magna. There's room for three adults at a pinch across the rear seat, but two would be more comfortable. Rear head room is sufficient for average height adults but tall occupants may find their heads brush the hood lining. Comfort is good in the two outer seating positions and fair in the centre.
Ride comfort rates about average for the class, with the excellent front seats helping to mask any deficiencies in suspension damping. With four large dashboard vents and a good flow of air through the system, the Pintara rates well on ventilation. The Ti's standard air conditioning includes automatic temperature control.
The Pintara has a good-size boot that's a little deeper than usual, however it's spoilt by a higher-than-average loading lip which can make it awkward to load large, heavy items. All Superhatches have a split-fold rear seat, but the GLi and Executive sedans miss out on this feature.
Behind the wheel
Apart from the fact that some drivers may feel they are sitting low in relation to the dash (only the Ti and TRX provide height adjustment for the driver's seat), the Pintara's driving compartment rates as very "user-friendly". The dashtop curves gently in front of the driver to embrace a clear, easy-to-read instrument panel, with a separate digital clock on models above the GLi and Executive. Except for the radio - which for some people, may prove a stretch to operate - all controls are easy to reach and clearly marked.
A tilt-adjustable steering wheel and driver's footrest (standard across the range) contribute towards driver comfort and convenience. The Pintara doesn't have a very compact turning circle, but with power steering (optional on GLi's and standard on everything else) and good vision in all directions, it's a relatively easy car to manoeuvre and park.
On the road
Best performers in the Pintara range are the 2.4 litre manuals, while the "slugs" are the 2.0 litre autos. The 2.4 litre manual T test car accelerated well, with good power for overtaking and hill-climbing, but proved difficult to drive smoothly in slow traffic as the throttle was over-sensitive to small movements. The 2.0 litre manual GLi tested was noticeably slower than the 2.4, but performed satisfactorily over our usual combination of city, suburban and country driving.
Though the 2.4 litre versions give best performance, they wouldn't be first choice if fuel consumption is a priority. In automatic form, average consumption for a Pintara 2.4 is usually around 13.0 litres/100 km. The manual 2.4's do better at around 12.0 litres/ 100 km, while consumption for a manual 2.0 litre car is usually around 11.0 litres/100 km.
Apart from the earlier-mentioned wind noise about the front door on one test car, these Pintaras are generally quiet at steady speeds. Interior noise level readings at 80 km/h were equal with or better than others in this class. The new TR Magna is a quieter car but it's really a "half-a-class" bigger vehicle. Under acceleration, there is some general harshness in the Pintara that detracts from the car's overall appeal.
The best handling Pintara in the range is undoubtedly the TRX, however the others are perfectly adequate for everyday driving conditions. Certainly, there is some body roll and moderate understeer when pushing hard, but overall, the car's road holding and cornering capabilities are good. High speed stability is also good.
Braking in these Pintaras requires only a light pedal effort and generally, the results are good. I say generally, because with the low pedal effort, it's fairly easy to lock the front wheels in emergency braking procedures. Once you're aware of this and don't press quite so hard on the pedal the Pintara is capable of pulling up in short distances with no drama.
Though one NRMA engineer who drove the 2.4 litre manual T test car described its gear change action as poor, I had no problems with it, or the 2.0 litre GLi. The only adverse comments I had about the transmission were backlash through the gear lever when suddenly backing off the accelerator and the clutch action lacking in good "feel".
Accessibility for servicing is about on par with other medium front-wheel-drive cars; not brilliant, but satisfactory for routine maintenance checks and minor repairs. The accessory belts could prove a little difficult to replace as there is limited space between this end of the engine and the inner guard panels.
Maintenance is at the usual intervals with the initial service being carried out at 1000 km, then every 10,000 km or six months. Pintara new car warranty, at two years/40,000 km, is twice as good as the Ford Corsair (same car, built by Nissan, sold by Ford) and other competitors such as the Toyota Camry/Holden Apollo.
Though the Pintara doesn't rate highly in my estimation as an ideal vehicle for towing heavy loads, Nissan suggests it's capable of towing up to 1000 kg (brake equipped trailer) or 450 kg for a trailer without brakes. Towball download (an important consideration when towing with front wheel-drive cars), mustn’t exceed 10 per cent of the trailer mass.
There isn't much about the Nissan Pintara that's likely to generate excitement amongst buyers, but then I guess that's not really what the popular medium four-cylinder class is all about. Buyers in this segment usually go more for practicality, reliability and value-for-money.
Overall, I rate the Pintara as a fairly ordinary-looking, but competent all-rounder. Occupant space and comfort are better than average, and in the 2.4 litre versions at least, performance is pleasing. Aspects that aren't quite so desirable include the city/suburban fuel consumption of 2.4 litre automatic models, the general levels of harshness and some lack of attention to detail finish.