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Nissan puts a sporty coupe into its new-car showrooms

By name, it sounds like a galactic visitor from outer space.

Instead, the Nissan Pulsar NX coupe is the third front-wheel-drive car to be introduced by Japan's No. 2 automaker in the past year and is the first of more Pulsar models to arrive in 1983.

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The aerodynamic, wedge-shaped Pulsar NX, equipped with a 1.6-liter, 4 -cylinder engine and manual 5-speed transmission, behaves with enthusiasm. Its zippy performance shows up particularly when the rpms climb above 2,500 - and then the car takes off with a surge.

Even so, the Pulsar is no Mazda RX-7 or turbocharged Datsun 280-ZX. But then the price is not in the 280-ZX range either.

Base-priced at $7,399, the latest front-drive Nissan car replaces the not-lamented Datsun 310, also a front-wheel-drive - a car which never did a very good job for the company, anyway. Thus, its loss should not be missed.

With a curb weight of just over 1,900 pounds, wheelbase of 95 inches, and overall length of 162.4 inches, the Pulsar NX is a fun car to drive and goes where its nose is pointed without a fight.

The ride is firm but not choppy, although admittedly I didn't ride in the back seat.

As for economy under way, the manually shifted, 5-on-the-floor Pulsar NX falls sharply below the figures of which Nissan says it is capable - at least that was my experience behind the wheel.

In a week of average-type driving (commuting, shopping, etc.), I could never get more than 30 miles to a gallon. Nissan claims a highway figure of 50 and city figure of 35. In 5th gear on the Interstate, the figure should be up in the 40s.

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Billed as a 5-passenger car, I suggest the occupants would have to be on the small side. Maybe a 4-rider car would be a better description.

And while it's not as tight a fit as the Honda Prelude in the rear when the front seats are pushed back to their limits, the Pulsar isn't too generous with its rear-seat space either under the same conditions.

All Nissan Pulsar NX models come with a deluxe trim package which includes sun roof, stereo radio, power steering, and full wheel covers.

Peak horsepower is rated at 69 at 5,200 rpms while net torque is 92 pound-feet at 3,200 rpm.

One problem we ran into in this part of the country - New England where the late-fall mornings can be frosty indeed - is the climate-control system inside the car. The windshield is sharply raked and this may have something to do with it. However, it was a never-ending battle to keep the windows from becoming fogged up, especially with other people in the car.

In fairness to the car, it could be simply a combination of air temperature and moisture at the time.

The door locks are hard to work from the inside.

For style, the Pulsar NX rates a high grade. Aerodynamic to the core, it carries a drag coefficient of 0.37.

Pulsar is Nissan's big news for '83.

As for the rest of its '83 line, Nissan has put a larger engine in the Sentra , the base-line car, successor to the 210 in mid-1982. Standard engine is 1.6 liters in everything but the Sentra Deluxe MPG, which continues with the 1.5 -liter power plant.

The larger Stanza gets a 3-speed automatic transmission with lock-up torque converter as an option.

Power steering is standard for 1983 on the 200-SX.

The up-scale Maxima, the best the Japanese carmaker offers in the US, has a new rear suspension system for, the company explains, better handling characteristics while still allowing the wagon to carry the same cargo weight as before.

The '83 Maxima, among other things, has a footrest for the driver's left foot , a must, I suggest, in all cars.

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