Rewind back to the early 1990s, to an era where every manufacturer seemed to be bringing out hardcore performance road cars.
Compared to some of today’s bloated and watered-down offerings, the 90’s were a decade that gave us the Lancia Delta Integrale, Escort Cosworth, Subaru Impreza and this; Nissan’s own pocket rocket – the Sunny GTI-R.
In total, around 15,000 GTIRs were built, with 5,000 in the first year including the necessary 500 lightweight RB models for homologation purposes. Nissan wanted to enter the WRC, and in 1991 the GTI-R was their weapon of choice.
The 2ltr 16v turbocharged engine and 4WD system were the right ingredients, but the GTI-R’s successes in rallying were never fully realised.
The top-mount intercooler (or interwarmer as it was nicknamed) was never really up to the job of cooling the intake charge successfully, and combined with a less than ideal weight distribution; saw the car fall short of expectations and the project binned.
However, that hasn’t stopped the GTI-R developing a trusted following of enthusiasts the world over, and with the right time and effort put into the car, it can be an absolute weapon.
0-60mph in 5.4sec and 220bhp straight from the factory are solid figures and can be improved upon very easily.
There are examples out there putting out over 600bhp and the SR20DET is a great engine which flows air very well as standard, however the GTI-R’s main weak-point is the gearbox.
Some of the best examples are those that have been tuned to sub 350bhp levels but have proper brake and suspension upgrades, at which point reliability, performance and enjoyment can remain fairly well balanced.
Available as the Sunny in the UK and slightly more powerful Pulsar in Japan, the GTI-R is never going to win any beauty contests, but for the cash, there’s very little that can touch it. Which is why it’s in our hall of fame.
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