Since 1957, even before Nissan became Nissan, the name Bluebird has been synonymous with compact to medium-size vehicles. Using a solid platform and moving between two-door and various four-door models, the Bluebird has always had a strong consumer following. Australia has been a big part of the Bluebird’s life, dating back to the Datsun Bluebird 410 that was manufactured in Sydney. As for the first Nissan branded Bluebird, the U11, which was produced between 1983 and 1988, is where the passion for the sedan really took off. With a wide range of features, options, and layouts, including two different four doors and one wagon, the Bluebird was possibly the ultimate vehicle for kids as a first car, professionals as their daily driver, or even for grandparents.
With the first generation Bluebird, Nissan opted to have the layout be front engine/front wheel drive, the first for a Bluebird, as under the Datsun name the vehicle was always front engine/rear wheel drive. The reason for the change was due to progress of other manufacturers’ models, mostly the Toyota Camry. With the Camry-like boxy design even, the Bluebird had to offer similar features the destined all-star vehicle would have, including a wide range of engines.
Continuing with the boxy look, the second generation Bluebird U12 offered very similar styling, but came with upgraded and more power engines. Built between 1987 and 1992, the premium claim to fame for this generation was the limited used of the 2.0-litre SR20DET motor, a powerful 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that is still desirable to this day.
Also available with the SR20DET engine, the third generation Nissan Bluebird U13 could be one of the most noticeable Nissans around the world. The most noticeable change between this generation and the last was the rounded look. Starting in 1992, this contemporary body style was made for only a few years but was completed assembled in New Zealand.
The final generation of the purely named Bluebird was the U14. Manufactured from 1996 to 2001, this larger, boxier style offered larger engines from factory and the most luxury features standard for any Bluebird to date.
Looking back through the many generations of engines that came in the Bluebird, one will only truly look back at the mighty SR20DET, the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged engine, but other popular engines included the CA18, VG20DET, and various diesel power plants. In the first generation U11, the engine sizes ranged from 1.6-litre to 2.0-litre, with a maximum power of 75 kW with the largest petrol engine.
The second generation, or the U12, is where the magic started. Using not only an all-wheel drive system called ATTESA, the U12 could also be had with the SR20DET. This engine, a 2.0-litre dual overhead cam engine, came with electronic fuel injection and equipped with a turbocharger. Power for the first generation SR20DET Blackbird was a modest 150 kW and 274 Nm of torque.
From there, the third generation offered slightly more power at 154 kW. As the years went on, the engines got slightly larger while losing the turbocharger. As for the U14, engines included a base 1.8-litre and ranged up to a 2.0-litre, all petrol.
Over the years, the Bluebird has never been the stable of the Nissan fleet, but it has been one of the strongest and most well-equipped vehicles around. With high-powered engines and some great features, all generations of the Bluebird are desirable. Starting with the U11, the 1983 to 1988 models come standard with crank windows and an AM radio. Air conditioning, electric windows and locks, and FM radio were optional.
As the model line grew, the U12 could be had in many different trim levels, including GLi, Executive, T, Ti, and TRX. Depending on the consumer’s choice, each model offered a wide range of standard equipment. The GLi, which was the base model of the time, came standard with a 5-speed manual and an AM/FM stereo. From there, the trim levels went as high as the fully equipped TRX which could be found with a 2.4-litre engine, sport seats, sports suspension, body kit, and alloy wheels.
Continuing with the many different trims, the U13 Bluebird could be had in three different models: LX, Ti, or SSS. The base model, or the LX, had very few luxury features whereas the Ti offered air conditioning, a sunroof, and a wood grain dash. The SSS, or Sport, offered the same features as the Ti but also included a heads up display, fog lights, and ski-port.
One of the strongest aspects of the Bluebird over the generations was its powerful engine. Outside of this, the fact that the Bluebird was manufactured in Australia for many decades made it extremely popular. Today, Bluebirds fitted with the SR20DET still fetch a high price point as do rarer models, such as heavily optioned wagons. Direct competition for this vehicle includes the popular and powerful Subaru WRX with its turbocharged, all-wheel drive set up, but it does lack Nissan’s overall reliability.