The Pulsar was first released in 1978 and was a subcompact car as was the Nissan Cherry it replaced. The N10 series Pulsar was exported to Australia with the Datsun Pulsar name. This model was known as the Datsun Cherry or Datsun 100A/120A/130A/140A/150A in Europe and the Datsun 310 in the U.S.. In Canada, the Datsun 310 was available with "Pulsar" striping on the rear quarters. The Nissan Langley, from 1980, was a more upmarket Pulsar.
The Pulsar was available as a three or five-door hatchback, four-door sedan, a two or four-door van or station wagon, a two-door fastback with wraparound rear window, and a short-lived four-door fastback.
A mid-term facelift brought new E-series engines for 1981 and 1982.
A more angular version was announced in mid-1982. This model was also built in Italy by Alfa Romeo as the Arna (named after the joint venture which created it, Alfa Romeo Nissan Autoveicoli), using Alfa Romeo engines. Confusingly, the Italian models were also sold with Nissan badges, in Japan as the Nissan Pulsar Milano and in Europe as the Nissan Cherry Europe. At Alfa Romeo, the Arna was meant to replace lesser versions of the popular Alfasud, but never had the Italian car's appeal. The Cherry Europe also failed spectacularly in its home market - lacking the build quality and reliability of its Japanese built sister car, yet at the same time managing to inherit the typical 1980s Alfa vulnerability to body corrosion.