The first generation Pathfinder was introduced as a two-door SUV, and shared styling and most components with the Nissan Hardbody Truck. Built on a ladder-type frame, the Pathfinder was Nissan's response to the Chevrolet Blazer, Ford Bronco II, Jeep Cherokee, and non-American SUVs like the Toyota 4Runner, Mitsubishi Pajero, and the Isuzu MU.
Before the Pathfinder there was the Nissan Bushmaster (an aftermarket conversion of the Datsun Truck), but they are rare as well. Its optional 4WD system that could be engaged electronically while the vehicle was moving, unique at the time, and a four-speed automatic transmission. All WD21 Pathfinders were available in both 2WD and manually engaged 4WD configurations, with base models installed with a 2.4 L four cylinder engine. In certain countries this generation also came with a 2.7 L I4 Diesel Engine known as the TD27 with the option of a turbocharger installed later in November 1988.
In Japan, it was exclusive to Nissan Bluebird Shop locations, where it was called the Terrano as a smaller companion to the larger Nissan Safari. While the Pathfinder/Terrano was essentially based on the newly introduced Hardbody truck, the rear five link coil suspension was borrowed from the Safari to enhance its off-road abilities. The two door version was installed with the VG30E Nissan V6, that was shared with the Fairlady ZX.