Lifestyle

Road test: Nissan Pulsar returns to Australian market

Nissan's Pulsar is back in showrooms.
Nissan's Pulsar is back in showrooms.

WHAT'S in a name? Plenty if you ask Nissan.

In fact, the Pulsar moniker is worth at least four times more than Tiida.

Nissan has plans to "quadruple" sales of its new small car which revives the Pulsar branding and says ta-ta to Tiida.

The Pulsar has been missing from Nissan showrooms for seven years but research shows it's still more widely known than the model it replaces.

Even the marketing is winding back the clock. The Pulsar still starts from $19,990, as it did back in 1996 when air conditioning and central locking were top-notch luxuries.

Yet this new Thailand-built offering has much more bang for its buck compared to its predecessors but is competing in a tougher market.

For now only the sedan is available, but a hatch variant will be on sale by June - including the much loved SSS variant.

Nissan Australia's managing director and CEO, William F Peffer Jr recognised this a "killer segment" with "a tonne of product", but he's confident they have the value package mix right with the Pulsar.

Comfort

Smart and well-dressed, the Pulsar cabin has widespread appeal which boasts more room than you would expect from a car in this genre.

Hard plastics adorn the entry-level ST console, but they don't look downtrodden. The ST-L and Ti models have some groovier finishes which raise the aesthetics bar.

Cloth trim in the ST and ST-L has an upmarket feel and would be easy to live with if you couldn't justify the extra nine grand to get the leather-finished Ti.

All pews are nicely supportive, at the base and laterally, while the driver has telescopic steering wheel adjustment.

Back seat passengers have reasonable space, although despite having good leg and knee space those much taller than 170cm could find head room limited.

Entry-level models have basic buttons and controls, with the higher-spec variants gaining colour screens.

The driver's primary gauges and dials are crisp and easily legible.

On the road

Quiet at varying speeds, the Pulsar feels skewed toward comfort.

Bumps and lumps are soaked up well although lean too hard into a corner and body roll arrives quickly along with typical front-wheel drive understeer.

Both transmissions do the desired job nicely with the continuously variable automatic sitting more comfortably at highway speeds than the six-speed manual.

The 1.8-litre powerplant is happy to rev, and when accompanied to the manual box has a reasonable engine note as you work up into the rev range. Doing the same in the automatic is accompanied by typical CVT whine.

Steering feels well-weighted and direct courtesy of the speed sensitive settings.

What do you get?

Standard equipment includes six-speaker CD stereo with MP3 capability and auxiliary input jack, cruise control, 16-inch alloys, air con, Bluetooth phone connectivity and power windows all round.

The ST-L trim adds a 11cm colour display, premium cloth trim, premium metallic dash trim, front fog lights and rear spoiler.

All the kit is thrown at the Ti, which has the same features as the ST-L but also features sat nav, leather trim, 17-inch alloys, keyless entry with push button start, Xenon headlights and washers, dual zone air con and rear view camera.

All Pulsars have six airbags, stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes.

Other options

One in four vehicles sold in Australia come from the small car genre. The Pulsar is up against the Toyota Corolla sedan (from $20,990), Mazda3 (from $20,330), Hyundai i30 (from $20,990) and Holden Cruze (from $21,490).

Practicality

Five adults can be carried in the Pulsar as long as they aren't too big and burly.

Storage spaces up front are limited, so finding a spot for phones and wallets can be a challenge if you don't want them in the centre console. There are two cup holders in the centre while all four doors can house bottles.

The boot space exceeds a hefty 510 litres. But you can't fold the back seats which is annoying for those who regularly carry awkward parcels or sporting equipment.

Running costs

Servicing prices are capped but Nissan recommends six monthly intervals.

Average fuel consumption costs are about seven litres for every 100km, which is not class leading but not bad either.

Funky factor

Expect the hatch to be the beauty pageant winner although the sedan has some nice creases and lines. The design won't inspire envy, yet neither has it been hit with the ugly stick.

Nissan expects the sales split of sedan and hatches to be about 50-50.

Seven colours are available, including grey, silver, red, bronze, black, blue and white.

The lowdown

Sitting at the price sensitive end of the market, Nissan has put together a good value proposition with the Pulsar.

But most importantly, Australians know and trust the name. What the heck was a Tiida anyway? Nissan has not delivered a game breaker, but it has produced a good car for Australian conditions that is quiet on the road with comfortable suspension settings - those wanting performance best wait 90 days for the SSS hatch.

The writer was Nissan's guest in Melbourne.

What matters most

The good stuff: Comfortable and quiet ride, large boot and full size spare, great name.

What we'd like to see: Bluetooth audio streaming across the range (only on Ti), split-fold rear seats.

Servicing and warranty: Three years/100,000km with 24 hour roadside assistance. Servicing is every six months or 10,000km. Capped price servicing for up to six years/120,000kms (whichever comes first). Average price over 12 services is $297.18.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Nissan Pulsar.

Details: Four-door front-wheel drive small sedan.

Engine: 1.8-litre in-line four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 96kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 174Nm @ 4800rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic.

Consumption: 7.2 litres/ 100km (m); 6.7L/100km (a).

CO2: 169g/km (m); 160g/km (a).

Bottom line: ST $19,990 (m), ST $22,240 (a), ST-L $23,650 (m), ST-L $25,900 (a), Ti $28,990 (a). Plus on-roads.

Topics:  cars, motoring, nissan pulsar, road test



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