Nissan brings back a favourite small-car name and a car with the style Aussies love in the new Pulsar Hatch

The name of the predecessor to the new Nissan Pulsar Hatch is better left unsaid. It was an adequate, serviceable car, but its odd name (Tiida) cruelled any chance of rampant popularity even as it was launched. So Nissan brings back a favourite small-car name in the Pulsar after a skipped generation and, with it, a vehicle with the kind of style and verve tens of thousands of Aussies loved.

The recent release of the Pulsar Hatch follows the launch of a sedan in January. The siblings are not only completely new inside and outside, but also different to each other in style and character. The sedan is conservative, the hatch is sporty.

The hatch range comprises four models and most importantly re-introduces the SSS badge at the top of the line. But there’s also the ST-S which loses a few of the frills, but not the power, to save more than $4000.

Where it fits
This is one of the most competitive corners of the new-car showroom, with plenty of contenders and constantly-rising standards. The choice alongside the Pulsar includes the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Ford Focus, Hyundai i30, Holden Cruze, Kia Cerato and Honda Civic among the volume-selling brands. A squadron of European imports, led by the Volkswagen Golf, is also tempting for buyers willing to spend slightly more. They’re all good, and closely matched, so the choice may boil down to personal preference for driver space, boot space, equipment, driveability or other factors. The Pulsar is a good all-rounder.

What it’s got
The ST and ST-L Pulsars come with a 1.8 litre petrol engine producing 96 kiloWatts. The ST-S and SSS boast 140kW from a direct-injection 1.6 turbo; that’s the most powerful engine we’ve seen in a Pulsar.

Transmission choices are a standard six-speed manual or CVT (continuously variable).

Nissan has put plenty of value into even the cheapest Pulsar. Its specification includes alloy wheels, air conditioning, Bluetooth audio with steering-wheel controls, central locking, power windows and a full suite of safety features.
That’s a lot of car for just under $19,000 when you think what that money could have bought 10 years ago.

The ST-S, which will soon be pride-of-place in the garage of bmag’s competition winner (for your last chance to enter the competition to win the car, valued at $30,585, see details on page 18), offers premium cloth upholstery, a 4.3 inch color monitor on the dash, fog lights, rear spoiler, leather steering wheel and 17 inch alloy wheels. This might be the enthusiast’s pick as it offers the same strong performance as the SSS for a lot less money. That isn’t to say the SSS doesn’t also give value for its $4250 premium. Its features include navigation, sports body kit, reversing camera, keyless ignition and self-levelling xenon headlamps in a quite comprehensive kit for a small car.

On the road
With the same engine, transmission and wheel package but marginally less weight than the SSS, the ST-S is a sporty hatch indeed. Maximum power comes at a fairly high 6600rpm and the engine welcomes vigorous use. However, turbocharging ensures plenty of torque and good accelerator response during city driving.

Nissan is one of many makers now employing CVT transmissions to lower fuel consumption and emissions and the version in the Pulsar is one of the best, delivering ready response, smoothness and low noise – plus consumption as low as 6.7 litres per 100km.

Bigger wheels and low-profile tyres on the ST-S give it a firmer ride than the ST and ST-L, though it’s entirely in keeping with the model’s character.

The dash and interior are nicely finished with quality soft-plastic surfaces and aluminium highlights. With wide, well-sprung cushions, the front seats are good at accommodating big blokes who might usually prefer a bigger car.

Specifications
Prices: ST manual $18,990, auto $21,240; ST-L manual $22,490, auto $24,740; ST-S manual $24,990, auto $27,490; SSS manual $29,240, auto $31,740; plus on-road costs.
Engines: Petrol four-cylinder, ST, ST-L 1.8 litre, 96kW, 174Nm; ST-S, SSS 1.6 litre turbo 140Kw, 240Nm.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or CVT automatic.
Fuel consumption: 1.8 litre, 6.7-6.2 litres/100km, Co2 161-169g/km; 1.6 litre, 7.7-7.8 litres/100km, 185-187g/km; capacity 52 litres.
Wheels, tyres: ST, ST-L alloy 195/60/16; ST-S, SSS alloy 205/50/17; full-size steel spare.
Dimensions: Length 4295-4315mm, width 1760mm, height 1520mm, wheelbase 2700 mm, weight from 1208-1340kg, turning circle 10.7 metres.
Warranty: Three years/100,000km, 24-hour roadside assist, capped-price servicing six years/120,000km.

Prices quoted do not include statutory and dealer on-road charges unless otherwise stated. Prices correct at time of writing.