Joel Helmes road tests and reviews the 2013 Nissan Pulsar.
The Nissan Pulsar is back and despite a long absence from the Australian car market it appears buyers haven’t forgotten the one-time small car value king.
Ironically, even now in 2013, the Pulsar starts from below that psychological line in the sand – $20,000.
Ranging from $18,990 up to $31,740, the Pulsar offers a choice of hatch or sedan and there’s a choice of two engines – the standard 1.8L petrol or 1.6L turbo petrol.
I had the premium sedan version – the Ti, powered by the larger naturally aspirated engine and mated to a CVT – a combo that will set you back from $28,990.
I have to say, overall, I was pretty impressed with the Pulsar.
From the driver’s seat the Pulsar has quite a long and thin feel about it; the actual external dimensions prove this to be quite true when compared to small sedan rivals including the Hyundai Elantra, Holden Cruze and Mitsubishi Lancer.
The Nissan Pulsar measures 4610mm in length, that’s just shorter than the Cruze sedan (4629mm), but longer than the Elantra (4530mm) and the Lancer (4570mm).
The Elantra (1775mm) and Cruze are also wider (1797mm), with the Pulsar and Lancer sharing the same 1760mm width.
In the cabin this long and thin feeling is exacerbated by great leg room front and back, however three adults might feel a bit cramped for shoulder space on the back seat.
On the road the Pulsar has quite a refined and ‘grown-up’ feel about it. Excellent steering, great turning circle and impressive road holding are the strong points.
The 50 series tyres on the 17”alloys found on the Ti let the ride down a little though.
I also thought the CVT was, at times, just a bit disappointing. As is often the case CVT’s tend to just get a little lost when asked to respond, particularly when a little more acceleration is required while tackling a hill.
You can switch the CVT over to ‘sport’ mode, this ups the acceleration but it’s probably just a touch too “over enthusiastic” to use as a permanent drive mode.
The engine delivers a respectable 96kW and 174Nm, but when compared to those same three rivals – Elantra 1.8L (110kW/178Nm), Lancer 2.0L (110kW/197Nm) and Cruze 1.6L turbo (132kW/230Nm) it looks a little inferior.
Fuel consumption for the Pulsar is a combined 6.7L/100km, which is better than those three rivals – Elantra 7.1L, Lancer 7.3L and Cruze 7.9L.
From the driver’s seat the visibility is excellent, the leather wrapped steering wheel feels great and the gauges and driver info screen are clear and easy to read on the go.
Around the rest of the cabin the new Pulsar impresses. Some nice chrome touches, satellite navigation, a reversing camera, push-button ignition and really comfortable leather seats are the highlights.
There is a little bit of cheap feeling hard plastic around the cabin though, but overall the feel is reasonably up-market.
Cabin storage areas are only reasonably sized but the boot is rather generously proportioned.
There’s no compromise on the safety front with the new Pulsar – all variants carry a maximum five star safety rating.
Summing it up – the small car market is absolutely overflowing with quality vehicles and it’s easy to see why the Nissan Pulsar has made a mark in the segment since its return.
The CVT though was a bit of a let down and while the Pulsar in this form is a good offering, I don’t think I could walk past the ultra-impressive Hyundai Elantra or turbo-petrol Holden Cruze.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 1.8 litre petrol delivering 96kW and 174Nm
Transmission: CVT auto or six-speed manual
Safety: Five stars
Price: From $18,990