Nissan Pulsar ST Hatch 2013 Review

Nissan Pulsar ST Hatch 2013 Review

What you really want for a road trip is the top-of-the-range car, not the base model, but the $29,990 Nissan Pulsar ST acquitted itself nicely on a weekend away to Rotorua. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have relished the chance to punt the turbo SSS version through State Highway 1B, but that can wait for another day because I was glad for the better fuel economy.

nissan-pulsar-st-hatch-2013-interiorThe Nissan reports the petrol consumption in kilometers per litre rather than litres per 100km. We achieved approximately 14km per litre on the trip back from Rotorua to Auckland, which converts to a moderately respectable 7.1l/100km. This is nowhere near the 6.7l/100km combined cycle figure Nissan quotes, but not bad considering it has a naturally aspirated 1.8-litre petrol engine mated to a CVT gearbox (not as efficient on the open road as a standard auto ‘box), and carrying all that extra weight. Nissan would have produced that test figure driving on an almost empty tank with a driver made of helium.

nissan-pulsar-st-hatch-2013-rqThe mud might have been hot and bubbling in Rotorua, but you can’t really say that about the Pulsar’s performance. The engine produces 96kW and 174Nm and you have to work that pedal into the carpet to get overtaking performance. Fortunately the

kerb weight is a slimline 1218kg and it did cope adequately with four adults plus light luggage cruising at 100-105kph using the cruise control.

nissan-pulsar-st-hatch-2013-rear-seatsBeing the base model, you get a fairly basic interior with lots of grey plastics, hard-wearing seat fabric and not much in terms of toys. My front seat passenger commented that the seat was comfortable as we were travelling back through Huntly. There’s no Bluetooth audio streaming in the 4-speaker stereo, and I couldn’t connect my iPhone 5 via Bluetooth for voice calls, getting stuck in an endless voice-activated loop that I got fed up with quickly.

nissan-pulsar-st-hatch-2013-f

As far as the driving experience goes, you get a manually adjustable seat, plus a tilt and telescopically adjustable steering wheel, and there is no problem finding a decent driving position. It puts in a solid performance for the money, dynamically speaking. The speed-sensitive power steering is direct enough, getting firmer as you go faster, which makes manoeuvring at lower speeds very easy. The suspension is compliant with perhaps a little too much lean in the corners, but it’s a generally comfortable car for travelling a long distance.

Road noise was noticeable on coarser surfaces, and there was a high-pitched whine/whistle on one journey that I never got to the bottom of, but sounded like it might be something trapped in the air conditioning system (and perhaps just peculiar to the test model I was using).

nissan-pulsar-st-hatch-2013-rThe Pulsar is quite a short car (4.3m) and was easy to manoeuvre with its 10.7m turning circle, but thick rear pillars and no reversing sensors meant I was over-cautious parallel parking. Despite the rear wheels being set quite a way back (which gives the opportunity for good rear legroom), the boot size is about average for this segment.

nissan-pulsar-st-hatch-2013-wheelThose rear pillars look good and represent the base of the shoulder line that draws your eye from the front wheel arch around to the taillights. The strong nose line extends from the grille forming a naturally shaped wedge that flows along the bonnet edges and up into the A-pillars.  Sixteen-inch wheels wearing 195/60R16 tyres match the general styling of this model. Even though I’ve just made the styling sound awesome, it is quite conservative, so it’s not going to offend anyone. If you want it to look cool then you need the steroidal SSS version.

Some of you might remember the hot SSS version from a little way back, and perhaps even the GTi-R from way, way back. Well, there has been a gap as the Pulsar was previously discontinued in 2007 when the Tiida was launched. Back then you didn’t get much in the way of safety gear, and only a three-star ANCAP crash test. Now, you get the full complement of electronic safety equipment with stability control, anti-lock braking electronic brake-force distribution, traction control, and more, plus six airbags. That’s all wrapped up in a five-star ANCAP crash test rating.

So, to sum it up: it’s a sub-$30,000 hatchback which performs well, but it’s stuck in a sandwich created by the much improved Holden Cruze at $30,900 (which doesn’t have a god-awful CVT gearbox) and the stunningly cheap (but dangerously slow) Kia Rio EX  at a wallet-friendly $26,790. If you’ve got a bit more money you could also consider the Pulsar ST-S or SSS (which I’m looking forward to driving in September), Kia Cerato and the Hyundai i30.

Price: $29,990

Pros

  • Well-priced
  • Good rear seat legroom

Cons

  • No dead pedal
  • No iPod/USB/Bluetooth audio streaming

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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