Return of Nissan's triple-S hot hatch

FIVE-DOOR PULSAR: Gets here in June, with a 140kW SSS option.
FIVE-DOOR PULSAR: Gets here in June, with a 140kW SSS option.

The triple-S badge has been an important part of Nissan's performance history, having done for the company's smaller cars what the GT-R badge has done for its performance flagships.

Perhaps the earliest SSS Nissans to nudge the Kiwi enthusiasts' funny bone was the tiny and terrific wee 1200 rear- drive Sunny, which did all manner of giant killing in New Zealand in the 70s and 80s, while the 510 SSS Bluebird did the same in the United States and Europe.

Nissan Violet SSS models also did wonders for the brand, winning international rallies as late as the 1980s, while 180B SSS coupes were rare but sought after and, when seen, usually cared for with assiduous attention by their proud owners.

TRUNCATED PULSAR: We prefer hatches to the tune of 80 per cent of the C-segment.
TRUNCATED PULSAR: We prefer hatches to the tune of 80 per cent of the C-segment.

Triple S Pulsars were part of the New Zealand lineup in the early 90s, but the SSS badge tended to lose its street cred when it was applied to the last Bluebird range assembled in New Zealand, although the only difference between it and lesser models was the extra S on the bootlid.

There was no extra oomph and certainly none of the cachet enjoyed by its predecessors.

After some speculation, Nissan has officially confirmed the return of the Pulsar SSS hot hatch and, reading its credentials, this car promises to be exactly what that last Bluebird triple S wasn't: a performance car.

SSS: Performance badge has been well-missed over the years.
SSS: Performance badge has been well-missed over the years.

Instead of stirring a CVT gearbox with 1.8-litres and 96 kilowatts, this ultimate of Pulsar hatches will use a hot-to- trot turbocharged direct injection 140kW, 260-newton-metre version of the company's 1.6-litre four-cylinder DOHC petrol engine driving through a six-speed manual gearbox.

However, it won't be only power focused. Emphasis will be on driving dynamics too.

We have heard from Australian sources that the company's performance arm, Nismo, may also be looking at something hotter which, according to Nissan Australia's product planning manager, Philip Galway, could even be a homage to the amazing Pulsar GTI-R hot-hatch rally homologation all-wheel-drive special of the mid-90s.

The new Pulsar SSS is already available in China, but our car, through Nissan Australia, will be different, with unique Down-Under suspension and tuning to basically give a better ride and handling performance and on-centre feeling with steering.

Nissan says that although the car's suspension and steering will be fine-tuned in Japan, it will be checked and tested locally.

A Nismo model will be separate from the regular SSS, says Nissan Australia chief executive and managing director Bill Peffer.

Skope classic crowd

For those who haven't heard of Ruapuna Raceway's famous Skope Classic Car race meeting, it is an event held every February in celebration of great racers - cars and people - from the past, and it regularly attracts bigger crowds than most sports in Canterbury.

Recently, in perfect weather, more than 15,000 fans attended the meeting, several times what the best of our other summer sports manage to snare for their events.

It is also right up there with the numbers that turn out for Super 15 events in Christchurch, and it is a credit to the Canterbury Car Club.

At the same time, a big crowd attended the latest Toyota Racing Series round at Hampton Downs, while thousands of people visited the cake tin disguised as yellow plastic seats. The actual fans, however, outnumbered those who went to watch the latest Phoenix match, the crowd possibly having been depleted by the absence of cat lovers because of Gareth Morgan's anti-feline feelings.

This is a long way of saying how popular motor racing is compared with other sports in New Zealand, and the Skope is very much a local event.

This is also before the start of our New Zealand V8 and SuperTourer seasons too, which should draw even more people.

What a pity broadcasters, with occasional exceptions, give so little coverage to motor racing.

So much more coverage is given to sports we are no good at, usually with the least number of fans attending.

Like softball and basketball, motor racing deserves better coverage. Can anyone really ignore a demographic represented by the people who lined the fences and filled the embankments at Ruapuna?

The Press