New Nissan Pulsar worthy of the name

18:10, Feb 13 2013
Nissan Pulsar
High quality: Good choices of materials and textures, and well put together.
Nissan Pulsar
Massive boot: Holds 510-litres without even having to fold the rear seats.
Nissan Pulsar
Rear view: It's a more generic look and could be a Corolla or Cruze from a distance.
Nissan Pulsar
Pulsar sedan: Borrows many styling cues from the upcoming larger Nissan Altima and is all the better for it.
Nissan Pulsar
Class-leading space: Nothing comes close for rear legroom.

The Nissan Pulsar hit the New Zealand market 32 years ago, and apart from seven years when it was replaced by the inexplicably named Tiida, the nameplate has done sterling work for the company in the C-segment.

That's the one with Corolla, Civic and Golfs in it and one of the stronger non-specialist family and fleet segments in the car market.

Drivetrain: Transverse FWD, fuel-injected long-stroke 1798cc, 16v four cylinder, with twin variable camshafts. Sixspeed manual or six-step CVT.
Outputs: Max 96kW at 6000rpm, 174Nm at 4800rpm, 7.2L/100km (manual), 6.7L/100km (CVT), 169g/km CO2 (manual) 160g/km CO2
Chassis: Speed-sensitive electric power steering. Front McPherson struts, rear suspension torsion beams. 16 or 17-inch 6.5J alloy wheelrims.
Safety: Front, side and curtain airbags, five three-point lap and diagonal seatbelts. Vehicle Dynamic Control, Traction
Control, ABS, brake assist.
Dimensions: L 4615mm, H 1495mm, W 1760mm, W/base 2700mm, F/track 1540, R/track 1540mm, Weight 1226 to 1258kg, Fuel capacity 52L.
Pricing: Pulsar sedan (CVT only) ST $29,990. Ti $33,490. Pulsar hatch prices to be announced.
Hot: Huge cabin; massive 510L boot; high refinement levels; nice soft-touch interior materials; good connectivity and equipment.
Not: No manual version for NZ; could be quicker; some don't like CVTs (we do like them!); we can't have Aussie pricing (from
Verdict: With more space than most in the segment above, the Nissan has a broad market base and is good enough to take advantage of it.

Click photo for more views of the Nissan Pulsar.

It's also a segment that illustrates the difference between the Australian and New Zealand car business. The Aussies are much more sedan-oriented than New Zealand. Nissan Australia for instance predicts that the hatch and sedan split for the new Pulsar will be 50:50, while in New Zealand the mix will 20 per cent sedans and 80 per cent hatchbacks. Also, the Aussie market, being a larger and more diverse one, offers three specifications to our two. As well, a six-speed manual option will be offered in Australia. But for us, there won't be one, unless you opt for the new SSS - or "Triple S" 140kW hot-hatch version of the Pulsar. The Pulsar sedan reaches showrooms here next month, with the hatch following in June.

All "cooking" versions of the Pulsar in New Zealand will be powered by Nissan's new long stroke, 1798cc, four-cylinder engine, equipped with twin continuously variable valve timing control for both inlet and exhaust tracts. The engine develops a peak power level of 96kW and a maximum torque of 174Nm, and consumes 6.7-litres of fuel per 100 kilometres on the standard combined cycle for 160g/km CO2 with the CVT transmission, which is Nissan's latest, next-generation X-tronic CVT. It has a six-step facility, albeit it is one that doesn't offer paddles for hands on the wheel shifting.


The engine will whisk the Pulsar up to 100kmh in a segment average time of about 9.5 seconds, and though the engine has a characterful "thrum" in its exhaust signature - probably from its longer stroke - it's never intrusive, and contributes to the Pulsar's over all bigger car premise.

A benefit of the long-stroke nature of the engine is that the gearing of the CVT can be spread nice and wide, with a constant 100kmh cruise possible with just 1770rpm on the tacho once you've throttled back. It also means that constant-speed progress is hushed and luxurious at all velocities, and with good pliant suspension and very little wind flurry, the Pulsar is possibly the quietest sedan in its segment.

The suspension is not fazed by mid-bend breaks and holes, and though the Pulsar sedan is not a back-road blitzer in terms of tautness and stiff body control, (that's what the SSS hatch will be for) it is a pleasant and faithful steer offering predictable understeer when pressing on and never ploughing outwards excessively when grip is at a premium.

The lower-profiled 17 x 6.5 wheel and tyre combination of the Ti model certainly makes the upper echelon Pulsar feel more sporting than the 16 x 6.5 set up on the base ST. But they have the benefit of making the Pulsar feel cosy and relaxed. Which is - truth be known - exactly what the sedan buyer in this segment is looking for.

With that bigger car feel and quiet, measured progress, the Pulsar is not let down by its interior presentation. This is one big car with a simply massive cabin. The boot measures a nicely squared-off 510 litres with the seats still in place and this can go to three times that volume when you fold the rear bench.

Actually, "bench" is not the right term. Rear passengers get a seating area scooped for two and belted for three, and the legroom is arguably - without opposition cars on hand with which to compare it - the most expansive in the C-segment. In fact, owners of the previous Tiida model and the Pulsar before that won't be convinced that the new Pulsar was built for the same part of the market, so large is its space and feel.

It has to be said that no previous C-D segment Nissan Bluebird or Primera has the cabin volume of this car.

The cabin also impresses with its material choices and finish. While the base ST car's twist knobs and the Ti's digital-button versions for similar functions break no new ground, they slot into the double-wave contoured, soft-touch dash and its metallised- finish centre console very elegantly, and the auxiliary buttons on the wheel - for cruise control, sound system and Bluetooth connectivity - are logical and uncluttered.

It's a nice place to be and the seating up front - leathered-up in the Ti - is well shaped for large and small, thanks to rake and reach adjustable steering and plenty fore and aft seat movement.

The Pulsar sedan's styling proves that you don't need to follow slavish three-box proportions with a four-door design these days. The Pulsar introduces a whole new design ethic for Nissan in Australia and New Zealand, which will be followed through with the larger, Camry and Mazda6-sized Altima sedan later in the year. We'll be seeing a lot of the Altima later in the year as it forms literally the shape of Nissan's upcoming return to factory sedan racing.

The bodyline flows liquidly over the front wheel arches and courses back and upwards to the rear boot transom, and is fronted by a new trapezoidal grille design flanked by large, triangular headlight shapes whose top outer corners reflect the sharp edges displayed by the car's rearmost sideglass. It's all very cohesive from the front and side and if ever a sedan could win over a traditional hatch aspirant, the Pulsar could. From the rear quarter, the car is by comparison a tad derivative and could easily be mistaken for a Corolla or even a Yaris sedan.

Priced from $29,990 for the ST and $33,490 for the Ti, the Pulsar sedan might at first seem pricey compared to its Aussie counterpart, priced at $19,990.

But Kiwi cars have CVT as standard and as this is a $2250 option in the lucky country, so the exchange rate tells me the sticker on "our" ST is about right, especially with some makers' run-out cars costing the same.

Both the ST and Ti get dual-zone airconditioning as standard, alloy wheels (larger ones for the Ti) and remote entry, and a decent sound system. The ST's is a single CD player and radio with MP3 and the Ti's adds USB and iPod connectivity. The Ti also adds leather to the seating, push-button starting and keyless entry.

Safety specifications are the same in both cars, with four-wheel discs, ABS, traction control, vehicle dynamic control, electronic brake distribution, front, side and curtain airbags and three-point seatbelts all round.

Nissan tried very hard with its previous Tiida model.

The car's failure to engage with the public is exemplified by market research done when the car's name was current which revealed its badge enjoyed only 56 per cent recognition, compared with the name Pulsar's 72 per cent - despite it having been shelved for six years.

So back comes the Pulsar badge and it's so good to note that the car that bears it is worthy of the name.

The Press