Nissan Pulsar moves into the space age

Last updated 07:10 29/05/2013

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The obvious reason why people buy sedans is because they have a boot.

Power plant: 1.8-litre four cylinder DOHC petrol engine, 96 kW at 6000 rpm, 174 Nm at 4800 rpm.

Running gear: Front-wheel drive. Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmission with manual Sport mode. McPherson strut front suspension, torsion beam setup at the rear. Electric power steering.

How big: Length 4615mm, width 1760mm, height 1495mm, wheelbase 2700 rpm.
How much: $33,490.
What's good: Very spacious, nicely comfortable, easy drive.
What's not: Not the fastest vehicle in the market segment. Rear seats don't fold down.
Our verdict: This car makes the available boot space in most larger sedans look silly. That alone makes the new Pulsar appealing.
It's surprising, therefore, how useless the available space is in many of the sedans currently on the market. It's not so much because of any lack of room inside the bodyshells of these vehicles, but it's because their designers will insist on positioning various compartments on the outer edges of the boots, thus reducing their load width.

I play golf, and often I just about go nuts trying to slide a set of clubs and trundler into the narrow load compartment offered by some sedans, even large ones. You can't get them in sideways, there's not enough boot length either, so often the end result is that I am forced to lie my golf bag across the back seat.

But I forgot all about those troubles when I drove a small-medium sedan recently arrived in New Zealand - the Nissan Pulsar. Now here's a car with a seriously big boot. Technical data tells me it offers 510 litres of load space, which is more than the boot space available in the much larger Nissan Maxima sedan. It's also considerably more than the space offered by other small-medium sedans such as Holden Cruze, Kia Cerato, Toyota Corolla, Mitsubishi Lancer and Mazda3.

And pleasingly, the Pulsar's boot has plenty of width. So it was with the greatest of pleasure that I discovered I was able to easily sling my golf clubs and trundler into that load space. Golfers will understand that at times you need to be able to do that - especially after a bad round.

Boot space aside, there's a lot to like about this new Pulsar. Yes, I know that it's a sedan and that New Zealanders much prefer their small-medium vehicles to be five-door hatchbacks, but this 1.8-litre vehicle appeals because it is spacious, comfortable and easy to drive.

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It's also got a name that is well-known to New Zealanders. The first Pulsar was introduced here way back in 1978 as a replacement for the Sunny, and it proved popular as a new car and used import right up until it was replaced by the Tiida in 2007.

Now the Tiida has gone and the Pulsar is back. This time around the car for New Zealand is assembled in Thailand - where it is sold on the local market as the Sylphy which to me sounds more like a medical condition than a car - and it has arrived in the sedan form and will soon by joined by the hatch version.

Pulsar sedan is a good-looking if rather conventional car, with lines not as swept as say the Kia Cerato sedan that has also just arrived here. But that conventional design is what is responsible for the Nissan's impressive interior room - in addition to all those litres of boot space, there's also big-car leg room for those in the rear.

The only design issue with that rear area is that the back seats don't fold down. Maybe the Nissan designers figured that 510 litres was enough and so didn't need to have the fold-down mechanisms in place. However, the centre part of the back seat does fold down to allow longer loads such as skis to be carried.

The Nissan is available as an entry ST model for $29,990 and as a higher-specification Ti for $33,490 - prices that incidentally are exactly the same as the Cerato. We're been driving the Ti, which comes with leather upholstery, premium metallic dash trim and other extras, and all this contributes to a comfortable and well set-out interior environment.

Powering the vehicle is an updated version of the same 1.8-litre engine that was under the bonnet of the Tiida, and this time around it offers slightly more power, 96 kilowatts at higher revolutions, while the torque of 174 newton metres remains the same. These are fairly modest figures when compared to some of the opposition, and it feels as such when the Pulsar is being driven. The fact the engine is mated to a smooth-operating continuously variable automatic transmission adds to this feeling. But while it is easy to describe driving experience as sedate, I think I prefer to describe it as unobtrusive. Pulsar simply goes about its job as a small-medium sedan without being outstanding in any particular area.

Ride and handling feel good, with the Ti shod with lower profile 17-inch wheels and tyres to give just a little extra tautness to its performance.

And the, of course, there's the Pulsar's special feature - that very good interior room. As I said at the start, most people buy sedans because they have a boot. In this case the boot and the room in the back seat combine to make this Nissan one of the most appealing on the market.

- Taranaki Daily News

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