Middle ground claim
All-round competence adds to the Euro-label impression
SOMEONE has been teaching Nissan about mean, mode and median. No matter the chosen values, the new Pulsar sedan occupies the middle ground in the small car class.
That’s a major lift on the Tiida that came before it and the Pulsar’s mix of comfort and space makes it a small car worth considering.
At $28,990 the top-line Ti is competing with the likes of the Mazda3 SP20, Toyota Corolla, Ford
Focus and Holden Cruze. Nissan’s approach has been to craft a plush, accommodating vehicle. It compensates for a lack of sporty looks or handling— that role will be filled by the SSS hatch later this year— by taking four adults and major urban road obstacles in its stride.
On top of that, it is packed with gear including dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth with audio streaming, a touchscreen with satnav and a reversing camera.
The Pulsar may be a new car, but there’s not much new in the way of features. The CVT is calibrated for fuel economy and, unless the accelerator is on the floor, is far less prone to emit the booming drone that blights similar transmissions.
It’s a fairly refined ride at 100km/h, where tyre noise is the biggest intrusion in the cabin. Click the sport button on the gearshift, though, and the perceptible lift in engine response brings a matching rise in noise.
A refined look with clean lines and LED running lights on the outside is matched by an easyto-operate interior.
The instrument panel uses a traditional two-dial approach for tacho and speedo— there is no digital speed display— and the audio controls are mounted on the steering wheel, along with the cruise controls.
Chrome highlights add upmarket bling and there are smart touches such as the wellpadded front door armrests.
The centre bin is set too far back to be easily accessed by front-seat occupants, though. And the default setting on the fuel consumption is in km/litre, not litres/km.
ANCAP hasn’t deformed the Pulsar’s panels yet, so there’s no official verdict on how the small sedan will perform. It has a regulation six airbags and safety software and, with a bigger, stiffer body than the Tiida, should rate as a four- or five-star car.
The Pulsar excels as an upmarket shopping trolley. It is competent in just about every department without being a standout in any of them.
The sedan is well-mannered at urban speeds, uses just on seven litres/100km of petrol in real-world driving and the steering is lightweight without being vague.
Load a pair of adults in the back and they won’t complain about leg space or headroom.
The boot is huge at 510 litres and you’d really have to be packing a load to be limited by the gooseneck hinges. The absence of a port or folding rear seats is a drawback to carrying long items, though.
On twisty roads the lack of power and outright handling starts to show as the CVT tries to hold peak torque and the soft suspension induces a touch of cabin-wobble through the left-right turns. Trivial stuff, given most owners won’t be aspiring to chase 370Zs through the hills.
The Pulsar is a genuine rival to the Toyota Corolla as a utilitarian vehicle designed to do everything well. It may be ‘‘ whitegoods on wheels’’ but the Nissan gives the impression you’ve bought one of those European labels.