SSS — with three con­so­nants, Nis­san marks the de­fin­i­tive re­turn of the warm hatch

Herald Sun - Motoring - - On the Web - PAUL POT­TINGER CARS­GUIDE EDI­TOR paul.pot­tinger@cars­

Nis­san’s Pul­sar SSS, a badge not seen for 12 years, marks the de­fin­i­tive re­turn of the warm hatch at a fam­ily friendly $30K

A FEEL­ING of warmth per­vades the very mid­dle of the small car class. Barely dis­cernible at the year’s out­set, the sen­sa­tion spreads slowly but surely.

We speak of the warm hatch — a sub-species to be found pretty much at the mid-point be­tween the $19K econ­omy five-door and the $40K hot­tie, a la Volk­swa­gen’s Golf GTI. As yet there’s not a lot of com­pe­ti­tion in this league— the three you see un­der

‘‘ Oth­ers to con­sider’’ are al­most the field— but the re­turn of a badge to which boy rac­ers once as­pired is a sure sign that the game’s afoot in the mid­dle ground.

The SSS is, for those of a cer­tain age, syn­ony­mous with a hatch less or­di­nary. Dis­con­tin­ued in 2001, it was the model that in­formed then big-car-loving ‘Strayans that a small car could come with a sat­is­fy­ing serv­ing of per­for­mance and a soup­con of fun with­out be­ing a Subaru Impreza.

It’s to the mid­dle way that the re­vived SSS re­turns, with a slightly lesser ST-S vari­ant to keep the price nicer.


Nis­san’s new hatch range starts from a cheeky $18,990 for the ST man­ual, a sym­bolic but mean­ing­less $500 un­der the far bet­ter equipped en­try Cruze.

ST-S is a new model name, one that in­cludes all the bits found in the mid-grade ST-L but with the turbo engine of the SSS. At $24,490, this is in al­most ev­ery re­spect a di­rect ri­val for the Cruze SRi, with the ex­pected step above en­try kit in­clud­ing front fog lights, rear spoiler, small colour dis­play plus 17-inch al­loys and auto adds $2500.

From $29,240, the SSS cops in­tel­li­gent xenon lights, front spoiler and skirts, big­ger screen with sat­nav, rear-view cam­era with dis­tance guide­lines, leather trim and key­less en­try and go. This is a shade north of the SRi-V ver­sion of the Cruze but the lat­ter lacks sat­nav, so the triple-S makes the run­ning in this still new ter­rain.


Di­rect fuel in­jected four­cylin­der turbo petrol en­gines are de rigueur in Euro­pean cars, driven by the push to lower emis­sions. It’s been long ac­knowl­edged in that part of the planet that a 1.6 or even 1.4 turbo engine can out pull a much big­ger and heav­ier nat­u­rally as­pi­rated engine while re­turn­ing far su­pe­rior econ­omy.

It’s a rule that ap­plies be­yond af­ford­able small cars. The en­tire engine line-up of BMW con­sists of di­rect in­jected turbo en­gines. Take the hum­ble Fal­con (please— some­one take it): the four­cylin­der di­rect in­jec­tion Ecoboost loses noth­ing in per­for­mance to the an­cient straight six while sip­ping and emit­ting far less. Yet among Ja­panses mak­ers, Nis­san is al­most alone in grasp­ing let alone im­ple­ment­ing this.

This ex­am­ple of the species puts out a nice 140kW/240Nm, plac­ing it firmly in the thick of the warm hatch mi­lieu. Nat­u­rally a six-speed man­ual is the stan­dard trans­mis­sion but the Pul­sar’s auto op­tion— uniquely in this sub-seg­ment — is a con­tin­u­ously vari­able job­bie with man­ual pre­sets.


The Pul­sar sedan, re­leased ear­lier this year, is among the bet­ter sell­ing small cars. You could be for­given for be­ing un­aware of this, so ut­terly anony­mous is its de­sign. Pos­si­bly there have been cars of less in­spir­ing ap­pear­ance but the Nis­san four-door is nigh on in­vis­i­ble.

The hatch­back, of which two milder ver­sion are re­leased this week in ad­di­tion to the turbo twins, is go­ing to be eas­ier to find in a crowded carpark. It’s very much of the mo­ment— stylised lights, sharp creases and high sill line, which does lit­tle for the lit­tle ones who want to see out of the back.

That in­cre­men­tal price in­crease be­tween grades— some $5000 be­tween ST-S and SSS— is fair enough given the step up in qual­ity. Still, this is no Audi, nor even a Golf— though at the mo­ment that could be a good thing. But se­ri­ously, folks, you might get leather and big­ger sat­nav screen in the SSS but you’re not un­aware that this is (like

the Cruze SRi-V) a mildly embellished econo­car. Yet there’s plenty of air in there. As it stands a smidge taller than most small cars, grown-ups won’t hate be­ing in the back.


Pul­sar’s sedan was smashed

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