TAK­ING PULSES AND NOTES

We come to an un­ex­pected con­clu­sion af­ter driv­ing Nis­san’s boosted 1.2-litre hatch­backs.

Torque (Singapore) - - FEATURE SIBLING RIVALRY - • Story Jeremy Chua • Pho­tos Dar­ren Chang • Art Di­rec­tion Sean Lee

WHEN the Nis­san Note was in­tro­duced here in 2013, it was only the sec­ond su­per­charged Ja­panese model to hit Sin­ga­pore’s roads since the Subaru Vivio RX-R. But to many mo­torists, what made the Note note­wor­thy back then was its price. With COE pre­mi­ums at strato­spheric lev­els, the su­per­charged vari­ant we tested (a cheaper nat­u­rally as­pi­rated model was and still is avail­able) had a whop­ping $140,800 price tag.

To­day, the up­dated Note is no longer beyond the reach of su­per­mini buy­ers. The range­top­ping su­per­charged DIG-S model you see here re­tails for $81,800 (at press time).

But be­fore it can even com­pete with seg­ment ri­vals, the Note must take on the Pulsar, its larger and more pow­er­ful sib­ling, which costs just $10k more. Those of us who are of a

cer­tain age might re­mem­ber that the last time the Pulsar was avail­able as a hatch­back here was in the 1980s, and that it was sold as a sa­loon in the 1990s.

The lat­est Pulsar, how­ever, is noth­ing like its staid pre­de­ces­sors. In fact, it has the po­ten­tial to lure buy­ers away from the Note.

For starters, the Pulsar has a rel­a­tively punchy mo­tor. Said unit is a tur­bocharged 1.2-litre 4-pot, which pro­duces a healthy 115bhp and 165Nm.

The Pulsar’s de­sign, though un­der­stated, is neat and at­trac­tive. And the Pre­mium vari­ant tested here is pretty well-equipped, too, boast­ing ameni­ties such as dual cli­mate zones and satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion.

The Pulsar also has a tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem and In­tel­li­gent Trace Con­trol, which is essen­tially a torque vec­tor­ing func­tion.

In­side the Pulsar’s cabin, you’ll find well-padded seats, as well as soft sur­faces on the dash­board and door pan­els. Apart from the gen­er­ous legroom, backseat pas­sen­gers will also ap­pre­ci­ate the rear air-con vents, which are in­dis­pen­si­ble in our cli­mate. Now, the Pulsar may be the big­ger hatch­back, but in terms of pas­sen­ger space, it can­not com­pete with the Note. Open the Note’s rear doors and you’ll be amazed at just how much room the rear bench of­fers. Even 1.8m tall oc­cu­pants will have no trou­ble stretch­ing out. And with the Note’s flat­ter rear floor, it’s even eas­ier for three adults to sit abreast than in the Pulsar.

The Note costs less than the Pulsar, but it doesn’t lack too many fea­tures. The smaller hatch­back still has a touch­screen­op­er­ated in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem and dig­i­tal air-con con­trols, al­beit with just one cli­mate zone.

And per­haps to re­mind driv­ers that this model is su­per­charged, the Note now has a very sporty flat­bot­tomed steer­ing wheel, which re­places the non-con­toured one found in the pre-facelift model. The out­put from the Note’s su­per­charged 1.2-litre 3-cylin­der en­gine, how­ever, re­mains un­changed at 98bhp and 142Nm. But its CVT’s

gear­ing has been tweaked to en­hance fuel econ­omy and re­duce CO2 emis­sions. The Note is now ca­pa­ble of 21.7km per litre and emits just 119g per km, ver­sus 19.6km/L and 121g/km pre­vi­ously.

The real im­prove­ment, though, has been to the Note’s drive­abil­ity, for the lat­est model fi­nally has the vigour that its pre­de­ces­sor lacked.

Prod the ac­cel­er­a­tor and the Note re­sponds so keenly that you’ll ac­tu­ally think Nis­san boosted the en­gine’s power. It’s much eas­ier to pick your way through traf­fic this time around. The Note’s new­found verve

is ironic, given the fact that it has fea­tures such as Eco Mode that re­tards en­gine and throt­tle re­sponses, an Eco Indicator that tells you if you’re in the “green” zone, and an Eco Pedal guide that tells you how much pres­sure to ap­ply to the throt­tle pedal for op­ti­mum ef­fi­ciency. We ex­pected the more pow­er­ful Pulsar to be the sportier drive, but in­stead, it im­pressed us by de­liv­er­ing a re­fined motoring ex­pe­ri­ence with its creamy en­gine, well-judged ride/ han­dling bal­ance and smooth CVT, which is even more seam­less than the Note’s.

So the Pulsar is notable for its cosseting abil­i­ties, while the Note now has the abil­ity to raise pulse rates. Now that’s an in­ter­est­ing sib­ling ri­valry in­deed.

THE PULSAR IS NOTABLE FOR ITS COSSETING ABIL­I­TIES, WHILE THE NOTE NOW HAS THE ABIL­ITY TO RAISE PULSE RATES.

Pulsar’s cabin feels less pla­s­ticky than the Note’s (right), but the lat­ter im­presses with its greater spa­cious­ness.

Pulsar’s tur­bocharged 1.2-litre 4-pot (top) is a lot qui­eter than Note’s su­per­charged 1.2-litre 3-pot, which sounds work­man­like when revved.

Pulsar’s rear bench is softer and more com­fort­able than the Note’s, which is roomier but does with­out rear air-con blow­ers.

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