The once popular Nissan Pulsar returned to Australia in early 2013 after a seven-year absence. Now they’re on the used market in sufficient numbers to provide plenty of choice for those prepared to shop around.
While Mazda3, Toyota Corolla and Hyundai i30 dominate the small-to-medium sedan/hatch category, Pulsar is just as reliable and good value. And its extra interior space is appealing, with a lot of rear legroom and boot space. The five-door hatches have a split-folding seat to extend boot space, the four-door sedans have a narrow ski-hatch.
The reborn Pulsars can be found in five model grades, and the most common version is the entry-level ST, which has all the basic necessities but is not overly endowed with creature comforts. Other popular versions are the slightly better appointed ST-L and the mildly sporting SSS. An upgrade in April 2015 added more gear as well as a sedan for the SSS.
Mainstream models have a 1.8L petrol engine, while the ST-S hatch and the SSS pair have a 1.6L turbo-petrol engine under the bonnet. Transmission choices are a six-speed manual or a CVT.
Although the 1.8L engine’s output and therefore performance is not as strong as its main rivals, it does mean Pulsar has top-notch fuel consumption. It’s a leisurely performer that does a respectable job around town and on a country drive. On steep hills or when rapid passing is called for, it has to be worked hard, which generates a noticeable increase in engine and transmission noise levels. This tends to intrude on what is otherwise a quiet cabin.
The 1.6L turbo models are a bit more muscular, with the engine putting out an impressive 140kW and 240Nm. The turbo’s real appeal lies in the flexible all-round driveability rather than any exciting performance. That is not to say it won’t accelerate rapidly when required.
Overall, Pulsar’s ride is comfortably controlled, while handling and braking are secure and predictable.
We are not aware of any major inherent problems with Pulsar, although it has been the subject of a few in-service upgrades and recalls, so it is worth checking with a Nissan dealer or Nissan Australia to make sure the necessary work has been done on the car you are considering. The problems include engine stalling, a leaking fuel rail, a sticking push-button starter switch and a faulty curtain airbag sensor. So an up-to-date service history will be helpful.
We have also heard of some problems getting up-to-date maps on the sat-nav system in higher-grade models.
Early Pulsars always had a name for no-frills, no-fuss motoring and the reborn models are establishing a similar solid reputation. Pick of the bunch is the SSS but you will have to pay more.
ST 4dr (2013-16) $15,200-$20,600
ST 5dr (2013-16) $14,700-$20,900
ST-L 4dr (2013-16) $17,600-$22,900
ST-L 5dr (2013-16) $16,900-$21,800
ST-S 5dr (2013-15) $20,300-$22,800
Ti 4dr (2013-15) $21,700-$24,300
SSS 5dr (2013-16) $23,400-$26,800
Approximate Glass’s Guide prices.
Fuel consumption: 7.0-9.0L/100km in the 1.8L models on 91 RON petrol. 8.0-10.0L/100km in 1.6L turbo versions on 95 RON petrol.
Safety: Five-star ANCAP rating.
Towing: Maximum is 1200kg in manual versions but only 1100kg with a CVT.
The competition: Mazda3, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30.