Nissan Pulsar: Small car mega-test 2013

2 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Nissan Pulsar: Small car mega-test 2013
Nissan Pulsar

Nissan Pulsar

: Small car mega-test 2013

Nissan Pulsar ST-L (Sedan)

What we liked:

Ease of entry and egress

Decisive transmission

Comfy and quiet ride

Not so much:

Poor dynamics

Dated in-cabin technology

Rear seat does not split-fold


After waiting so long for the Pulsar name to return, it’s disappointing that Nissan hasn’t done a better job with this car’s dynamics. That said, some might suggest the Pulsar’s soft, floaty and vague handling perfectly match its dowdy exterior styling.

In fairness, it’s possible that the Pulsar might just be an ideal choice for the older buyer who wants something softer and more genteel than the vaguely sports-oriented hatches that most car makers offer in this category.

The Nissan’s suspension bordered on plush. Lots of suspension travel equated to a very comfortable ride but indifferent handling. The steering was likewise vague and woolly, with slower gearing than most rivals.

The result is the Pulsar required a deliberate adjustment in driving style. And ultimately, the combination delivered a fairly ordinary slalom performance that required the driver to abort the test in deference to the photographer’s safety.

Nissan can usually be relied upon to do a good engine but the Pulsar’s 1.8-litre unit was one of the least powerful tested. It hitches to a continuously variable transmission that delivered its drive eagerly. There is none of the lag or shift shock of an automatic but the accompanying droning soundtrack that is characteristic of this type of transmission won’t suit everyone.

Against the clock, the Pulsar finished just below mid-field, with a commensurate thirst for unleaded. But it redeemed itself and surprised everyone by delivering a best-in-class braking performance, despite having a slightly wooden pedal feel.


Pulsar’s neat nose was let down by a few rattles. This is a shame considering its high level of attention to detail and limited use of raw black plastics.

Panel gaps across the car were larger on average, but measurably consistent. We also admired Pulsar’s high-quality paint finish.

The door action felt light but positive in spite of less sealing that some here. The exposed metal framing of the fuel filler was also a disappointment.

The boot lid didn’t lift of its own accord. The luggage space offered a tidy appearance, a small light but an exposed latch, and no 12V outlet. The Pulsar also fails to offer split-fold seats and the rear bumper, like the front, was a little rattly.

With a great H point (the point at where the occupant’s hip sits relative to the car’s floor) and excellent entry and egress through wide-opening doors, the Pulsar will appeal to those with restricted mobility, or those with little ones still in booster seats.

The seating is comfortable and the upholstery fair, while chrome handles and faux metal garnishes help lift the door card visually.

Reserved and dated dashboard styling is of a high quality finish, and is complemented by simple control interfaces. Oddment storage is adequate and an excellent effort has been made to keep things tidy under the hood.

On the rough and ragged asphalt at 80km/h the Pulsar registered an in-cabin volume of 78dBA, second-quietest behind Kia’s Cerato.


One of the cheapest car models on test, the Pulsar recorded the lowest overall score for technology integration.

The interior design is somewhat dated (the old-fashioned HVAC dials and switches are a far cry from those of the Hyundai i30 or Holden Cruze), while the stereo looks passé. However, good looking instrument dials, front LED lights and some of the best steering-wheel controls were positive talking points.

Dragging the Nissan’s score lower was the fact that it was the only car on test not to include Bluetooth audio streaming. Pairing the iPhone5 to the car took time and required a combination of button input and voice commands.

Nissan Pulsar

USB and 3.5mm auxiliary audio inputs are included but audio quality from the six-speaker stereo was average, with distortion noticed at higher volumes.

When we pushed the Pulsar aggressively to test the electronic stability control it delivered the slowest intervention, after almost a full second of understeer as the nose began to slip. Furthermore, when the stability control did engage, it did so only briefly, and considering the car has fairly soft suspension this tended to exaggerate its low grip threshold.


At $25,990 (plus on-road costs, including the optional and relatively expensive $2340 CVT) Pulsar ST-L is placed middle of our pack in dollar terms.

With an uninspired driving experience, underpowered and sometimes harsh engine, and a lack of amenities such as dual-zone climate control, split-fold rear seats and reversing camera, the Pulsar’s value equation didn’t stack up.

Thankfully Pulsar’s post-sale services return some balance. Under the myNissan program, Nissan offers a standard three-year/100,000km warranty which is extendable at extra cost. The warranty also covers three years of complimentary Roadside Assist.

Additionally an expansive six-year/120,000km capped price servicing arrangement is in place, covering the first 12 services when following Nissan’s recommended six-month/10,000km service intervals. Six of these come in at the competitive price of $212.51, with the most expensive five-year/100,000km service capped at $529.05.

As Nissan has revived the Pulsar name for 2013, we can only reference the car it is replacing when it comes to resale. Ergo, a MY10 Tiida ST-L automatic has a median private resale value of $12,800; a retained value of 55 per cent.


The Nissan Pulsar sedan offered up a statelier package in our small car line-up. Driver and front passenger room is generous and seats offer good support and three-way manual adjustability.

Overall ergonomics lag slightly behind smaller cars in the line-up, however. The console and instrumentation lay before you, flat and functional. It’s not as warm and inviting in its style or execution.

It presents as a little dated among the rivals in this test.

The cabin is quiet and composed, with soft suspension absorbing any number of bumps. It’s a very soft and lounge-like ride for all passengers.

Second-row comfort is good and space is generous for three adult passengers. However, as in the Cerato, headroom has been sacrificed in this design. Taller passengers will touch the roof line – but they will have more than enough leg room.

The Pulsar has a huge boot space, however, it was let down by the absence of a split-fold rear seat function.

The small, steep rear window limits rearward visibility in the Pulsar.

‘s Small Car mega-test 2013 comparison:

Nissan Pulsar
Nissan Pulsar
Nissan Pulsar
Nissan Pulsar
Nissan Pulsar
Nissan Pulsar
Nissan Pulsar
Nissan Pulsar
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