Car ReviewsFirst Drive

Nissan Pulsar First Drive

An icon of small car motoring since the 1970s, the Nissan Pulsar is back and it’s better than ever, says Isaac Bober.

Hands up if you remember the Nissan Pulsar? Born in 1978 and sold all around the world (various generations were even built in Australia) until it disappeared in 2007, replaced by the Nissan Tiida, the Nissan Pulsar became an icon.

And now it’s back. And at exactly the same price it listed for back in 1996 – $19,990 (+ORC). Clever.

If you’ve seen the TV advertising spruiking the arrival Down Under of the new Pulsar you know that Nissan wanted it to look more luxurious, be more luxurious to drive, and cost, well, exactly the same as it used to cost. And, on the whole it’s managed to do just that.

Take a look at the outside of this Pulsar and, if you’re any kind of automotive train spotter, you’ll notice the all-new Pulsar seems to have taken styling cues from both Lexus and Nissan’s luxury brand, Infiniti. And that’s particularly evident when you look at the trapezoidal grille and large wraparound headlights (think Lexus), while the flanks and boot suggest Infiniti. The result is a prestigious looking vehicle.

Nissan Pulsar ST Interior

Those good looks, and prestige look, carry through to the inside of the Pulsar where the designers have added soft-touch materials to the dashboard; not something you associate with vehicles priced at less than $20k. And despite its compact dimensions, the Pulsar delivers real mid-size roominess with the backseat offering the sort of legroom you normally get in a limo – while the boot, at 510 litres, is the biggest in the segment, too.

The entry-level Pulsar ST, I’m testing here gets all the gear you’d expect at this price point: Bluetooth; remote keyless entry; six-speaker stereo; day/night rear vision mirror; climate control; and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

Under the bonnet, there’s only one engine on offer (unless you’re considering the new Pulsar SSS which gets a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine), and it’s a lusty 1.8-litre four-cylinder producing 96kW and 174Nm. This is mated to a six-speed manual as standard, or you can choose a cost-optional auto CVT. The manual returns a reasonable claimed 7.4L/100km while the CVT drinks just 6.2L/100km claimed on the official combined cycle, so, around town expect the Pulsar to use a little more fuel that it would out on the open road.

Nissan Pulsar ST profile

The Pulsar’s electric-assist, speed-dependent steering offers a nice light action for around town manoeuvring, but it could do with a little more weight as speed builds (just to keep that sense of connection between driver and front driving wheels). The same goes for the suspension, which is nice and comfortable across almost all surfaces, but a little roly-poly through the corners. That said, you’re more likely to drive this car at around six tenths rather than trying to fling it from corner to corner like a hoon.

Like a lot of other car makers these days, Nissan is offering fixed price servicing on the Pulsar, ranging from $212.51 to $529.05 depending on the service. With service intervals set at 10,000km you’ll be servicing your Pulsar more regularly than some of its competitors but don’t be tempted to skip a service, because it could end up being more trouble than it’s worth.

PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS

Nissan has managed to nail the brief for many young families looking for something small yet roomy. The Pulsar looks good, has just the right amount of gear for the money, is easy to drive, keenly priced, and offers plenty of room for a family of four.

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NISSAN PULSAR ST

PRICE From $19,990 (+ORC) WARRANTY 3 year/100,00km SAFETY five-star ANCAP ENGINE 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol POWER/TORQUE 96kW/174Nm TRANSMISSION Six-speed manual; CVT BODY 4.61m(L); 1.76m(W); 1.49m(L)  THIRST 6.2-7.4L/100km

Comprehensive Car Insurance


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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.