It took Nissan more than six years to redress a brainsnap it had when discarding the Pulsar name in favour of Tiida....eeuuw! Good sense has prevailed and Pulsar is back for 2013, initially in sedan form with a hatch following in three months.
Keenly priced from a starting point of $19,990 - the same price as the Pulsar 16 years ago. New Pulsar is styled like a scaled-down Maxima and is actually quite a large car for the class.
Three grades are available; ST, ST-L and Ti. All three get alloy wheels, air conditioning multiple wheel controls, cruise, six air bags, Bluetooth phone, power ancillaries and a full size spare.
Audio streaming is only on Ti which also gains satnav, leather, 17-inch alloys and other goodies - in CVT only. CVT adds $2250 in the two lower spec' models and metallic paint is an extra $500. Competitors are Corolla, Cruze, Lancer, Civic, i30, Focus and numerous others in the "small car" segment.
Components from Tiida have carried over into the Pulsar - tweaked or refined to suit the new car. But there's not a lot of new technology in the engine, transmission or chassis or any driver assist features for a tech-savvy customer. It's all pretty straight forward, tried and true stuff.
The 96kW/174Nm engine is a heavily revised 1.8-litre petrol twin cam from Tiida with a longer piston stroke and other changes to improve drive feel and possibly fuel efficiency.
There's variable valve timing on inlet and exhaust sides and friction reduction inside the engine for incremental gains to performance and efficiency. Two transmissions are offered; a six-speed manual and CVT "auto".
The latter has no sequential shift mode at all but is modified for better overall performance and cruising. Best fuel economy for Pulsar is 6.7-litres/100km for the CVT and 7.2 for the manual.
It rides on a strut front and torsion beam rear suspension - same as Tiida but the stiffer chassis features a longer wheelbase and wider stance that yields benefits in terms of ride comfort and interior room.
Though the rear seats don't fold in the Pulsar sedan, it has a large boot - possibly the largest in class. The critical rear seat legroom measurement is generous - once again, possibly best in class.
We drove the ST-L manual and Ti and found the car to be pretty much as expected - the new order family sedan. It has little sporty pretence and is calibrated for comfort above all else. That's a plus for everyday driving on our rough roads.
The 140kW Pulsar SSS hatch coming will take care of the sporty angle. Pulsar sedan makes a bit of engine noise under acceleration but is quiet cruising. The longer stroke engine feels slightly breathless once revs exceed 5000rpm. But there's plenty of punch lower down for driving in traffic or everyday conditions.
The interior looks good with multiple materials and textures and a modern attractive design. We feel the lack of folding rear seats is a major oversight even though the boot is large. Wait for the hatch perhaps. We like the styling that's accentuated by clever use of LED lighting front and rear.
New Pulsar should have wide appeal and the name has currency even after seven years. It's a bit nondescript but that's how many buyers want their car. Go for the CVT every time.
Price: from $19,990
Made in: Thailand
Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder, 96kW/174Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 6-speed CVT auto
Standard features: Six airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, cruise control, MP3 and CD player with four speakers, Bluetooth phone connectivity, steering wheel audio controls, remote central locking, alloy wheels
Price: from $21,490
Engine: 1.8-litre 4-cyl petrol, 104kW/176Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual or 6-speed auto, FWD
Price: from $20,990
Engine: 1.8-litre 4-cyl petrol, 110kW/178Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto, FWD
Price: from $20,330
Engine: 2.0-ltre 4-cyl petrol, 108kW/182Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 5-speed auto, FWD