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  • Excellent general refinement; ride comfort; build quality; strong value equation; vast cabin space; humungous boot with class-leading capacity; fuel efficiency
  • Engine relatively unadvanced and with lower-than-average outputs; not as fun to drive as some key rivals; CVT auto relatively quiet but still drones; some practicality issues

7 / 10

Nissan Pulsar Review
Nissan Pulsar Review
Nissan Pulsar Review
by Jez Spinks

The Nissan Pulsar is back.

Plenty of Australians have missed the badge – which still has a 71 per cent recognition rate in Australia despite the nameplate taking a seven-year sabbatical from the market.

The Nissan Pulsar replaces the Tiida that has 56 per cent recognition and has cost Nissan some popularity in the small-car market, and would find itself in the Handbook of What Not to Do in Automotive Marketing (Chapter: Changing popular car names).

The Nissan Pulsar was last sold in 2006, but the starting price tag for the new model – available initially in sedan form, with hatch to follow mid year – is the same as what the model cost back in the mid Nineties: $19,990.

You get more metal for your money these days, too. Nissan’s rival for the Mazda3, Corolla, Focus and company now stretches to 4.6 metres nose to tail. The Pulsar’s body is also wider, countering feedback that buyers didn’t appreciate the Tiida’s tall and narrow proportions.

Nissan hasn’t been inefficient with the increased dimensions. Another 30mm of shoulder width has been liberated in the rear where passengers – courtesy of one of the longest wheelbases in the class (2700mm) – will find vast leg space and a healthy amount of headroom.

Further back, the 510-litre boot beats the capacities of both Nissan’s own (outgoing) large car, the Maxima, and the current (VE) Commodore.

Nissan Pulsar Review
Nissan Pulsar Review
Nissan Pulsar Review
Nissan Pulsar Review

Three downsides, though, are gooseneck hinges that can pinch luggage, the lack of a boot release button either on the bootlid or the ST’s keyfob (it’s on the dash) and seatbacks that don’t fold down to improve the sedan’s ability to carry longer items.

When it comes to cylinder capacity, there are just 1.8 litres under the bonnet of the Nissan Pulsar, which is made in Thailand. Here, it follows the Corolla in keeping away from the 2.0-litres that are common to the class or the burgeoning smaller-capacity four-cylinders that employ turbochargers to maintain performance while attempting to improve fuel efficiency.

While the Corolla’s four now edges just clear of 100kW, the Pulsar’s unit, which features dual variable valve timing, produces 96kW with torque rated at 174Nm.

Accelerating in the ST with the standard six-speed manual, the Pulsar certainly doesn’t feel brisk. But while momentum takes a little time to build up, the engine keeps things rolling along nicely once up to speed.

There’s some notchiness as you palm the gearlever between the six gates, though the ratios are well spaced and a well-engineered clutch pedal action ensures changing gears doesn’t become a reluctant or overly frequent chore.

At higher speeds, the engine gets a bit boomy in the upper part of the rev range – while a switch to the Ti model featuring a continuously variable (belt and pulley) transmission (CVT) also reveals the manual’s top gear is lower geared than the CVT’s (artificial ratio): 2750rpm versus 1800rpm at 110km/h.

Nissan Pulsar Review
Nissan Pulsar Review
Nissan Pulsar Review
Nissan Pulsar Review

Refinement, then, is most impressive in CVT versions of the new Nissan Pulsar, though wind noise and tyre roar are well suppressed even in the manual version.

Unlike some examples of the CVT breed that can bog a vehicle down off the mark or from very low speeds, the Pulsar’s version employs a sub-planetary gearset to help make it relatively quick to get underway, and it contributes to smooth progress.

It also brings the best official fuel consumption figures for the Pulsar – 6.7L/100km versus 7.0L/100km for the manual – though the CVT isn’t perfect. There can be a slight boomy resonance at times, and the more linear rise and fall of revs – as the CVT’s pulley system expands and contracts to match engine and road speed without using excessive revs – brings that characteristic slipping-clutch sound that isn’t endearing to all.

The Nissan Pulsar also won’t trouble the likes of the Mazda3, Focus or even the Corolla as a small car that will adequately entertain those buyers who prioritise handling enjoyment. (The return of the SSS badge in mid 2013 – in hatch form only – is intriguing, though.)

The steering is a tad vacant on centre, though at least it’s consistently weighted and the heft itself is well judged.

For motorists after a small car that is sufficiently composed through curves but brings relaxed driving through a pleasantly supple ride, however, the Nissan Pulsar excels.

Nissan Pulsar Review
Nissan Pulsar Review
Nissan Pulsar Review
Nissan Pulsar Review

The Ti is the best-equipped variant, of course, extending standard features over the ST and mid-spec ST-L with dual-zone air-conditioning, satellite navigation and reverse-view camera.

Electrically adjustable seats aren’t part of the mix, though, and while the Ti’s leather seats are comfortable we found the ST’s cloth versions even better – with a perfect balance of firmness and plushness.

Both front and rear, the under-thigh cushions of the ST seem slightly more supportive. The ST, though, surprisingly misses out on both a USB input and Bluetooth audio streaming.

The cheap-feeling roof lining is the main thing that goes against the general positive perception of quality in a cabin that is mostly helpful with storage options (could be a more ideal place on centre console for a mobile).

A sense of high build quality is also there when you hear the solid thud as the Pulsar’s doors are shut.

Solidity, in fact, is a good word to describe the new Nissan Pulsar.

The name alone will be enough to guarantee better success than its predecessor, but the Pulsar has more than a badge among its virtues.

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Nissan Pulsar Review
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  • Karl Sass

    I’m surprised 56% recognise the Tiida name, I was expecting negative 1000%

    • Declan

      What can I say, Kim Cattrall can really get people’s attention.

      • $29896495

        Kim who? Tiida what? Oh, you mean that ugly skinny thing with a Nissan badge. by the way, this is NO small car, despite the 1.8.

    • Zaccy16

      they recognize the name because when they see one on the road the have to look at it because of how ugly it is!

    • FanBoi

      Tiida or Pulsa or whatever Tom, Dick and Harry name you give it, ultimately it is going to be a uninspiring and boring design and drive. 

      Call it Granny mobile.


  • Exar Kun

    Sounds promising.  Nothing I’d ever be in the market for but sounds like a big step up over the Tiida.

    • Kampfer

      Even they just sell the N16 Pulsar again it’s a step up from Tiida…

      • Dfgjh

         What exactly was wrong with the Tiida? Both cars were build down to a price with a bland interior, weak handling, dull engines, along with expensive dealer servicing. The only real difference to me seems to be the styling with Pulsar having a fairly dull but reasonably well proportioned look. Tiida on the other hand was poorly styled with weird proportions.

        • $29896495

          You answered your own question.

          • Asdf

            Yeah, Phil will do anything to look smart.

  • Sally Forth

    Welcome back Pulsar! Good looking, well equipped and apparently goes along OK. The sports SSS model will be particularly welcome when it is released. A “warm” hatch has been missing from this segment for a while.

    • O123


      • Sally Forth

        Yes quite possibly the SP25. I did think of that later, but it has a 2.5L and quite a bit larger than the Pulsar. I don’t think it’s been confirmed what will be in the SSS.

        • Tex

          140kW 1.6L Turbo, apparently.

  • F1orce

    Why don’t they throw the later (05) QG18DE motor in this new Pulsar which achieves all of its 175Nm of twist at a low 2300rpm

    In this segment all the small 4-bangers have their peak torque at 4000rpm +

  • Goodfa

    The latest Nissan designs look to have been hit with the ugly stick.

    Kia on the other hand are getting better and better every year .

    If you told me 5 years ago that in 2013 I would prefer the looks of a Kia over a Nissan I would have said you were crazy.

    • Guest8765

      So you’re crazy now then?

    • $29896495

      I agree, it might be that Renault designers are doing the drawing? They seem very clumsy, right through to the latest infinity. Chromes to heavy, grills (well Japanese grills in general seem to be rubbish of late)

      • Tex

        The Renault-Nissan alliance is one thing, but the companies still operate as separate entities.

        You’ll find the Renault designer is Laurens van den Acker… he does not design for Nissan (a shame too, as his designs of late have been quite stunning!)

        Japanese design seems to be rubbish? Have you seen the latest BMW 1-Series or 3-Series?

        • $29896495

          I wrote JAPANESE GRILLS! As for the 1 series I’m not a fan. (Ungainly) Believe it or not there is model sharing between the two.

          • Tex

            Ohhhhhhhhhhhh my apologies huwtm. I thought you were talking about Japanese grills. I agree, their food of late hasn’t been that great.

            Japanese grilles however are another matter. If that is what you meant when you referred to the Renault designers, then what I was trying to tell you is that they are two separate companies with separate designers.

            Model sharing?! Sacrebleu! I’m pretty sure you are confusing this with sharing chassis engineering and engines. Unless you think the Pulsar really is a Megane?

          • $29896495

            Come to think of it, Japanese designs of late have been pretty terrible. You are dead right, Honda, some most Toyotas, Nissan, Infiniti  Mitsubishi, Suzuki, they have all suffered either lack of imagination, to much Americanisation, or just bad Korean taste like your average over done Hyundai.

            If you care to examine their cars you will find that there are models that are shared. They are not separate Companies, Renault bought a controlling interest in Nissan and has been leading it ever since.

          • $29896495

            BY the way if you are going to be a s–t head, at least pull an English dictionary first. A grille or grill (French word from Latin craticula, small grill) is an opening of several slits side by side in a wall or metal sheet or other barrier, usually to let air or water enter and/or leave but keep larger objects including people and animals in or out.
            ALSO – In the United States, “grille” is used to avoid confusion with the cooking device, called a “grill”
            We aren’t in the US and know what grill means.

  • O123

    Sounds lame but a lack of external/key fob boot release is a deal breaker. Screw getting in the car to open the boot.

    • John

       That’s right – and it’s a point easily overlooked when you’re test-driving a car. Imagine discovering this deal-breaker when you get home from the dealership with your new car.

      On a related point, when test driving, check things like double or single click on remote required to open all doors, and whether it is changeable… That was my deal-breaker that I discovered when it was too late.

      • Tex

        So the deal-breaker was that you had to press the button twice to open all doors?

        Sounds like you are a perfect candidate for a Toyota then. I’m unsure why that would bother you more than the drive, quality, features, styling etc.

        • John

           I used the term deal breaker partly in jest – I would still have bought the car had I known beforehand. Obviously the drive, quality, features and styling are important.

          My main point, which you seem to have ignored in your haste to accuse me of be a Toyota candidate (not that there’s anything wrong with that…), is that you have to check all these small things on a test drive but it’s very easy to forget to do this.

    • Morphian

      If you look closely, you can see a boot lock in the rear which means you can use a key to unlock it. More inconvenient than a remote? I agree, but you don’t have to get IN the car just to unlock the boot.

      • O123

        still inconvenient though.

    • jekyl & hyde

      its on the key fob……”i just called,to say,i love you” on behalf of C.A.

    • Shareabro

       The only reason to use the internal boot release is if you are already in the car as the “trunk release” as they call it is on the key and it also pops up when opened automatically which is a “deal maker” for me.  I love this car and it feels like a much more expensive car inside than the Mazda , top of the range Cruise and the Honda , all of which we test drove before we bought the Pulsar.

  • Sumpguard

        I’m not overly impressed on first impressions. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just not that great. Their marketing is clever though. the ad makes you watch.

        Definitely an improvement on the tiida but Nissan still have a way to go in the styling department.

    • Sally Forth

      I rather like the look actually. The only criticism I would make is that the curves on the front guard look a little to “Korean” in that it is very curved. Not as bad as an Elantra or Accent though in that the flow line down the length of the car to the tail lights is well done.

      You are right though in that it is an improvement on the Dildo or whatever they called the last one. A 1963 Bluebird would be an improvement on the Turda.

      I haven’t caught the advert yet. I’ll keep an eye open.

      • Nasal Explorer

        I think the Koreans grabbed those curved front guards from the Mazda 3, so they are really Japanese anyway.

        • $29896495

          Them and bangle

  • http://www.facebook.com/martinclarke87 Martin Clarke

    The styling is a bit dowdy. Hopefully the hatch looks a bit better.

  • Zaccy16

    What were nissan thinking? the exterior is very out of proportion, the only people who would like it is the over 75’s that have had a old pulsar and don’t bother looking into anything else! the engine is very outdated compared to rivals and would be horrible with the cvt

    • $29896495

      This car is pushing into Camry territory, it’s not a small car. We’re talking medium large. but I doubt the 75s would move from Corolla/Camry to this.

    • Hung Low

      The engine like most Nissan engines punch above the advertised kw rate. The new Cvt’s are a good thing for a A-B device like this. At the end all the positive points like its room, build quality, standard features, ride, fuel consumption, reliability and price is what will attract the masses. This is in reality a medium size sedan for under 20k, that is the appeal.

    • Snoopy54000

       It’s too big for it’s own good.I am an ex Tiida owner who downsized into a Micra for work purposes and have no regrets in doing so.This looks like an old folks car.I have an Uncle who had an N16 Sunny in Singapore which is exactly the same car as the last Pulsar but with a different name for South East Asian Markets when I last saw him in 2006 and that thing even though it’s now two model generations old is still better than this one.I only bought the last one due to having a narrow garage that wouldn’t have fit a Focus or Mazda 3 but the Mazda dealer when I went out of interest to look at the Current 3 is well aware of the Mistake I made.

  • horsie

    rear end ugly with that spoiler. other angles looks good

  • Notmycupoftea

    I just hope they’re better built than the brtish dualis. It was on my short list until I drove a demo that had a glovebox full of bits of the interior that had fallen off and the seat backs hanging off. The dealer wasn’t even embarrassed, it seem normal to them.

    • $29896495

      Actually it is normal. Many cars come like that certain things are left to the dealer for the final fit. often radio parts of aircon and trim etc. There will also be certain bits which might be needed for some accessories which unless fitted just stay in your glove box unless you want to remove them.

    • Hung Low

      Nothing wrong with the build quality of the Dualis at all, fit and finish is very impressive infact.

    • Tex

      Agree with huwtm; clearly the dealership hasn’t done the proper delivery process.
      Most cars come with parts left to be fitted locally after transport….

  • Quivive

    With a wheelbase almost identical to the Maxima, this is hardly a small car. It is about time the definition of car sizes was standardised!

    • O123

      ive been thinking this, the new 6 isnt a mid size car either its a large car.

  • The Real Wile E

    Front looks VW and rear looks …well…rear ended

    • SLORE

      You need to go to specsavers if you think the front looks like a VW!!!

      • The Real Wile E

        Remove your blinkers ye oversensitive VW person and have a squiz at Carsguide .You will note that the similarity in appearance to VW has been widely observed.

        • $29896495

          Which VW are you referring to?

          • The Real Wile E

            The VW that looks like a pulsar

      • Golfmother

        Nothing like a VW  , lexus yes , looks typical of the east .

  • Storm

    It would look better without the rear spoiler. Really doesn’t need to be there!

    Other than that it looks nice.

  • Gibbut

    it looks like the non mongoloid sister of the almera,

    it looks ok, the grille looks like its from a totally different car… maybe vb commodore. Otherwise it looks like a good package. Unreal the dull corolla outpips it in the engine dept.

    and also, sss will be 1.8L turbo

  • Justin

    1.8 L engine to haul a 4.6 m car???
    Nissan, and other Japanese brands in general, should follow VW’s example and stop being so boring with their power train offerings.

    • Hung Low

      Nothing more fun than a 118tsi pinging its head off while the dsg is clunking into some random gear on the daily commute. I will have the boring jap power train thanks!

    • Pro346

      and fit unreliable grenade engines……

    • Henry Toussaint

      The new Golf looks very Boring.

  • Mr T

    depending on the weight esp Ti prob better off with 2.0 engine option …. lookswise a tad bland nothing spesh but with size and incredible start price with appointments the last pulsar would dream about it will do well great pr with the ad clever …. I had a 1992 pulsar brand new and loved it …. can’t wait 2 see sss …. imagine resale on tiidas LOL tossed in trash

    • homer1

       I agree with you about Tiida Resale’s being crap.I was in the Market for a Ford Fiesta in Mid 2010 and feel in love with the shape and the car but due to getting Silly Figures as a Trade In I had no option but to go back to Nissan and buy the Micra which to date has been pleasant and fun and dare I say it Cute in a Policeman from Noddy kind of way.

  • Abcdefg

    No USB audio input in the base model = PHAIL

  • Al Tungupon

    Grow up, people. Drone is a forgivable issue unlike autos that have less than five gears.

  • Westie

    Wheelbase and overall length are near identical to an HR Holden (anybody remember them?)
    Looking as it does, it should still be called Tiida. The Pulsar was always a good looking car.
    No external means of opening the boot? Gooseneck hinges?
    No fold down seat?
    We did cut costs making the sedan, didn’t we, Nissan.

    • $29896495

      Of course you are right. This and the actual Corolla, NOT the car they call Corolla here, are now full size cars. Trouble is certain people who write these articles can’t get their heads around actual dimensions. That leads to pour spatial comprehension from others too.

  • mo

    The engine isn’t too bad. Almost 130hp from 1.8L isn’t terrible and the variable valve timing should make peak torque appear early. Speaking of which, whats the torque curve like in the Pulsar?

    I *wish* reviewers would stop going on about this so-called ‘droning’. Its really not that bad. Its just the sound of an engine at its ideal RPM. Sure it doesn’t howl like a Ferrari, but its bloody Pulsar. What do you expect Jez Spinks? What I WOULD complain bitterly about is the lack of a boot release on the keyfob. Honestly what *were* they thinking? It makes it impossible to walk up to the car carrying a few bags of shopping, press the boot release and throw your stuff in. You’ll have to put everything down while you fumble around to unlock the car and find the button. Morons.  

  • Dave S

    Remote boot release is something you do take for granted. If it does not have it, it is a backward step. That is not ‘more’.

  • reg

    front end and interior ok, rear end dreadful. overall could have done better. no excitement yet again however slightly better than the Tiida

  • Lajolla

    why won’t dealers in sydney allow for test drives?

    Last month I was in Parramatta and looked at Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, Kia etc and a few others and even though I showed interest they wouldn’t even start up the car for me, let alone test drive!!

    Is it normal in sydney to sell cars without test driving them or sumfin??

  • Noely

    That grille is big… it just doesn’t match the front end at all. I thought it was taken off from a LS600h.

  • Rjhj

    Not a single whinge about Nissan’s servicing costs? I don’t understand how they’re getting away with it. I just checked to see if they are as bad as the Tiida – and they are:

    1st year : $493.22
    2nd year: $652.17
    That’s for a brand new car 4 cylinder car.

    A colleague of mine just had his 10 year old, V8 powered (dual spark too) Mercedes S430 serviced at the Mercedes dealer – $436 (and the on board computer determines the service intervals according to usage and he apparently got about 18 months and about 25,000kms from the previous service, so the service cost is actually about $325 a year). Yet people are always commenting to him about how expensive it must be to service.

    • Franz Chong

      You don’t except for 1000 KM service have to stick to the Dealer.Do what I have done since the Warranty on the Micra expired and take it to Midas.It’s cheaper and Since I belong to Virgin Australia Velocity I even earn points on the Services for the km intervals.

  • Tex

    I for one am quite excited to see the Pulsar nameplate return. Hopefully Nissan can improve the specification and pricing even further once the hatch returns.

    Doesn’t do anything too special, but neither does the Corolla (or Mazda for that matter).

    Just gives further fight to the current battle between Corolla, Mazda3 and Golf… and that can only ever be a good thing.

  • jekyl & hyde

     i went for a long drive in one today,my impressions are…

    it’s not bad at all. performance is ok. it not a performance car,but it will keep up with all the other “vanilla” models out there.steering in good,turn in good,a bit vague at 12oclock. brakes good.seating position is excellent.space is great.simple easy dash. fairly quiet.comfortable.

    what is unacceptable (to me) is no usb port,and the shape of the radio will make it hard to put an aftermarket unit in.all the other nissan models (except micra) have a single/double din unit.why nissan chose something different is beyond me. it would be better with bigger wheels,and the ski port is a cheap after thought. that’s it.

    • Hung Low

      Good points, they are nuts for not having a 60:40 split rear seat and like all their sedans of late, bigger wheels with more offset would have improved the stance and look.

  • person1

    I like it. wonder what the Hatch will look like. hope it looks ok, and not ugly

  • Martin

    The interior is nice. Shame about the external design language. The side glasshouse looks like the current Maxima.

  • Gibwater

    I like it,but its no small car.Like the others in the class,its grown considerably.A big improvement over Tiida,but then,that wouldn’t be hard. The interior is tasteful.I think this car will take Nissan back to the mainstream.Over the years,they’ve lost a lot of ground to mazda,Hyundai,etc.This car may get them back in the loop. 

  • VTiR

    Ugly inside, ugly outside. Nissan love weird angles and tacky finishes – like the odd-shaped steering wheel. 

  • Vti07

    This is one of the largest “small” cars it its class. In fact it has a longer wheelbase that the 1st gen mazda 6 sedan and is almost as long…. It appears to have good rear leg room just like the Tiida. The Tiida had more rear leg room than some medium cars.

  • Vti07

    A change in car name could impact sales negatively (eg, Fairmont Ghia to G6E) although there are exceptions (eg. Echo to Yaris).
    Some makers are just lazy and recycle car names (the rebadged Sukuzi Ignis from Holden was also called a Cruze).

  • Snoopy54000

    You don’t have to take it back to Nissan except for services a local Mechanic can’t do.I just did my 70,000km service on the Micra I drive currently at a place called SA Auto Tech in Edwardstown South Australia and all he charged me for the lot was $110 fully inclusive.Unley Nissan wanted to charge me double all of which was covered under warranty.It’s as big as My Mums Mercedes C180 so will come late 2016 by Christmas a welcome replacement as the main family car in the home assuming the Merc has gone to my brother by that time.

  • Rolandheese

    Beautiful looking car inside and out. Handles well and my wife loves it… Yes, we brought the new Nissan Pulsar 2013, with no regrets.

    • BJ

      How has the car travelled over this past 12 months?

  • JamesB

    96 kw – lame!

  • fredoo

    Preve is 10x more beautitful than this!

Nissan Pulsar Specs

Car Details
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$11,660 - $13,250
Dealer Retail
$13,040 - $15,510
Dealer Trade
$9,300 - $10,600
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
174Nm @  4800rpm
Max. Power
96kW @  6000rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
7.2L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:1200  Unbrake:750
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
195/60 R16
Rear Tyres
195/60 R16
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Torsion bar, Coil Spring, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber, Anti roll bar
Standard Features
Air Conditioning
Control & Handling
16 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program, Traction Control System
Adjustable Steering Wheel - Tilt & Telescopic, Cruise Control, Mobile Phone Connectivity, Power Steering, Trip Computer
Radio CD with 6 Speakers
Power Mirrors
Cloth Trim, Power Windows
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats, Side Front Air Bags
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Metallic Paint
Service Interval
6 months /  10,000 kms
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Driver Side Eng Scuttle
Country of Origin