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  • Solid performance from the 1.6-litre turbo; refined transmissions; excellent ride/handling balance; comfort; space and practicality
  • SSS styling is lukewarm; CVT is less engaging than the manual; engine note is lacking

8 / 10

2013 Nissan Pulsar SSS Review
2013 Nissan Pulsar SSS Review
2013 Nissan Pulsar SSS Review

For over 13 years the much-loved Nissan Pulsar SSS has been conspicuously absent from Australia’s burgeoning hot hatch market.

But the iconic badge has finally made its comeback, knocking out the old 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine and replacing it with a punchier 1.6-litre turbo.

Priced from $29,290 (plus on-road costs), the Pulsar SSS sits at the top of Nissan’s new-generation small-car range, just as it did all those years ago.

Only back then, the warmed-up hatch wore a price tag of just $23,470.

Nissan says the significant premium placed on the Pulsar SSS is more than justified by its considerable upgrade in power and torque, along with its impressive inventory of standard equipment.

It would have been a tougher sell if Nissan was to push the SSS on looks alone. Apart from a slightly racy sports body kit, unique 17-inch alloys and a chrome-tipped exhaust pipe, there isn’t a lot to distinguish the SSS from its less powerful Pulsar hatch siblings.

Inside, the upgrade is more obvious. There’s leather trim, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, and a 5.8-inch touchscreen display with satellite navigation and a rear-view camera, which are unique to the SSS grade.

They join xenon headlamps, front foglights, leather-bound steering wheel and six-speaker audio unit with Bluetooth phone and music streaming.

2013 Nissan Pulsar SSS Review
2013 Nissan Pulsar SSS Review
2013 Nissan Pulsar SSS Review
2013 Nissan Pulsar SSS Review

More significant is the 140kW/240Nm 1.6-litre direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder powerplant, which produces 35kW/61Nm more power and torque than the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre of the last SSS and 44kW/66Nm more than the 1.8-litre in the entry-level Pulsar hatch.

For the bargain hunters, it’s also the same engine that you’ll find in lower grade ST-S – essentially a stripped-out version of the SSS, which sells from $24,990.

Right from the get-go, the Nissan Pulsar SSS feels different. There’s a subtle change in the exhaust note, more weight in the steering and the engine feels a lot more potent.

Throttle response is satisfyingly sharp too, with peak torque from just 2000rpm ensuring plenty of punch off the line.

And there’s no shortage of ‘go’ further up the rev range either, as the free-spinning engine finds its sweet spot at around 4500rpm when the boost comes on song.

It also doesn’t seem to matter what gear ratio you’re in, as even in sixth there’s always sufficient grunt on tap for safe, high-speed passing.

Sadly, though, there isn’t much in the way of a performance-style engine note, at least from inside the cabin.

Nissan hasn’t released acceleration figures for the SSS, but we’ll cover those details in a more comprehensive test of the car down the track. In the meantime, we reckon it feels like a 7.0-second car – at least in manual guise.

2013 Nissan Pulsar SSS Review
2013 Nissan Pulsar SSS Review
2013 Nissan Pulsar SSS Review
2013 Nissan Pulsar SSS Review

That would make it considerably quicker than the 2000 model SSS, which needed 8.8 seconds to cover the 0-100km/h sprint.

The front-wheel-drive Pulsar SSS gets an ultra-smooth shifting standard spec six-speed manual transmission – one of the highlights of this car – but we also tried the optional CVT automatic version.

Unlike the CVT available in the lower grades, the SSS version gets a ‘manual mode’ that does its best to mimic a manual transmission by distinctive steps between the gear ratios.

However, it’s noticeably less engaging than the proper six-speed manual and the power delivery feels slightly restrained.

Crucially, the Pulsar SSS gets its own unique suspension tune, and while it’s noticeably firmer than the rest of the hatch range, Pulsar’s commendable ride comfort is maintained even over harsh surfaces.

It’s also surprisingly well composed in the corners, displaying minimal body roll, good chassis balance and never really feeling like it’s working that hard – even at pace.

It’s not quite a full-blooded hot hatch, nor is the SSS priced like one. But for just over $29K you get yourself a decent dose of performance in a capable and comfortable all-rounder.

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2013 Nissan Pulsar SSS Review
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  • zahmad

    Looks like manual is the go…
    I just don’t understand why this can’t be built on the Megane Platform and have all the related hardware shoehorned in ala Skoda RS and Golf GTI…

    • TheRealThomas

      I’m pretty sure this is built on the Clio/Juke/Captur platform not the Megane.

      • zahmad

        Well that’s also my point…
        Why leave Nissan with the smaller BO/V platform – not the C platform – and have no proper performance model. Surely they could do this easily.

        Or are they afraid of self-competition?

        • Lindsay

          Nissan’s C platform car is the Sentra.

          • Poison_Eagle

            The Sentra is the Pulsar sedan.

          • zahmad

            Sentra is the new Pulsar sedan and on the new BO/V platform, so Nissan actually has no models on the C Platform other than the X-trail and Dualis…

  • Tents

    Such a missed opportunity. The styling is terrible, enough to put me off regardless of the value or performance on offer.

    • F1orce

      That’s what I thought about the sedan until I actually saw one in person..

  • Yetiman

    Does the ST-S have the same suspension set up?


      Yes it does. It just doesn’t have the interior kit and other lux features of the SSS

    • Zaccy16

      IMO the STS would be the best pick because it will look pretty much the same as the SSS but is cheaper and has the better less rolly suspension tune

  • Dieseltorque

    Owned the previous SSS years ago. One of the best cars I have owned, sharp handling and the SR20 was a sweet engine. Engine looks on paper and from reviewers comment is on the right track. But for 30K I expect a bit more than 17 inch trolley wheels and some extra effort inside. Touch screen looks old school and steering wheel looks non sporty.

    • save it for the track

      It is mentioned in the CA review of the Pulsar range that the SSS has a ‘bespoke’ suspension tune. Though how a unique suspension tune for the SSS model is, ‘made to individual order’, or ‘custom made’ is beyond me, (maybe Nissan is offering various levels of tune in the SSS suspension at customer request?), otherwise ‘bespoke’ is yet again poorly used in a vehicle review. Never thought I would say that a Corolla looks better than a Pulsar. Despise the boring look of this thing, Nissan lost their mojo a long time ago (GTR excepted). Where are the iconic SR20T engines, and vehicles made for them 200sx, etc.??

      • Lindsay

        The “iconic” vehicles such as the 200SX turned into sales disasters.

  • $29896495

    left hand drive hand brake – not impressed. Don’t like the look of them.

    • zej

      It’s amazing what people complain about nowadays. Boo hoo, the hand-brake is 3 inches too far to the left.

      • racrepus

        Well gee, if in a cheap little $15k Kia Rio they bother mirroring the WHOLE interior not just the pedals and steering wheel, don’t see any reason why a $20-30k Nissan can’t – except it saves them money having to only produce one centre mould. It’s all about the aesthetics. As far as I’m concerned quality includes stuff like this, not just whether the panels line up and the plastics are soft.

        Actually, what’s funny is the Chinese makes are just about the only ones left that don’t bother mirroring the interior properly… and Nissan-Renault of course.

        • zej

          Good on you for critiquing a car based on how similar it looks to it’s LHD versions sold half a world away. That’s the real mark of quality and what the world of motoring is all about.

          • racrepus

            Yeah, righto. Just totally ignore the fact cheaper budget cars have a properly converted interior. Tell me why just about every other manufacturer goes to the effort, yet Nissan don’t? Answer to me that one simple question and I might see your side. So far you’ve just spouted a bunch of BS trashing our opinions. Some of us like cars that feel like they were designed for RHD, not left with blatantly obvious evidence of a cheap conversion.

          • Smart US

            when NIssan does a foot brake – like in my Maxima – ppl critique how bad it is bla bla bla – for me the best thing ever – hardly intruding when off – and when on you notice it right-away – so there is always complain

        • Smart US

          toyota camry previous model – i hardly used that handbrake coz it was too far out of sight and did not bother – however it was also not intruding into my driver space

          • $29896495

            Really safe way to operate a car. How does a properly placed hand brake intrude? It doesn’t!

          • Smart US

            well did you drive the 2nd to last Camry? the hand brake is far from the driver and its even tilted toward the passenger – meaning if its mirrored it would be sticking into drivers space… i prefer foot brake – nice neat and not intruding

          • $29896495

            No body said they all got it right. I can think of several other cars as well as the Camry (US designed) that got it wrong. But nothing worse than a foot operated parking brake, which requires two actions. Unsafe!

      • $29896495

        Why do you think the cup holders are on the outside of the handbrake for left hand drive cars? Do I need to explain? Plus it’s just nasty. As racrepus mentions, others can do it on cheaper cars (better looking cars too) why NOT Datsun?

        • zej

          Because it doesn’t matter. It’s like arguing a toss over whether the fuel filler should be on the left or right hand side. Or which side of the instrument panel the speedo and tacho should be. For those that get their jollies out of “properly mirror converted” interiors, fine. There are many types of motoring enthusiast, I guess.

      • Lindsay

        Having the handbrake as close as possible to directly under your shoulder is a fairly important issue of ergonomics.

  • Daniel

    Drove the STS at work the other day. Wasn’t overly impressed. Much better than the 1.8. Thought it would feel as quick as my Polo GTi. I was going to hold off and wait to see the SSS before getting the GTi, but after driving the mechanically identically STS, I’m glad bought the GTi (ignoring the recalls and stuff going on at the moment)

    STS made no noise, the steering wheel felt like it wasn’t attached to anything, the interior is plain. It did pull up pretty well though.

  • horsie

    its not as if the styling of the original SSS was anything exciting.

  • Tofu Man


    Ill just wait til the Nissan Juke gets released down here

  • Ted

    This car is a Nissan Tida overseas, but rebadged a Pulsar for Australia..

  • TomW

    Not too impressive to look at is it? And I’m a Fabia RS owner, so I’m not that fussy. :)

  • JamesB

    Exhaust tip is ugly as, but a good price for a decent performing car.

    Now, it’s only the Corolla without a real sports version. Wake up, Toyota.

  • Zaccy16

    Looks the best in the range but still looks too much like the awful tiida! the engine sounds like the best thing about it especially with the manual not the dulling CVT

  • Phil

    Dear Nissan,
    you revived the wrong car. Where’s the 200SX?

    • Shak

      Read some rumours…keep your fingers crossed!

  • delux

    The ST-S is the 2.0L N14 Pulsar Q reincarnated. I’d be interested to hear how the ST-S handles when compared to the SSS

  • Dieseltorque

    Had a look at the STS at the local dealership. Despite the lure of the 1.6 turbo I could not get past my first look of the interior. I thought I was looking at a 2000 not a 2013 model. I just felt bored sitting inside the car I tried to like something but no truly old dated interior. The radio is truely disgraceful and from the pics above the SSS is not much better. I was keen to test the new engine but I lost any enthusiasm just looking at that dashboard.

    • OK

      Really, you choose a car by it’s dashboard?

  • Nick

    The most uninspiring hatch I’ve ever seen

  • Sofa King What

    The confused swastika alloy wheels and the CVT make me look elsewhere. Still, a welcome addition that will sell well.

  • Vti07

    The handbrake on the left is not necessarily a mirroring issue. It is quite possible that in the LHD model, the handbrake is on the right. Can someone confirm this?

    • $29896495

      It’s LHD

      • Vti07

        Thanks. I’m finding the US range a bit confusing. If sentra is equivalent to the pulsar, then what is the versa equivalent to?

        • $29896495

          Actually the Versa is a Pulsar.

  • Mad Mick

    what does the DIG stand for on the back door . At first I thought it was diesel.

Nissan Pulsar Specs

Car Details
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$19,250 - $21,880
Dealer Retail
$20,540 - $24,420
Dealer Trade
$15,100 - $17,500
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
240Nm @  2000rpm
Max. Power
140kW @  5600rpm
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)
7.7L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:1100  Unbrake:750
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
205/50 R17
Rear Tyres
205/50 R17
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
Control & Handling
Traction Control System, Vehicle Stability Control
Trip Computer
Xenon Headlights
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