Base price: $29,990.
Powertrain and performance: 1.8-litre petrol four, 96kW/174Nm, continuously variable transmission, front-drive, Combined economy 6.7 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4295mm long, 1520mm high, kerb weight 1320kg, fuel tank 52 litres, 16-inch wheels on 195/60 tyres.
We like: Honest specification and price, quality, more style than Pulsar sedan.
We don’t like: Unremarkable powertrain, no fold-flat facility in cargo area.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
First came the sedan, but now there’s a Nissan Pulsar hatchback in the range. We’ve already tested the Pulsar four-door in flagship Ti form and found it well-executed but lacking sparkle. The entry-level ST hatchback here might be just the thing, then: better-looking, more practical and in base specification it comes at a price you simply can’t argue with: $29,990.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
The 1.8-litre engine and Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) are exactly the same as the Pulsar sedan: same good points, same bad. The powerplant is unremarkable but does offer good pulling power low in the rev range, which helps keep the CVT calm.
When this type of gearless transmission is coupled with a small petrol motor, there’s often a tendency for it to rush to the upper end of available engine speed in the pursuit of performance. That’s not the case with Pulsar – at least not if you keep the right foot in check.
There’s no manual mode for the CVT (you have to step up to the turbo ST-S and/or SSS for that), nor do you get shift paddles on any Pulsar model. But there is a Sport button on the gearlever and an L setting on the gate. Both add engine braking but also a fair bit of busyness. Use sparingly.
The steering is worryingly light but impressively accurate. The same could be said of the chassis, which makes no effort to entertain but maintains a surefooted feel.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?
With its compact exterior dimensions and tall roof, the Pulsar is almost like a mini-people mover. That’s meant as a compliment, for the large glass areas give the cabin a spacious feel and the simple layout of the dashboard means this is one car that requires no acclimatisation for new drivers – which must be a big plus for the fleet users that will feature heavily in the buyer profile for such a car.
Equipment is fairly basic, as you’d expect at this level: manual air conditioning, cloth trim and so on. You still get functional items such as cruise control and Bluetooth (again, that will appeal to fleet buyers), although some details disappoint. For example, the ST lacks a USB input for a memory stick or iPod: a tiny plug that’s fitted to every Pulsar model above this specification. Seems a bit miserable, people.
Curiously, there is no official figure given for the Pulsar hatchback’s luggage capacity. It’s certainly smaller than the sedan’s cavernous 510 litres, but scores one over the four-door by offering 60/40 split/folding rear seats. Disappointingly though, they don’t stow flat: if you’re loading longer items in, there’s a substantial lip to get over where the rear seats lie.
SHOULD I BUY ONE?
There is no shortage of small hatchbacks to choose from in the Kiwi market. Pulsar does not push the boundaries forward in any way, but the ST certainly comes at the right price, quality is impressive and the return of the Pulsar name to the local Nissan lineup might hit the right note for some buyers.
Air conditioning: Manual
Audio: CD, auxiliary jack
Automatic lights/wipers: No/No
Blind spot warning: No
Cruise control: Yes
Driver footrest: Yes
Gas discharge headlights: No
Head-up display: No
Heated/ventilated seats: No
Keyless entry/start: No
Lane guidance: No
Leather upholstery: No
Parking radar: No
Power boot or tailgate: No
Power seat adjustment/memory: No
Remote audio controls: Yes
Satellite navigation: No
Seat height adjustment: Yes
Self-parking technology: No
Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
Steering reach adjustment: Yes
Trip computer: Yes
Find a Nissan Pulsar ST HERE