2013 Nissan Pulsar Hatch Review

Tony O'Kane | 10 Comments


What's Hot: Zippy turbo engine, rear seat space, solid value
What's Not: A bit plain, CVT not up to Nissan’s usual standard, lifeless steering
X-Factor: Excuse the unassuming exterior: in turbo form the Pulsar is a very capable warm hatch.

Vehicle style: Small hatchback
$18,990 (ST hatch manual) to $29,240 (SSS manual)
Engine/trans: 1.8 petrol four (ST and ST-L), 1.6 turbo petrol four (ST-S, SSS)

Fuel use listed l/100km: 7.2 (Pulsar ST manual), 7.7 (Pulsar ST-S manual)
Fuel use tested l/100km: 8.5 (Pulsar ST-L CVT), 10.9 (Pulsar SSS manual)


The Pulsar range is now complete. Nearly five months after the arrival of the Pulsar sedan, Nissan’s new small car is finally available in hatch form.

Australian motorists, with fond memories of the previous Pulsar range (which departed our shores back in 2006), are expecting big things of this new arrival.

And happily for Nissan, the hatch is indeed a better car than the sedan.

A lot of that added appeal comes from the availability of a turbocharged 1.6 litre engine, which is not offered in the sedan. Perky and powerful, it adds substantial punch to the Pulsar’s on-road performance.

Certainly, the range-topping turbocharged SSS will grab the attention of buyers. At just under $30k it’s a pricey proposition, but worth the coin thanks to a fat feature set.

But one rung down sits the ST-S. It’s also turbocharged and shares most of its mechanicals with the SSS, yet costs just $24,990. If you can live without the extra luxuries of the SSS, the ST-S is undoubtedly the one to get.


“Plain and inoffensive” is the Pulsar’s formula, at least when it comes to interior design. The big, organically-styled dash lacks panache and visual 'wow factor, but it’s clean, functional and ergonomically sound.

The instruments are clear, the steering wheel is a comfortable shape and there are plenty of soft-touch surfaces on the upper dash and door trims.

The perforated leather trim on the SSS is nicer than most other leather upholsteries in this segment, and preferable to the cloth trim in the lesser Pulsar models.

It also gives the impression that it will last forever. Build quality is very solid, and with nary a squeak or rattle heard during launch, it certainly feels durable.

The seats are fairly flat yet give reasonable support, however we’d prefer a little more reach adjustment in the steering column.

Back seat space is the Pulsar hatch’s trump card. Along with the Cruze and Subaru Impreza, the Pulsar offers plenty of room to stretch out. Headroom is plentiful in both front and rear, too.

2013 nissan pulsar sss hatch 24 1

One of the hatch’s crucial advantages over the sedan is its 60/40 split-fold rear seat.

The sedan has no seat-fold mechanism of any kind, so the load-carrying flexibility offered by the hatchback’s folding seat is a huge plus.

One issue is the lack of Bluetooth audio streaming in all models bar the flagship Pulsar SSS.

The SSS is also the only model to get a reversing camera - something that should at least be offered as an option on other models, but isn’t.


As with the sedan, the 96kW 1.8 litre naturally-aspirated engine in the base Pulsar ST and mid-grade ST-L is a fairly underwhelming thing.

It’s by no means any worse than engines of similar displacement offered in other makes, but it fails to rouse the adrenal glands - especially when fitted with the indecisive CVT.

But make no mistake, the 1.6 litre turbo in the ST-S and SSS is a proper firecracker. It’s got 140kW of power and 240Nm of torque, and it builds boost in a linear fashion that aids both driveability and performance.

It’s quite rev-happy too, and will zing up to its 6500rpm fuel-cut with relish.

Compared to the 132kW/230Nm Cruze SRi, the Pulsar feels much stronger in the midrange and is ultimately quicker in a straight line.

A quick test with the stopwatch revealed a 0-100km/h time in the region of 7.8 seconds for the ST-S manual, which is bordering on hot hatch territory.

The suspension could use a little finessing though. Damp conditions during the launch revealed the car’s preference for understeer, as well as axle tramp under hard acceleration.

There’s a fair amount of body roll in hard corners too, but the 17-inch Continental tyres fitted to our SSS tester had good grip when the road wasn’t quite so wet.

Steering feel is still an issue for the Pulsar. Like the sedan, the Pulsar hatch suffers from a lack of feedback and an over-assisted rack.


While the base model Pulsar ST and ST-L make perfectly adequate grocery-getters, the ST-S and the top-line SSS are the real stars of the 2013 Nissan Pulsar range.

The engine is a triumph, and one of the best available in a sub-$30k 'warm' hatch. Coupled with the standard six-speed manual, it’s delivers a sweet driving experience.

The suspension could use a little more polish, but on the whole the turbocharged Pulsar hatch is a solid drive.

It’s a shame that the naturally-aspirated models are a little lacklustre, but then again the $18,990 Pulsar ST hatch is perhaps mostly intended for fleets and rentals.

If you’re thinking about the ST-L, consider forking out an extra $2500 to get yourself into the turbo ST-S instead. You won’t regret it.


MLP | Manual / Auto Estimated Drive-away | Manual / Auto
Pulsar Hatch ST $18,990 / $21,240 $21,878 / $24,196
Pulsar Hatch ST-L $22,490 / $24,740 $25,481 / $27,799
Pulsar Hatch ST-S $24,990 / $27,490 $28,010 / $30,585
Pulsar Hatch SSS $29,240 / $31,740 $32,433 / $35,008

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Filed under: Featured, review, Nissan, petrol, hot hatch, hatch, automatic, Manual, fwd, CVT, small, family, Advice, special-featured, 4cyl, 5door, 6m, 5seat, nissan pulsar, available, 25-30k, 30-35k, 15-20k, 20-25k, 2013my

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  • Greg says,
    2 years ago
    Awesome review, not many reviews state the real world data i.e actual fuel consumption and acceleration times.
  • Grumps
    Grumps says,
    2 years ago
    Would like to hear how the 1.6 turbo with the CVT goes considering it should have different mapping than the regular 1.8 engine.

    Not sold on the silver coloured centre stack either - stands out too much and detracts from the overall look.

    Oh, slight typo guys. First Drive Verdict: second line I assume you mean ST-S and not ST-L smile
  • Yetiman says,
    2 years ago
    Do you know about Nissan servicing cost?
  • ATHWebber says,
    2 years ago
    I'm and Australian living in the middle east - and what is being released as a pulsar in Aus has been available here for years.

    It's called a Tiida here - and the things are bullet proof.

    The environment here is harsh, with weeks of 50c heat not unusual in summer, dust storms are a regular occurrence and driving on the roads is akin to playing playing a play-station game in real time.

    The Tiidas get it all done with out even a whimper.

    We are yet to see the 1.6T, new to the product range, but I've driven the previous model 1.8 and am really impressed by it.

    So much so that if I was in the market again for a car (I drive the sterotypical desert car - a Jeep Wrangler) I would absolutely be looking around for a Tiida.

    It is common practice here to purchase one, do nothing but put tyres on it's feet (the hot roads chew them up quickly) fuel in it's belly and service them only when an owner can be bothered.

    I have a colleague who bought one for the daily commute between Abu Dhabi and Dubai - an 75 minutes each way at 140kms per hour.

    He bought it for 30,000 (local money) drove it for a year, then sold it for 30k.

    They really are that good.

    A little boring on the inside, for sure, but worth every penny when it comes to usability and reliability.

    • SG1 says,
      2 years ago
      No ... You are mistaken. The old Tiida (the one you drive) is the same as the old Tiida in Australia. It was a sad expression of a vehicle. I am unsure as to why anyone bought it - it was a pretty unsafe feeling car. Different markets different expectations I suppose. Anyway, this new Tiida that Australians (and some other nationalities like the Thais) call the Pulsar is a Chinese designed Nissan variant of the new Tiida. It was probably first put out to show at a Shanghai car show a year or two ago. While you can still buy the old Tiida in china under a state owned rebadged company (can't recall the name), the new Tiida has taken over.

      It is spacious and drives alright - although it is a CVT. I know this as I own one - but I would never have owned an earlier model Tiida.

      All I can say with certainty, is that the new Tiida is going to blow the UAE away.
  • cheekydonkey says,
    2 years ago
    They should have made it an RWD car and it would have been a cracker of a car. FWD cars, no matter what you do with it, will never be as good as a RWD one.
    • Balthazaaaaargh says,
      2 years ago
      Wow, people like you still exist?
  • marg05 says,
    2 years ago
    What is the likihood of a turbo diesel engine coming as part of this package?
  • Jonno says,
    2 years ago
    Ermh! The rear seats backs don't fold flat across the entire floor. A deal breaker when considering cars like the Honda Jazz & Honda Civic Hatchback have flat floors with the rear seats folded back.
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