FOR HOT-HATCH FANS, THE ‘SSS’ BADGE ON NISSAN’S PULSAR HAS BEEN SYNONYMOUS WITH PERFORMANCE – AND SOME, LIKE THE N14 SSS OF THE EARLY 90S, WERE RIPPERS. The ‘grey import’ Pulsar GTI-R, with manic turbo and ‘street fighter’ looks, has also inflamed passions among the cognoscenti for a sporting Pulsar badge.
Updated mid-2015, the Series II Pulsar line-up adds the SSS badge to the four-door sedan model. It isn’t costly – there is a lot of car here for a $27k turbo manual – and, with 140kW to call on, neither is it lacking in ‘go’.
But it just doesn’t quite nail it as a ‘performance model’.
What is does offer, however, is plenty of value with a long standard equipment list (satellite navigation, leather seats and cruise control are standard) and the usual Pulsar attributes of interior space, comfort and good build-quality.
Vehicle Style: Four-door sedan
Price: $26,990 plus on-roads
Engine/trans: 1.6 litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol; 140kW/240Nm, six-speed manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.8 l/100km / (tested) 8.7 l/100km
The Pulsar SSS sedan replaces the previous Ti model at the top of the Pulsar range.
It offers the same feature list as the Pulsar Ti, but, thanks to the punchy turbocharged 1.6 litre powerplant, mild bodykit and 17-inch alloy wheels, is a much sportier proposition.
With a price tag of a very reasonable $26,990 (we tested the six-speed manual), the SSS also significantly undercuts the jettisoned $29,990 Ti model.
But hardcore Nissan Pulsar SSS fans needn’t get into a sweat of anticipation. Just like the current SSS hatchback, the SSS sedan with its turbo-fed 1.6 litre is a 'warm' model rather than ‘hot’, and lacks the manic edge some may have hoped for.
However, while Nissan rev-heads have retreated to the sheds, there is still a lot to like about the Nissan Pulsar SSS sedan.
Key standard features:
- Satellite navigation with 5.8-inch colour touchscreen
- Rear-view camera with distance guidance lines, parking sensors
- Leather-trimmed seats
- Six-speaker audio with USB/iPod connectivity and Bluetooth audio streaming
- AUX-in socket (MP3/CD/Cassette), AUX-in USB
- Dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning
- Push-button start, auto-on Xenon headlamps
Space really is the final frontier for many small car buyers (especially downsizers) and there’s no doubt Nissan's Pulsar delivers on that score. For those in the rear, we’re thinking the Pulsar may be the most spacious of all sedans in this small car category.
Inside, the Nissan Pulsar SSS doesn’t score any unique sporty accoutrements like figure-hugging seats or a racy steering wheel, but honestly you can’t be overly critical at $26,990.
Nissan’s nice three-spoke steering wheel provides tilt and telescopic adjustment, both front seats have height adjustment, there are crisp white graphics for the conventional instruments and some metallic look highlights all of which add-up to a pleasant - if not ultra-contemporary - interior.
SSS also comes with a standard reversing camera (the only Pulsar model to do so), and a four-star interior rating reflects the long feature list and quality-feel to this interior.
For storage, there is a lidded arm-rest at the centre console, the obligatory cup-holders and door-pocket holders, plus a massive boot, no less than 510 litres. Rear seats however are fixed, although there is a ‘pass-through’ cavity for skies and longer items.
ON THE ROAD
Key technical specifications:
- Turbocharged 1.6 litre, four-cylinder petrol: [email protected],600rpm / [email protected],000rpm
- Six-speed manual
- MacPherson strut front suspension with anti-roll bar, torsion beam rear with anti-roll bar
- Stability Control, traction control, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist
Nissan Pulsar SSS fans with long memories won’t be jumping out of their skins with this SSS sedan. While it gets a potent-enough turbo, and can hustle along, it’s not the SSS of old.
But it is more than a body kit and badge exercise. In fact, while the bigger wheels and lip spoiler signal some sporting intent, there is not much in the way of body kit anyway.
The 1.6-litre turbocharged engine under the bonnet is no fire-breather, but it is one we like. Those 140kW and 240Nm can move the Pulsar along pretty quickly – quicker than its sedate and conservative lines may suggest.
It pulls easily from lower revs, and while the manual shift is a bit ho-hum (it’s a tad wooly through the gate), the extra punch certainly livens-up the Pulsar SSS package (its less-sporty siblings can muster only 96kW/174Nm from the naturally-aspirated 1.8-litre common across the rest of the Pulsar range).
Also, there is a racy sound to things when you lift-off the throttle or change gears – that tell-tale ‘hiss’ from the turbocharger (not GT-R like but noticeable) – which adds to the enjoyment when giving the SSS its head through a set of curves.
Sadly, when the road does get curvy we found ourselves wishing Nissan had given the SSS suspension some attention.
Attention to match that zingy turbo four. Again there’s nothing wrong with the standard calibration – it’s just not ‘SSS-ish’.
The Pulsar rides bumps well, is refined and points and steers nicely - but sporty drivers will be looking for more direct feedback from the steering and less body roll.
That said, it is quieter and more comfortable on-road than other more sports-focused competitors. It is perhaps for buyers who want that compromise – who are looking for a bit of extra performance, but without the hard-riding suspension and the nervous brattish handling of a hot-hatch.
The Nissan Pulsar has a 5-Star ANCAP safety rating, with a score of 32.67 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Small car buyers are no less fastidious about safety than other buyers, and the Pulsar carries the expected: stability and traction control, ABS, brakeforce distribution and brake assist, and six airbags including full-length curtain airbags.
Add also the reverse camera, parking sensors and three child-restraint anchorages in the rear.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, 100,000km
Service costs: Under Nissan’s capped-price servicing scheme, a typical service for the Pulsar SSS ranges from $258 to $491.
Service intervals are set for every six months/10,000km.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
We’ve limited our comparisons to small sedans with manual transmissions and there are now only three main contenders: the Mazda3 SP25 GT sedan (6-speed manual) $29,790, Toyota’s Corolla SX sedan (6-speed manual) at $22,990 and Holden's underrated and sweet-handling Cruze SRi-V sedan at $27,140.
The Ford Focus sedan, with 132kW and a matching 240Nm, is available in automatic only.
Clearly, the Corolla SX’s 103kW/173Nm naturally-aspirated 1.8-litre engine is no match for the Pulsar SSS’s turbo 1.6-litre, but the further upscale Corolla ZR only gets an auto (CVT).
Mazda3 SP25 GT hovers close to $30K and rewards with best-in-class driving dynamics (line-ball with the Focus).
- Holden Cruze SRi-V sedan (six-speed manual) $27,140
- Mazda3 SP25 GT sedan (six-speed manual) $29,790
- Toyota Corolla SX sedan (six-speed manual) $22,990
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Credit where credit is due, the Pulsar SSS (sedan and hatchback) gets a clear point of difference from other small sedans in the form of that energetic turbocharged 1.6 litre powerplant.
And Nissan deserves kudos for adding the sedan SSS variant as part of the Series II running changes.
The SSS badge though is perhaps a little out of place. Though the 2015 Pulsar SSS is certainly a zesty small sedan with a sweet turbo engine under the bonnet, its handling, and the conservative feel to the interior, suggests more ‘touring’ than ‘sports’.
And that, conversely, may appeal to a lot of buyers who enjoy a bit of get-up-and-go under the bonnet, but don’t want to lose creature comforts.
We’re warming to this car.
MORE: Nissan News & Reviews