Nissan Pulsar SSS road test: Adding some extra whoosh
HOT hatches are all the rage.
We've seen a proliferation of the fire-breathers in recent times, led by the raucous Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG, along with the tried and trusted Golf GTI, the new Renault Clio RS as well as the return of the Peugeot 208 GTI.
While those performance focused offerings lead the way, in the past year there have been some "warm" hatches hitting the market.
There is the new Hyundai i30 SR, Holden Cruze SRi-V and soon we'll have Kia Pro_cee'd GT.
And then there has been the resurrection of an old favourite, the Nissan Pulsar SSS. Yet this is not the SSS we used to know.
It's more expensive, starting from about 30 grand, but it now comes with a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine. That adds some nice shove to a refined package.
Small car? Pfft.
The Pulsar has acres of space and four adults would embrace a road trip. Even with tall adults up front there is ample head, leg and knee space in the back.
Being the range-topper the SSS gets all the bells and whistles including leather trim and sat nav with a 14.7cm colour screen.
Both front pews could do with some more support at the base and some more exciting finishes would spice things up in an otherwise nice, but sensible cabin.
Hard plastics adorn the centre console but don't detract from the soft-touch materials used across the dash and doors.
On the road
There is a lovely turn of speed from the responsive 1.6-litre turbocharged engine.
Testing the six-speed manual which had lovely crisp shifts with short throws between the cogs, it was a joy to steer.
At 100kmh it sits at about 3000rpm and it cruises nicely on the highway.
We really liked the light and direct steering which allows the driver to rip into a bend and feel confident at a range of speeds.
The performance is not neck-snapping. Some of the other new additions to this arena possess greater punch off the line, whereas the SSS is more linear and smooth in its power delivery.
One of the benefits of not being a hardcore hot hatch is the smoother ride with the suspension avoiding too much body roll in the bends while ironing out poor roads well.
What do you get?
Given the level of specification, there really is nothing on the want list. Standard fruit includes front fog lights, six-speaker CD stereo which is MP3 capable and has Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, automatic Xenon lights, dual zone air con and keyless entry with push button start.
Boot space is generous enough for a family grocery shop, and the rear seats fold for those awkward items. They don't drop completely flat, but we managed to fit an adult bike inside by removing the wheel and still had heaps of space.
It even has a full-size spare, along with three child seat anchorage points.
Two cup holders adorn the centre console and each door is sculpted to handle a bottle.
There are some more hardcore hot hatches, like the VW Golf GTI (from $41,490), Ford Focus ST (from $38,290) or Subaru WRX (from $39,990). The SSS is more likely to attract those also considering the Hyundai i30 SR ($27,990), Holden Cruze SRi-V ($26,490), Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo ($32,990) or the Kia Koup Turbo ($27,990).
We managed to get about 7.6 litres per 100km, but it does run on the more expensive premium unleaded.
The turbocharging shouldn't cause too many issues with insurance although some companies still have issues with force-fed donks.
Servicing is capped, and Nissan has a good spread of dealerships along with a solid warranty.
For the flagship sporting offering, Nissan has underplayed the styling. There is the obligatory skirts and rear spoiler, but we'd like to see the bar raised.
It looks under-wheeled and could handle some nice five-spoke alloys like we've seen on the Juke SUV - perhaps 18-inch rather than 17s.
What matters most
The good stuff: Strong turbo performance, slick six-speed manual box, interior space.
What we'd like to see: Extra internal and external bling, larger alloys, sporty exhaust soundtrack under acceleration.
Servicing and warranty: Three years/100,000km with 24 hour roadside assistance. Servicing is every six months or 10,000km. Capped price servicing for up to six years/120,000km (whichever comes first). Average price over 12 services is $334.
Model: Nissan Pulsar SSS Hatch.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive small performance hatchback.
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder generating maximum power of 140kW @ 5600rpm and peak torque of 240Nm @ 2000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic.
Consumption: 7.7 litres/100km (m); 7.8L/100km (a).
CO2: 185g/km (m), 187g/km (a).
Bottom line: $29,240 (m) (automatic $2500) plus on-roads.