NISSAN has been peppering the opposition with bullets in the small car war with its new Pulsar. Now a cannon is pointed in the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla direction.
The hatch range has joined its sedan siblings, which undercuts all the small car lead players with a starting price of $18,990.
Included in the new line-up is the much-loved turbocharged SSS model which retails for $29,240.
Since rejoining the sales race in February after a seven year absence, Pulsar has been kicking goals for Nissan. The Tiida replacement has already snatched 7% of the small car sales market this year.
Expect that figure to rise now that the hatch has arrived. One in four new cars sold in Australia come from the "small" segment - and about 60% of those are in hatch guise.
Our quick drive today through the Yarra Valley proved Nissan is on a winner.
In both manual and automatic versions, the hatch felt surprisingly more nimble and likable in the performance stakes than the sedan (it's between 15-25kg lighter).
The manual provides quick and clean shifts, while the CVT partners well with the 1.8-litre derivative and will work right up to the redline with linear power delivery.
While turbocharged, the SSS is not in hot hatch territory. It is punchy and offers excellent acceleration for overtaking and getting off the line but it won't rival a Volkswagen GTI or an Renault Megane RS265 Cup - but then again it's more than 10 grand cheaper.
There is excellent interior space within the Pulsar cabin, probably the best available in this genre.
Standard equipment on the ST includes 16-inch alloys, air-conditioning, cruise control, four-speaker audio with MP3 capability and AUX-IN, Bluetooth phone connectivity (no audio streaming), power windows and a five-star safety rating.
One rung up and the ST-L gets front fog lights, a rear spoiler, extra two speakers, 11cm colour display, better cloth trim and leather-trimmed steering wheel.
Get into the ST-S and it adds larger alloys, the turbo donk, while the SSS gets automatic Xenon headlights, a body kit, larger colour display, sat nav, rear view camera, Bluetooth audio streaming, leather trim, dual zone air con and plush button start.
Nissan Motor Company (Australia) managing director and CEO William F Peffer Jr said the success of Pulsar so far this year proves the nameplate still resonates Down Under.
"Australia by far the most competitive new car market in the world and to succeed you need to have the right mix of factors and deliver customer value," he said.
"For Nissan this car with carve out an even greater unfair share of the new car market."
Model: Nissan Pulsar Hatch.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive small hatchback.
Engine: 1.8-litre in-line four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 96kW@6000rpm and peak torque of 174Nm @ 4800rpm; 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder 140kW @ 5600rpm and 240Nm @ 2000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic.
Consumption: 1.80litre - 7.2 litres/100km (m); 6.7L/100km (a). 1.6 - 7.7L/100km (m); 7.8L/100km (a).
CO2: 1.8-litre 169g/km; 161g/km. 1.6-litre 185g/km; 187g/km (a).
Bottom line: ST $18,990 (m), ST-L $22,490, ST-S $24,990, SSS $29,240. (Automatic is $2250 extra on ST and ST-L, $2500 more on ST-S and SSS).
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