The Numbers

1798cc, 4cyl petrol, FWD, 96kW, 174Nm, 6.7L/100km, 160g/km CO2, 0-100km/h in 9.5s,190km/h, 1230kg

The Topgear Verdict

Bigger than a Holden Cruze, cheaper than a Mazda3, and better equipped than a Toyota Corolla, the revived Pulsar is everything the old Tiida wanted to be, but never could.

2013 Nissan Pulsar Sedan

There have been some questionable calls over the years. CancellingFamily Guyin 2001, only to bring it back and watch it go on to tally 12 Emmy nominations was one. Letting James Blunt into a recording studio was another (letting him near one again was utterly inexplicable). But Nissan dropping the ‘Pulsar’ badge for Tiida in early 2006 was perhaps the most questionable of all.

Everyone knew what a Pulsar was. And everyone new someone that owned one. It was among the most recognisable car brands in Australia. And then suddenly it wasn’t. Nissan killed it off and replaced it with the Tiida. The truth is, though, the Pulsar nameplate had to die because it wasn’t successful internationally. And although the Tiida tanked here, it thrived abroad, and has since evolvedinto today’s Almera (eyesore)as well as this (much prettier) Pulsar Hatch, out mid-year.

The 2013 Pulsar Sedan you see here is actually the latest US-market Sentra, whose lineage dates back directly to the dear old Datsun Sunny. And, indeed, it was a sun-shiny day back in November when we briefly sampled the all-important new sedan – admittedly in prototype form – on a closed proving ground, under strict supervision, witha few highly controlled exercises to ascertain handling, ride and performance.

The outcome of three years’ of intense development in Japan, the first surprise is the Pulsar’s design. Yes, it’s busy and has more than a bit of porky USA flavour, but the profile is stately.

And large – we’re talking 1980s Commodore sized – with loads of rear-seat legroom and a boot that’s 80 litres bigger than a Mazda3’s.

Irritatingly, the rear backrest won’t fold, you only get a ski-port hole. Nissan reckons it makes for a quieter and more refined interior.

There’s nothing remotely progressive going on underneath – front-drive, MacPherson struts, torsion-beam rear end – but a slalom test revealed eager, if remote, electric power steering and a well-controlled and compliant chassis. Not bad.

That was surprise number two. The last – and best – isjust how spirited and sweet therev-tastic new 1.8-litre twin-cam four-cylinder petrol engine is, whether mated to an easy six-speed manual or “next-generation” CVT.

Smooth, quick to change down and quiet, the automatic is a big step forward in reducing (if not eliminating) the droning lag that usually afflicts this sort of gearbox. Nobody was expecting that.

Within the next 12 months we’ll likely see a SSS Sedan with a 140kW/240Nm 1.6-litre four-pot turbo, some tied-down suspension and maybe more steering feedback to really get our Pulsars racing.

Right now, though, even the base $19,990 ST is heaving with kit, like Bluetooth, alloy wheels, and cruise control. Lash out for the Ti CVT flagship, and you’ll score satnav, a reverse camera, and Xenons, and all for under $30k.

OK, so the newest small car combatant is not exactly exciting. Nor is it the most powerful, dynamic or sexiest sedan around. But as long as the badge on the rump says Pulsar instead of Tiida, Nissan believes the people will respond.

That’s quite a call. Maybe one of the pollies ought to register the Australian Pulsar Party. We’re looking at you, Malcolm.

Reviewed by: Byron Mathioudakis

Driven: January 24, 2013