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2015 Nissan Pulsar SSS sedan review (video)

The Nissan Pulsar SSS was somewhat of a cult classic in its earlier iterations. Now though the Nissan landscape has shifted massively, with the GT-R flagship and sporty Z series taking the honors for exhilaration.

2015 Nissan Pulsar SSS sedan-Cayenne Red

In 2015, the SSS badge has been slapped on the back of the Pulsar, replacing the Pulsar Ti at the top of the lineup. We’re here to find out whether it lives up to the heritage of the badge, or if it’s purely an exercise in marketing.

Prices start at a very reasonable $26,990 for the manual (as tested), and $29,290 for the CVT auto.

2015 Nissan Pulsar SSS sedan – THE SPECS

Engine: 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder
Output: 140kW@5600rpm / 240Nm@2000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Drive type: Front-wheel drive
Wheels: F: 17×6.5, 205/50  R: 17×6.5, 205/50
ANCAP: Five stars (scored 32.67 out of 37)
Kerb weight: 1297kg

Power-to-weight: 9.2:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 7.8L/100km
Economy during test: 9.5L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 52L/95 RON
Power efficiency: 17.9kW:L/100km
0-100km/h as tested: 7.4 seconds
Priced from: $26,990

2015 Nissan Pulsar SSS sedan-rear

2015 Nissan Pulsar SSS sedan – THE PACKAGE

First thing first; the four-door sedan version is a $1000 premium over the same spec hatchback that hit the market in 2013. For that extra cash you get the sedan body shape but no practicality or dynamic benefits are offered.

Boot space is larger than what you might think is possible from a car with these proportions, rated at 510 litres (same as hatch variant). This puts it on par with some mid-size SUVs. It is capable of swallowing up a tonne of bulky items, with a wide opening and deep access. Strangely, the rear seat cannot be folded down which means you only have a small ski hole to poke longer items through. The rear of the cabin is very spacious for the class too, with occupants getting rear air vents, curtain airbags, comfortable pu/leather trimmed seats, and ample headroom and legroom.

There is one aspect to the SSS that is hard to not be impressed by; the sheer amount of equipment on offer for a car with this price tag. It comes with a 5.8-inch touch-screen infotainment system with satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, a reversing camera and rear sensors, a six-speaker stereo, cruise control, and the list goes on. Most controls are easy to find and just as easy to use, really boosting this car’s practical appeal.

As a design exercise, the SSS is a mixed bag for us, with some genuinely enticing features, and some areas that seem almost like a panicked after-thought. The front fascia with LED-infused headlamps looks great, but the side skirts look like a botched aftermarket job in our opinion. Around the front end the chrome detailing adds a touch of class and sophistication, while the unique 17-inch alloy wheels bring some sportiness.

2015 Nissan Pulsar SSS sedan-interior

2015 Nissan Pulsar SSS sedan – THE DRIVE

With all things practical out of the way, it’s time to really put the Pulsar to the test. After all, it does wear the SSS badge. When you push the silly pedal, 140kW at 5600rpm and 240Nm at 2000rpm get the Pulsar up to speed in very respectable time, albeit with an unimpressive engine note. Off the mark and in a straight line, you’ll be right up there with its competitors. Torque comes on strong with a hint of turbo-lag, and from there it has no trouble getting up to highway speeds. We timed 0-100km/h in a brisk 7.4 seconds.

There is a satisfying amount of torque to push you along, and when you hit the sweet spot in the rev-range the turbo sings its song and gives you a more than adequate amount of power. The nature of that power delivery is indeed very turbocharged however, with a doughey throttle response low down and the engine only coming alive above the 3000-4000rpm mark.

Despite it’s not-so-heavy tare weight of 1297kg, the SSS sedan feels a little unnerving when you start throwing it around some corners. Ride comfort is great for the suburban runs, but it is perhaps too soft for sporty driving. This translates to the chassis feeling a little wobbly and unsettled compared with market rivals, especially during quick direction changes. The front 205/50 tyres cry out in pain as you push the SSS around the bends too, with lots of single wheel wheelspin if you apply some throttle mid-corner. To us, it just doesn’t ring true to the SSS badge. If Nissan called it the Ti, there probably wouldn’t be an expectation. On the flip side, this more practical setup is likely to appeal to the masses.

The six-speed manual transmission is geared rather short. At speed it makes you feel more engaged with the machine, but around town the constant shifting can prove frustrating. It also doesn’t help with economy as the engine requires 3000rpm to maintain 110km/h. The clutch is light and easy to operate, and the steering feels like it has been calibrated to be nice and light at low speeds, making the urban grind a breeze.

2015 Nissan Pulsar SSS sedan-rear seats

2015 Nissan Pulsar SSS sedan – THE VIDEO

2015 Nissan Pulsar SSS sedan – THE VERDICT

In our minds, the latest model doesn’t live up to the SSS expectations you might have hoped for. It is indeed an exceptionally practical sedan that has quite a bit of poke, don’t get us wrong. If you were expecting a hot hatch though, we’re here to tell you the result is more like a warm spring afternoon; enough to take your shirt off, but not enough to send excitement levels flowing.

What the SSS lacks in the adrenaline-pumping department it seems to make up for with the amount of kit offered at the price point. The bottom line is the Pulsar SSS sedan is a practical, well equipped, and very spacious sedan with a sweet little turbocharged engine that will handle the daily commute, and the odd drive up your favourite empty road. And all at an attractive price.

PROS:
– Very practical and large cabin
– Great value; plenty of features
– Engine pulls strong with good torque output
– Huge boot
– Easy to drive

CONS:
– Exterior design isn’t going to win any awards
– Chassis dynamics, torque overpowers skinny tyres

Alexi is a contributing news journalist and junior road tester at PerformanceDrive. He has a passion and appreciation for the engineering in cars, as well as new technologies that lessen the impact on the environment. His dream cars are an M3 to drive to work, and a LaFerrari for the weekend.