Archive of ‘Reviews’ category

Review: Nissan Pulsar Hatch

The Nissan Pulsar Hatch has been missing from the Australian market since 2006 but had a comeback in 2013, and the question had to be asked…. What was the point? We’re pretty well-catered for in the smallish car market, so it would have to be a standout to make its mark. Well, I can tell you there was a very big point to Nissan bringing the Pulsar back. It was one of the more fun cars I’ve driven in a while and I loved it. It also rounds out their range nicely. I drove the ST (CVT).

Nissan Pulsar Review car review

First impressions were that it has elegant but simple styling. I’ve said it about Nissan’s before – they are an unembarassing car. They may not have the most design flair on the market, but they definitely look good, and the Pulsar has a really pretty honeycomb grille that I adored.

The second thing I noticed was that the dash and steering wheel styling is really pretty. It’s dressed to impress with a blend of shiny and matt metallic finishes, and the cruise control was intuitive and seriously easy to use. It’s the sort of thing that makes me cranky if I can’t work it out right away because I don’t look at instructions if I can help it. The Pulsar also has a miniscule turning circle that gave me the happys (and I bet that’s not even a word).

Upon further investigation, the back seats had some serious space back there – the Pulsar is more of a mid-sized car than a small. So I assumed that the boot would have been sacrificed for the back seat leg room, but I was wrong. I filled it up with suitcases, laptops, a ridiculous large handbag, boxes of wine, pot plants, a sewing machine (don’t ask) and had room to spare. And this was AFTER I made a friend languish in the back seat (in the interests of science, of course) to make sure his 6’3″ frame would fit comfortably. And it did!

 

There’s a 60/40 split-fold rear seat that doesn’t fold flat down. This doesn’t worry me personally, but will annoy some. The model I drove, the ST, came with fabric seats that were comfortable and I thought looked OK, but one of my friends (who’s a fashion designer and should darn well know) had a higher opinion.

With all of that swag on board, including my mate, I took the Pulsar on a rather epic adventure. After a few days ripping around the city I packed her up and travelled around 320kms to Lakes Entrance in East Gippsland. That’s a highway run, but with a detour. I visited a friend’s farm via a nifty shortcut – a filthy, very winding and very fast dirt track through the Colquhoun State Forest. This is a track that nearly ended me a few years back in a Subaru Impreza. I pushed the Pulsar harder than the Impreza when I wiped out in it (20km an hour harder, which is a LOT on dirt) and it didn’t miss a beat. The braking on dirt was worth a five-choc-top rating. So there you have it.

This opinion may be an unpopular one, but the Nissan Pulsar Hatch, a front-wheel-drive, performed better than a rally-bred all-wheel-drive Impreza. And I say that as a total Subaru fan and past owner.

I loved the Pulsar Hatch and was a bit sad to send it back. I do think it’s a brilliant (in fact, a standout) car for people in regional and rural regions, and those who do a lot of highway travel around the suburban zones – it handles really well at speed and on less than great roads, and it’s a very comfortable ride. For hard-core city driving (and by that I mean 30kmh and traffic jams) it’s a good car, as the handling and agility, fuel consumption and speed off the blocks was not quite as responsive in the more sluggish driving environment. But don’t let that dissuade you – it just means it’s competitive in its class.

Nissan Pulsar Hatch Review

It’s quiet and it’s easy to get in and out of, and setting up kid seats and getting the critters in and out will be a breeze. There are cup holders. Very important criteria (I’m totally tragic like that because I treat cars as mobile pantries). The stereo did the job. Actually, now I think of it, I’m really critical of a bad stereo and the fact it didn’t even register on my horizon is a good sign. The steering wheel is adjustable so it was easy to get comfortable in my driving position.

Here are the stats:

  • The Nissan Pulsar Hatch has a 5-star ANCAP Rating.
  • The new Pulsar is available in a 4-door hatch and 4-door sedan.
  • It’s available in both manual and auto (which Nissan calls CVT).
  • Four models – two standard and two turbo.
  • Engines are 1.8 petrol four (ST and ST-L), 1.6 turbo petrol four (ST-S, SSS)
  • The SSS is the only model to have a reversing camera and they aren’t offered as options, so if you want one you’ll have to get it fitted by an external supplier.
  • Bluetooth audio streaming is only available in the SSS, but Bluetooth phone and USB connectivity is standard in all of them.

The pricing sits as follows (without tricking it up. But it’s a really well-optioned range so you won’t need to go too nuts to get a fab deckout):

  • Hatch ST Manual: $18,990
  • Hatch ST Auto: $21,240
  • Hatch ST-L: Manual: $22,490
  • Hatch ST-L: Auto: $24,740
  • Hatch ST-S (Turbo) Manual: $24,990
  • Hatch ST-S (Turbo) Auto: $27,490
  • Hatch SSS (Turbo) Manual: $29,240
  • Hatch SSS (Turbo) Auto: $31,740

In conclusion, this car dealt with city travel well and is nifty to park. It was simple to drive, because who needs distractions when you’ve got back-seat drivers? It’s a great size and a lot roomier than you’d think. It totally owned highway driving, dirt tracks, braked like a boss, and even took on a few cow paddocks to deliver champagne and snacks to my lovely mates down on the jetty. It felt solid and planted. A lot of smaller cars feel light-on and a bit wiggly, but not the Pulsar.

There was nothing the Pulsar didn’t own like a boss. I just loved her. And I’m really glad that none of the cows wanted to chase her because I sure didn’t like it when they chased me.

Want to read more on the Nissan Pulsar Hatch? Head on over here.

NPULSARmontage2

Why would you share a car with 50 strangers?

Dolce & Gabanna Bowler available for rent at Love Me & Leave Me

There is a major trend afoot. Starting in Europe, the lack of parking & garages & condensed city living led to very successful car-sharing schemes. Why share a car? Because it’s smart. Having a car-share membership is cheaper than catching taxis, much cheaper than owning a car full-time, & much less hassle than renting a car. It’s also very environmentally friendly & responsible. Instant green-cred!

Car-sharing is for the savvy girl-about-town. Outfits like Love Me & Leave Me who rent designer gear & handbags give us the freedom to rent the hottest bag or an amazing dress for that cocktail party & hand it back for minimal outlay. We’ve been doing it with fashion for years. Now we can do it for cars – that cost a fortune to keep on the road – leaving much more disposable income for the smart ducks among us so we can invest in shares, shoes & properties instead. A pint-sized hatchback costs an average of $7K a year to keep on the road*, and that’s not even considering the purchase price, which is often around $30K. That’s a brilliant share portfolio, or fabulous overseas trip, massive home deposit contribution, uni fees or a Kelly Bag, every year.

Dolce & Gabanna Bowler available for rent at Love Me & Leave Me

Dolce & Gabanna Bowler available for rent at Love Me & Leave Me

In Melbourne, there are three key outfits running car sharing. They are GoGet, GreenShareCar & Flexicar.

This weekend, I decided to take Electron, a Flexicar Hyundai i30 out on a road trip. Let’s have a look at the nuts & bolts of it, shall we? Flexicar name all their cars (mainly so muppets, who book the wrong car by accident, remember which one is which).

With names like Giant, Noodle, Coyote, Rookie, Treasure & Igloo, there’s really no excuse to be all gormless & ring Flexicar in a panic because my swipe card wasn’t opening the car. Because. Uhm. The car I’d actually booked was a few blocks away.

So. Cough. Moving on. There’s a really simple sign-up process, but you do want to get it started, as it takes around 5 days before you can get your swipey card. Hop on the website, choose your plan, sign up, you DO need to verify your drivers license & driving track record, & wait. Once you’ve got your card, you’re good to go.

Flexicars come complete with fuel cards & keys in the car, so you roll up, access the car with your swipey card, hop in & you’re off. Words fail me at how much easier it is to use Flexicar than hire a car, with the forms & insurance options & the blocking out chunks of credit card space & all of that palaver. You can book on the spot once you’re set up. It’s just so easy & brilliant.

ROAD TRIP! I took Electron & travelled from Melbourne to Echuca, around 220kms each way of highways and dirt roads of varying quality. It was a very comfortable ride, especially when I got over the original horror of starting the car up and having the dulcet tones of SmoothFM battering my delicate ears. Karma will dictate that person shall be assulted by FoxFM or something when they next use the car. You’re welcome.

The tail end of the Hyundai i30

The tail end of the Hyundai i30

The little Hyundai was basic, but great. Flexicar doesn’t ‘do’ exciting cars, but there’s something exciting about hopping into a car – any car – when you don’t have one on a day-to-day basis. I gave it a solid go up hills, down dales and across country dirt roads at high speeds. Aside from some heart-stopping braking moments on the dirt road (the i30 has a slow & steady approach to braking, when sometimes you need to feel like you’ve just driven into a brick wall), it delivered. Electron did the job, and I have to say, a much better job at high speeds, up hills, and overtaking, than my wildest dreams. Three trucks in a row needing overtaking? It did the job.

The Flexicar "Electron"

The Flexicar “Electron”

I’ve been using Flexicar a lot this year as I put a lot of pressure on my car, & subsequently it’s spent a bit of time in pieces at the mechanics, the poor old thing. The car, too. Flexicar has definitely filled the gaps when I need to get around & the motorbike just isn’t going to do the job.

I won’t bore you to pieces with the pricing, the who, what when where how, when you can just head on over to the website & find it out – probably more eloquently – than over here. But here are the headlines:

  • There is a big range of cars in different shapes & sizes, so there’s always something for the job available.
  • There are hundreds of cars in the fleets.
  • It is SO convenient. I can’t tell you. Can’t get a cab? In the rain? You can literally be in a Flexicar within five minutes & on your way.
  • Prices start from $10 an hour, & you can book it for just an hour. You can literally grab one for the weekly grocery run.
  • I can personally vouch for the customer service being epic & awesome – I’ve never been let down.
  • The cars are all automatics.
  • The cars are all clean, tidy, spotless & generally smell pretty. Is that the sign of a responsible car-sharing community? Maybe (I do hope so).
  • Fuel cards are in the car (you can go to Shell & Caltex outlets), good to go. So are e-tags, & you don’t need to pre-book the e-tag use. Just drive wherever you want & the tolls just end up on your invoice.
  • No smoking in the cars. Most cars are also pet-free, but there are some cars that you can use for your furry friends if you use a pet carrier & clean it out afterwards – check the car listings to find out which ones. As some people have animal allergies, being considerate is important, but it’s a brilliant option to have if you need to take one of the pupstars or Tabby Von Moonbeam to the vet.
  • The cars are simple, but well serviced. Mechanically, they are in good nick, & coupled with roadside assist, they are a smart, safe option for anyone who doesn’t want to be left on a dark roadside with smoke pouring out of an engine bay.
Flexicar signage isn't cringeworthy

Flexicar signage isn’t cringeworthy

I’m not the only person using these shared car services. A luscious redhead and girl-about-town, Natasha, is also a Flexicar customer so we had a chat with her. “I’ve never actually owned a car, and don’t need to. The low cost & convenience of Flexicar is just too good to make the change. I live waaay to close to the city to justify the cost of a full-time car”.

Natasha was living in Brunswick back in 2007 when she first signed up for Flexicar & didn’t need to buy a car as she cycles to work most days. The fact she had a selection of cars nearby made it a no-brainer. She now lives in Fitzroy & has more choice of cars, with the closest car being a mere 4-minute walk from her fabulous apartment. “The variety of cars is actually one of the most useful things about a shared car service, I’ve used Sunstreaker, one of the Nissan X-Trail wagons, to transport a DJ & his gear to a mate’s wedding, but the rest of the time I’m happy to peel about in an easy hatchback”.

No relationship is perfect, so we discussed the downsides; “If the closest car isn’t available it’s annoying, summer gets really busy, & sometimes you’ve got to pre-plan your booking a bit more than I like. But that’s just quibbles. I’ve had no administration issues, & they’ve always been available to take a query. I give it the thumbs up. And because I’ve been a member since about 2007 I’ve got a really low membership number, which I secretly like having.”

I do suggest, for the many mums who read this blog, to have a Flexicar membership as a backup for when car emergencies strike. It doesn’t cost a cent if you’re not using it. It’s also a fabulous option for uni students (or anyone, frankly) who has an old banger that is unreliable. If you’ve got to be somewhere and there’s smoke pouring out of your car, having a Flexicar membership in your back pocket is the smartest, most stress-free, safe way to roll.

It’s brilliant. And I can’t recommend it highly enough. Five choc-tops.

*Source: RACQ

Nissan Altima Makes Australian Debut

Aaahhh the Sunday session. Finding a snuggly, sun-dappled beer garden, or a sticky carpet venue, buying terrible beer by the jug and whiling away a day and night in one big go. Heaven. When we emerged from the parental cocoon to get on with our lives, needing to get a car all of our own, boy did we see some interesting choices. While few of us had budgets worth even opening the piggy bank for, we sure managed to make do but still ended up with cars that were a part of our personality.

I mean, heck, what did we have to lose when we only had two grand to spend on a car that was probably as old as we were?

1977 mazda 323

The 1977 Mazda 323, my first car

My Sunday session mates in my very late teens and early twenties had pretty eclectic taste in their formative vehicles. There was the modified old-skool Volkswagen bug (cut down to become a convertible) complete with glittery lightning-bolt paintwork that to this day reminds me of David Bowie. Driven with great aplomb by a guy. There was the white Ford panel van with a stereo system & floor-to-ceiling black carpet. The blue Torana affectionately named the arse-mobile (first three letters of the numberplate? ARS). The Subaru all-wheel-drive wagon that we used a wooden dustpan brush to smack the battery with when it started to leach electricity everywhere. My fabulous but cantankerous Mazda 323 hatch covered in TUSA stickers. I scuba dive, therefore I am. Another Mazda that was bought for less than a grand, but with a four grand sound system and equally large security system to keep the sound system safe (it worked). There were mountains of Datsun 120Bs and 180Ys in the ever popular (spew) mustard yellow. The list goes on.

But if there’s one thing these cars all had, it was personality, a devil-may-care attitude to modification, and my goodness we had some massive adventures in them. Road trips, nefarious plots, sneaking beer into the Falls Festival, camping, more road trips, and a million house moves where we all rucked in to get the worst job in the world over with, fast.

It was a time that wasn’t destined to last as we got more responsible jobs and started to upgrade. We started to buy cars that were suitable for our jobs, our ‘lifestyles’, and the image we wanted to project. And the cars, well, they started to be less about who we were as individuals, and more of an investment that got us around with the minimum amount of breakdowns and shame. Some people can keep it fun and insist on putting two kids and a dog in a 1969 Mustang, and others are all about the easy people carrier. Which brings me onto the good old four-door sedan. It’s the ultimate in sensible car shopping.

There’s been a bunch of burly truckers and dockworkers organising a bunch of deliveries to Nissan dealerships, with sales of the new Nissan Altima kicking off this first week in December. It’s a four door sedan. It’s definitely going to appeal to people who want a 4-door that looks sleek and, frankly, like it cost a lot more than it actually did. We personally know people who will rate that very highly, not mentioning anyone by name in case they never speak to me again while they’re off doing the school run. And Nissan’s are a great car, so you can’t go too wrong.

nissan altima review 2013 nissan lipstick and gearsticks

The 2013 Nissan Altima

It’s value for dollar, with pricing kicking off in the low $30K range and with all of the full fancy options (including a very growly V8 engine, very pretty allow wheels & leather seating) you’re looking at the low $50K range. We haven’t personally seen the interior yet, but those who have, have rated it highly as very sexy, utterly sophisticated and very sleek. The non-leather interior option has been described as “velourish”. Not by us, we’re just reporting. Truly.

Nissan is rather famous for its V8’s and the Altima has a V8 Supercar racing pedigree. In a conventional sense, this means if you’re going a 4-door mid-size sedan as your vehicle choice, you can choose between a reasonable (but not outstanding) fuel economy in the V6, or a ripper of a V8 to make your sensible sedan so much more fun. Cue rummaging in knickers. While we’re talking about a 4-door sedan, we know that this is going to be popular as a family vehicle so let’s get realistic about the electronic side of things. You’ve got Bluetooth & iPod connectivity, you’ve got USB inputs, you’ve got between six factory speakers or nine BOSE ones so it’s what you’d be wanting – and frankly expecting – in a car like this.

Comfort is important, especially when you’ve got kids and dogs (or your crazy mates) in the back. The cabin is well thought out, and the cabin was built with the help of NASA research and the seats are designed to hold you in the ‘weightless’ position of an astronaut in zero gravity. I could rabbit on for days what it means and how it was done, but all you need to know is that it keeps you cradled in comfort, reduces driver fatigue and apparently increases blood flow. The less fatigued you get while you’re running about town or on long haul trips is a very good thing.

Let’s look at the topline list of things to know:

  • It’s two-wheel drive across the board.
  • Altima is available as a petrol model only, so no diesel, turbo or hybrid options here.
  • It’s automatic transmission only, so manual-heads need not apply.
  • It ticks all of the safety, airbags, and security boxes.
  • BYO satellite navigation.
  • NissanConnect is in a few of the higher-end Altima models, which links your smartphone and handsfree technology to get you onto your favourite apps like Google Maps.
  • There are a total of four models (the St, ST-L, TI & TI-S) that are pragmatic with what you get at each price level. You get what you pay for.

The colour range is wide, sophisticated, and a nice blend of cools and warms. The colour names are even nice, including Mineral Blue, White Diamond & Titanium. The colours will be popular and are quite lovely, but no-one in their right mind would find the colour palette challenging or especially interesting. They are definitely elegant, don’t get me wrong. But anyone looking for Micra Glasgow Green or Amsterdam Orange will be disappointed.

The Altima is unashamedly a car about being sensible. It’s a car you buy when you’ve got a shopping list of things to tick off. It looks sleek, it’s Nissan-reliable, it’s elegant, and it’s an un-embarassing car to be getting around in. We like it a lot. It’s well thought out, quick, comfortable, will be reliable, is capable of more than you’ll ever ask of it, and has enough extra accents in the speed and looks department to remind you of the days you went broke to buy something secondhand and turbo-charged. Because, you know, life.

You might think we’re being cheeky calling it un-embarassing. But it’s true, and we’d decided that before we even saw the TV ad out of the USA. Get on with the sensible part of your life, without embarrassing yourself or making a car-buying mistake. And know you’ve got a few little secrets under the bonnet that will put a cheeky smile on your face.

Visit the Nissan website to find out more about the Altima here.

If this ad was made with your favourite female comedian in the driver’s seat, who would you nominate and what four things would their Nissan Altima save them from doing?