Mild Hatching - SEAT Leon vs Nissan Pulsar

8 Jun 2017

Very often, when we own a car here, it would mean that we buy what is within our means. The common sedan econobox would likely be top on our list.

But what if, we are not too keen on buying a sedan, and would pursue the slippery slope of looking chic, having excellent fuel economy, without being SUV pretentious… and the list goes on…

Perhaps the humble hatch might be an excellent solution.

The SEAT Leon and Nissan Pulsar are peas…. In the same pod… but they couldn’t be so different. One carries German roots with Spanish flair (more like built in Spain), the other a Japanese hatch also Spanish-built.

The Pulsar is Nissan’s answer to what a compact hatch for the European market should be… Small-in-footprint, easy to drive and chic. SEAT, on the other hand built a car which is, small in footprint, easy to drive and chic….

Externally, the Nissan has built a car with very beautiful and flowy styling. From the signature “V” shaped grille, to the crisply styled bonnet and side profile. On the lower section of the doors, additional sculpting, with a bulge, adding to the visual girth of the compact hatch. The SEAT also features similarly crisp lines, but styling-wise, the Spanish car is more muted on the sheet metal. But both cars sport very tastefully designed headlamps.

Visually though, the Leon does look a little less sporty, thanks to the smaller 16” rims, and chubby tyres, which in a practical sense, do offer more comfort. The Pulsar on the other hand does have 17” units, which fit better in the car’s wheel arches.

Where practicality is concerned, the Pulsar does sit on a slightly longer wheelbase, thus offering just that little more overall leg space, which shows in the rear. But while it may be better in doing this, the quality of the materials used in the interior does pale quite a bit, as compared to the SEAT’s. While the Leon’s plastic dash has been kept simple, albeit a little on the boring side, one cannot deny the superior fit and finish. The Pulsar’s dash is littered with glossy bits of trim, which may look decent at first glance, but park beside a Leon, and somehow it may come across as cheap. Furthermore, the steering wheel design for the Pulsar does look rather awkward, and is not as good to hold, as compared to the Leon’s.

As for cargo room, both cars have very similar boot space, with the Pulsar’s decent 385 litres, just edging the Leon by 5 litres. Furthermore when both cars have their 60:40 rear folding seats dropped, there is the issue of a kerb made by them, which could get in the way, when loading larger items into the rear.

But the near-dead ringer of what both cars can do ends here. How they drive is really a different story. While both cars are equipped with turbocharged 1.2 litre units, which drive the front wheels, Nissan had opted for power transference to come from a (7-speed) CVT, wait… it is a CVT, hence the 7 ‘ratios’ are rather virtual; while the Volkswagen-engineered SEAT has stuck with a 7-speed DSG, very nice indeed. The advantage leans to the SEAT, with a 0-100km/h acceleration at 9.9 seconds, it isn’t very quick, but certainly quicker than the Pulsar’s 10.5 seconds.

Additionally, the Volkswagen MQB platform shows its advantage when the SEAT is driven harder. There is substantially less chassis flex, which is rather evident in the Pulsar when pitching it around a tight bend. Additionally, the Pulsar’s steering does feel a little more artificial as compared to the SEAT. And yes, that SEAT steering is so much better to hold.

Yes yes… we know that most of us will not do such a thing, as our car all over. But as a daily driver, both cars may deliver, but somehow, the Pulsar, although priding itself in that little more room and sporty styling, does offer a rather uninspiring drive.

We would feel, beyond doubt that the SEAT would be a much better car to live with in this case. And out of both cars which are Spanish-built, the Leon is a clear winner…. Then again, there is that thing about a 1.2 litre Volkswagen Golf

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