The Golf segment’s latest contender, the Nissan Pulsar, takes on the Peugeot 308 and Volkswagen Golf in this turbocharged 1.2-litre hatchback shootout.
MENTION the term “turbocharged hatchback” to a friend and the first model that he’ll name will be the Volkswagen Golf. Ask him to name other models and you’ll hear about the hatches from Citroen, Renault and even Opel.
The point here is that in the Golf segment, there were no Japanese models to speak of until Nissan launched the Pulsar this year. The model’s reintroduction to Singapore is like a blast from the past. The last time the model was available as a hatchback here was in the 1980s, and it was offered as a saloon in the 1990s.
There’s nothing retro about the latest Pulsar, though. The hatchback’s design looks fresh, and like its European rivals, it has a turbocharged motor. And as the largest of the three cars here, its size hints at its roominess, a key consideration for any buyer.
Out to impress buyers, too, is the Peugeot 308. Apart from its snazzy styling, this French number promises to compel drivers with its performance (it is the most powerful of the three hatchbacks) and practicality as well.
Facing off against its Japanese and Gallic rivals is the German Golf. Although acknowledged as the segment’s benchmark, the 1.2-litre model is the entrylevel variant, and it’ll have to bring all its talents to bear in order to prevail.
Will the VW Golf emerge unscathed from this shootout? Keep reading and find out!
NISSAN PULSAR 1.2 vs VOLKSWAGEN GOLF 1.2 vs PEUGEOT 308 1.2
NISSAN PULSAR 1.2.
MOST REFINED POWERPLANT
ENGINE Pulsar’s turbocharged 1.2-litre 4-cylinder with 115bhp and 165Nm is the quietest motor here.
VOLKSWAGEN GOLF 1.2
QUICKEST CENTURY SPRINT
ENGINE Golf’s turbocharged 1.2-litre 4-cylinder with 110bhp and 175Nm provides the peppiest performance.
PEUGEOT 308 1.2
BEST POWER-TOWEIGHT RATIO
ENGINE 308’s turbocharged 1.2-litre 3-pot with 129bhp and 230Nm has the fewest cylinders, but packs the most ponies.
Pulsar’s CVT is the smoothest gearbox of the trio, but it’s also the least responsive.
Golf’s 7-speed dual-clutch has the quickest gearchanges, making its manual override function the most satisfying to use.
308’s 6-speed automatic is the most responsive when taking off from a standstill, but its gearchanges could be more seamless.
NISSAN PULSAR 1.2
COCKPIT Most comfortable thanks to its cushy seats, while the piano black trimmings and metal appliqués add to the upmarket feel. But the small storage points and the manual handbrake (the other two cars have an electric parking brake) make it the least convenient cockpit.
METERS Pulsar’s chromeringed meters look the classiest, but the speedometer, which has both km/h and (bigger) mph markings, might lead to accidental speeding tickets.
VOLKSWAGEN GOLF 1.2
COCKPIT The group’s most driver-friendly cockpit has the clearest overall visibility and largest doorbins. But the Golf offers fewer amenities than the rest – no keyless functions, and no remote controls on the steering wheel.
METERS The neatest layout and, therefore, the easiest to read at a glance. Another advantage is, the Golf’s instrument meters are the least affected by harsh Singapore sunlight.
PEUGEOT 308 1.2
COCKPIT Most advancedlooking cockpit has the most supportive seats and the sportiest, smallest steering wheel. Hightech infotainment unit is the prettiest, but its loading time could be quicker.
METERS 308’s motorbikeinspired instrument panel would have been the coolest of the group, if not for the fact that it’s always partially obscured by the steering wheel.
BOOT 308’s 420-litre boot is the most commodious, but the least convenient because it has the heaviest tailgate and fewest tethering points. The elastic strap for securing items such as cleaning products is a nice touch, though.
BOOT Pulsar’s 385-litre boot easily swallows bulky items, thanks to its generous internal height made possible by the swopping of a spare tyre underneath for a puncture repair kit.
BOOT Golf’s 385-litre cargo volume is the most flexible as it has the lowest loading height, a space to stow the parcel shelf and available underfloor storage.
THE PULSAR PROVIDES THE MOST ROOM AND COMFORT, THE GOLF DELIVERS THE PUNCHIEST PERFORMANCE, WHILE THE 308 HAS THE EDGE IN HANDLING.
The Peugeot 308 is the most attractive hatchback of the trio. We’re impressed by its sporty front seats, equally sporty steering wheel and snazzy infotainment system.
We also like the fact that the 308’s motor, despite only having three cylinders, is the most muscular engine here.
That said, the Pug actually lags behind the less powerful Golf in terms of overall performance. And it could also do with a roomier backseat – perhaps the Peugeot designers should have “borrowed” some volume from the big boot to accomplish this.
The Nissan Pulsar leads its rivals when it comes to occupant comfort. With its well-padded seats and longer wheelbase, the Pulsar is the cushiest and roomiest hatchback in this story.
And despite not having a cool infotainment system, the cabin still feels more atas than expected.
But like the 308, the Pulsar’s engine, though capable, is tuned for mechanical refinement instead of snappy power delivery.
The Volkswagen Golf has no problems in the performance department, despite having the fewest horses. In fact, it delivers the quickest century dash time and best fuel efficiency of the three hatchbacks.
The Golf’s backseat is reasonably roomy and we like the boot’s flexibility, too. But as the entrylevel variant, the Golf 1.2 has fewer amenities than its competitors here. Specifically, it lacks the convenience of steering-wheel controls and keyless entry/ignition, which its rivals have as standard.
So, the Golf 1.2 must yield some ground to the 308 and Pulsar for now. In the meantime, both Peugeot and Nissan should ready their contenders for another showdown – Volkswagen says that its updated Golf will reach Singapore by the end of this year.
(Left to right) Wide buttons on the Golf’s
switchblade-type key are great for those with
big thumbs, the Pulsar’s fob is the lightest but
only has basic functions, while the 308’s device
looks and feels the most substantial.