It is almost mandatory for any small car launch in India to be accompanied by a lot of razmatazz. More so if it is a company’s first small car. With the Pulse however, Renault has done quite the opposite. The car, which it is currently selling only in India, was showcased in a post-event bash after the Formula-1 qualifying race last October.
Its launch, in the New Delhi Auto Expo in January, was equally subdued: Renault quietly announced its prices while a bevy of others hogged the headlines. However, the Pulse is a new car, and diesel at that. Let’s take a look.
It is essentially a product of the common V platform that the French Renault and its Japanese partner Nissan shares. So depending on how you look at it, the Pulse is Micra’s elder brother — or a poor cousin. Thankfully though, from the front the two look different.
While the Micra is all curves and feminine charm, the Pulse is aggressive and sporty. The difference really lies in the front grille: Renault’s design centre in Mumbai has integrated the air dam with the grille, giving the Pulse a more open and eager stance.
There are cosmetic touches in the head and tail lamps as well, but everything else remains essentially Micra.
The interior appears an exact replica of the Nissan small car. The twin bubble concept has been carried over and everything inside the cabin is round, from the central console that holds a cluster of buttons, to the door handles, the AC vents and obviously the steering wheel. Fit and finish are good, but the plastic is a bit of a let down. Space is not the biggest strength, and rear legroom appears compromised.
Ride and handling
The car is designed for the city, and is not meant to be a highway hogger: this reflects in the suspension, tuned for handling. In city, at double-digit speeds, it is difficult to fault this car. The occasional potholes and speed bumps are negotiated without fuss. On the highway, at high-speed turns, the Pulse falters. Thanks to the soft suspension, there is perceptible body roll and steep corners become a problem.
On paper, the Pulse has the weakest engine in its class. The 1.5-litre diesel engine develops a measly 64 bhp and 160 Nm/kg of torque. Despite being bigger, the engine develops less power and torque than the Maruti Swift’s 1.3-litre multijet engine and the 1.4-litre engine of the Hyundai i20. This engine has many iterations across the Renault-Nissan range: courtesy a fixed geometry turbocharger, the one on the Pulse is the entry-level. There is one advantage though — there is no turbo lag. The performance is optimal in the low- and mid-range, and it is a breeze in city traffic. Only on the highway does the lack of extra horses become manifest.
This is the class of 20 kmpl-plus cars, and the Pulse does not disappoint. At 23.08 kmpl, this is the most fuel efficient car in the class after the Etios Liva. Mated with its 41-litre fuel tank, the Pulse has a matchless range of close to 1,000 km on a full tank of diesel.
In terms of technology, Renault has a better pedigree than its partner Nissan. It is a regular at Formula-1 and synonymous with many pathbreaking technological advancements.
So far in India though, that capability has been visible only in parts. The Pulse was expected to be a beefier, sportier alternatve to the Micra. It does look the part to an extent, but the staid even if practical powertrain makes no pretence. This is not quite the small car that will have enthusiasts queueing up.
The good part is that it runs on diesel, and may well benefit from the burgeoning waiting periods of its competitors.
Bottomline: it is just a Micra with a smarter visage.
Renault Pulse versus the rest