Renault unveils very familiar-looking Pulse small car in India

Renault India has just unveiled its much-anticipated Pulse small car in India. It’s a surprise and not so much of a surprise as well. After expectations that its small car would look like the Modus or the Clio, or perhaps a combination of both, Renault did no such thing. Instead it just “badge-engineered” a Nissan Micra from its sister company, Nissan.

The Renault Pulse is nothing but a “badge-engineered” Nissan Micra, with a few small cosmetic changes. The Pulse will come only in a diesel version for now, powered by Nissan’s K9K 1.5-litre diesel engine that puts out 63 bhp of power and 160 Nm of torque. It will be officially launched in January 2012, during the Auto Expo in New Delhi.

So what’s different in the Renault Pulse compared to the Nissan Micra? Here’s a look:

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Photo: Renault Pulse Sports Edition

Looks, comfort and space

The Renault Pulse has been given a more aggressive styling by Renault’s design center in Mumbai. The cute-looking Micra headlamps are now replaced by more aggressive looking lamps. The grille has been entirely reworked to get a large, sporty hexagonal shape with the Renault badge neatly embedded and the bumper gets an entirely new design, with a sporty air dam and integrated fog lamps (fog lamps are variant specific).

In profile, there’s absolutely no difference between the Nissan Micra and Renault Pulse, except for the design of the alloy wheels. At the rear, only the tail-lamps get a new look (same shape, but different design), and Nissan’s badges have been replaced by Renault badges. Otherwise externally, the car is identical.

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Photo: More aggressive looks than the Micra on the Pulse

On the interiors too, the Pulse is identical to the Nissan Micra. It gets the same circular AC vents and circular climate control unit and stereo as the Nissan Micra. Seating, steering, door handles are all the same – which means comfort and space are identical to the Nissan Micra.

It gets a 251 litre boot, decent rear seat legroom and good driver’s comfort just like the Micra. Read our review of the Nissan Micra diesel

However, unlike the Micra diesel, the Pulse will likely get ABS and two airbags (Micra diesel has a single airbag and no ABS).

Performance and mileage

The Renault Pulse will be available only with a diesel engine initially. Marc Nassif, managing director, Renault India, said: “The market has changed now. Everyone is seeing nearly 80% to 85% demand for diesel models because of the fuel cost difference. So we’re only offering diesel for now, but we can think of petrol also.”

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Photo: The Renault Pulse will come only in diesel

The Pulse is powered by Nissan’s tried-and-tested K9K, 1.5-litre diesel engine that puts out 63 bhp of power and 160 Nm of torque, mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. Being essentially a rebadged Micra diesel, the performance and mileage is identical.

Mileage is a claimed 23 kmpl for the Pulse. And seeing that nothing’s different from the Micra mechanically, real-world figures of 20 kmpl can be expected, as these are the figures we got with our Micra road test.

Expected pricing

Pricing and expansion of dealer network are what will decide the fortunes of the Pulse. It needs to distribute the Pulse more widely, and it’s hoping that with its planned 40 dealers it will get enough reach.

Expect the Pulse to be priced identical to the Nissan Micra or at a very small premium. It will be only be available with a diesel engine at prices ranging from Rs. 6.2 lakh to Rs. 6.6 lakh for the Pulse for two variants, with a good-looking sport variant to be launched later.

What we think

The Renault Pulse is a smart move on Renault’s part to keep costs low in developing a small car. By selling the Micra and the Pulse side by side, the Renault-Nissan partnership can ramp up the volumes significantly. At present the Micra sells an average of 1,500 cars a month, and one can expect the Pulse to chalk up slightly better numbers than that.

The Pulse will compete with the Nissan Micra, of course, as well as the Maruti Swift diesel and Hyundai i20 diesel.

What’s going to be difficult is convincing customers that the Pulse is a different car and not a Nissan Micra. Let’s see what Renault’s marketing team can come up with.

Can you call an Apple an Orange? Or a Micra a Pulse? Let us know.