- Huge inside
- Massive boot
- Unexciting drive
- Unadventurous exterior design
- Not cheap
The Nissan Pulsar is here, but how does it stack up against rivals such as the Ford Focus, VW Golf and Hyundai i30? Find out in our road test review.
Remember the Nissan Almera? If you’re over the age of 30 then you probably do – not that you would particularly want to, as it wasn’t especially good. The new Nissan Pulsar, the Almera’s spiritual successor, aims to make a longer-lasting impact on the medium-sized family car, or ‘C-segment’ market, but can it compete with the established elite?
The name ‘Nissan Pulsar’ conjures images of the spectacular, but in the flesh, Nissan’s hatchback isn’t especially inspiring in the looks department. It’s not an ugly car by any means. In fact, if no other cars existed in its category then one might say it’s actually quite handsome. The problem lies in the fact its design is rather derivative. For a company that’s helped define entire segments and pushed the design boundaries with almost every other car it has created, Nissan played it safe with the Pulsar.
The Nissan Pulsar happens to be one of the most practical cars in its segment. The cabin is enormous, front to back, particularly in the rear. Even if front-seat passengers are incredibly tall, or incredibly obnoxious and have pushed their seats back, you’ll still have plenty of leg and headroom in rear. Not only do you get more room than most C-segment cars, the 692mm of space on offer means you also get more than the average D-segment large family car.
Its boot is enormous, too, thanks to a 385-litre capacity. The shape isn’t particularly clever – the loading bay isn’t completely flat, and it’s lacking in clever cubbies to help compartmentalise it – but it’s cavernous nonetheless. As a practical family car, the Pulsar is excellent and ticks many boxes.
Performance & Handling
If you’re the sort of person that takes pleasure from being behind the wheel, then you might be a tad disappointed with the Nissan Pulsar. Nissan appears to have intentionally shied away from providing a sporty drive, instead focusing on comfort and ease of operation.
Nissan has largely been successful in its mission. The Pulsar’s ride is smooth for the most part, the steering light, gear change mechanism from the six-speed manual smooth, while the cabin is well insulated against road noise. It’s an entirely unproblematic drive, which we suppose should be commended.
But as good as it is in these areas, it doesn’t particularly excel in any department. The steering is fine; not too direct, nor too slow to prompt a reaction from the car. Acceleration from both the entry-level diesel and petrol engines is decent, but unremarkable, while body control and grip levels are good, no more, no less.
The brakes are effective, but it can be difficult to apply precise levels of stopping power. Towards the top of the pedal travel you’ll have a low level of stopping power, while an inch further into the travel it can feel like you have a little too much. You get used to it after a while, but we’d prefer a smoother, more progressive pedal.
On the whole, the Pulsar is good on the road. Nothing particularly stands out, which we suppose is a good thing. Here’s hoping the rumoured hot hatch version will inject a dose of fun and some much needed soul.
Economy & Environment
The Nissan Pulsar may not light anyone’s fire with its performance, but the upshot is that it’s extremely frugal. Two engines are available at launch, both of which are also used in the larger Qashqai. The 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol runs smoothly and delivers an excellent 56.5mpg. The 1.5-litre turbodiesel is even more impressive, returning 78.5mpg. That’s on par with, or better than most of its rivals. The Pulsar emits 117g/km of CO2 with the 1.2-litre petrol, or 94g/km with the diesel, which again is impressive.
Equipment & Value
The Nissan Pulsar follows the same pricing structure as the rest of the Nissan range. Entry-level cars are known as Visia, followed by Acenta, n-tec, and Tekna in ascending order of price and specification. The basic Visia car starts at £15,995 on the road which, on the surface, makes it more expensive than the basic Ford Focus.
Unlike cheaper rivals, however, it comes with a healthy list of extras including a 5-inch colour touchscreen, steering wheel controls, Bluetooth and air conditioning. The next model up, the Acenta, costs £17,645 and features Forward Emergency Braking, which stops the car if it thinks you’re about to hit something, automatic lights and wipers and keyless entry.
Pulsar n-tec models sell for £18,995 and include large 17-inch alloys, privacy glass, LED lights, a reversing camera, and NissanConnect 2, which lets you use Facebook and other apps in the car.
The £20,345 top of the range Tekna, meanwhile, features all the above, plus the Nissan Safety Shield technology, which includes Forward Emergency Braking, Moving Object Detection (which highlights kids or animals you might be reversing into while parking), Lane Departure Warning and Blind Spot Warning.
Ultimately the Pulsar’s not particularly cheap, but it’s competitively priced.
Nissan has yet to ruin any Pulsars in Euro NCAP crash tests, but the car ticks many safety boxes. Six airbags come as standard and it’ll warn you if your tyre pressures are dangerously low.
There’s plenty of tech on board to help you stay out of trouble, specifically the technologies that comprise Nissan’s Safety Shield. This includes an Around View Monitor system, which gives you a bird’s eye view of your surroundings while parking; the Moving Object detection system that will warn you if any kids or animals have ventured into the space you’re trying to get into; a self-cleaning camera and Forward Emergency Braking, which will scan the road ahead and apply the brakes if it thinks you’ve failed to take action in the event of an imminent collision.
The cynics among us will regard the Nissan Pulsar as a by-the-numbers family hatchback created not with love, but with the simple intention to cash in on that sector’s sales. They would be right, of course – that’s exactly what it is.
Disregarding its motives, Nissan has created a commendable new family hatchback, one that performs many functions much better than its rivals. Specifically it’s spacious, practical, easy to live with and very economical.
It’s slightly underwhelming to drive, and its looks are a tad generic in comparison to some of Nissan’s other, bolder efforts, but ultimately it’s a car growing families – particularly those that don’t want the SUV-like Qashqai – should put on their shortlists.
|Engine||1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel|
|Torque||260Nm between 1,750-2,500rpm|
|Acceleration||0-62mph in 11.5|