First Drive: Nissan Pulsar
Sector: Lower Medium Price: £15,995–£20,345 Fuel: 55.4–78.5mpg CO2: 95–119g/km
A decade or so ago, Nissan stopped making worthy but dull cars, reasoning that the modern buyer wanted something with a little more character that fitted in with the multi-faceted lives they lead. The firm effectively revolutionised the car market by introducing the crossover, firstly with the Qashqai, and then with the smaller Juke.
The new Nissan Pulsar, though, is a C-sector hatchback to compete against Korean rivals and established fleet volume brands. New Pulsar is a car that doesn’t really break the mould in any particular way, but it is an important, tactical addition to the Nissan range.
It is not that it is a bad car as such, and when all the component parts are added up, it is likely that fleets with a large number of job-use cars will find that it fits the bill in terms of price, fuel-economy and reliability.
Nissan seems to tacitly acknowledge that the Pulsar almost has been invented to allow them to sell more Qashqais. Nissan expects to sell around 10,000 units a year, which is not huge volume, and considerably less than the Qashqai. Managing director James Wright explained the firm’s thinking: ‘We have found that in a lot of the larger corporate fleets, we need to have a C-sector offering or we cannot get our cars on choice lists. So having the Pulsar will allow us to do that. The C-segment is still a very important market, especially for fleets, and when we looked at our lineup, despite the success of the crossovers, there was a hole there so we need this car.’
But there are, after all, a lot of people who don’t want a high crossover type-machine, or a car that is the last thing in handling, but do want a faithful car with a lot of space and some handy kit. For those people, the Pulsar delivers.
The diesel engine, which will be the principle fleet choice is the staple 115 dCi Renault-Nissan motor, and is as refined in this as in any car and offers lowish, if not class-leading, CO2 emissions of 94g/km. There is also a new 113bhp 1.2-litre DIG-T petrol unit which revs healthily without offering too much in the way of acceleration.
Thanks to the longest wheelbase in the class (2,700mm), the Pulsar offers considerably more rear legroom and shoulder room than its sector rivals. Indeed, with 692mm of leg space – the Pulsar boasts more rear legroom than the average D-segment offering – as much as a Skoda Superb, it seems.
There is also some useful, if occasionally intrusive, equipment such as Nissan’s Safety Shield which incorporates blind spot indicators, pedestrian detection, lane keeping assistance and automatic emergency braking although the plethora of beeps and warnings of perceived dangers is wearing after a while. Unfortunately, most of this only comes in the top of the range Tekna model, although the emergency braking makes an appearance on Acenta models and upwards.
Price-wise, the Pulsar is competitive with the cheaper brands in this sector with the pretty basic Visia entry model starting at £15,995 but the more usefully equipped Acenta priced at £17,645.
Nissan is well aware that buyers in this class are perhaps more concerned with value and reliability than handling and performance and have pitched the new Pulsar as a worthy contender in this highly competitive sector. The cabin is sufficiently contemporary to compete with rival models from the volume manufacturers and in that sense, the Pulsar feels like it could make a useful job-need car rather than the user-chooser bait the Qashqai or Juke might be.
The Pulsar won’t set your drivers’ pulses racing, but it is a steady, practical hatchback at a good price.