They have been very successful in the crossover sector with their compact Juke and larger Qashqai and they also have the small Micra and larger X-Trail, the Pathfinder large SUV plus the electric Leaf and the fast but small selling 370Z and CT-R coupes. But they needed to be in the volume selling C-segment of family cars to escalate their sales and brand standing to compete against Ford, Volkswagen and Vauxhall to name just three.
Nissan’s answer is the new Spanish built, but British designed and engineered, Pulsar five-door family hatchback which is targeted at retail and fleet sectors of the market. Priced from £15,995 to £21,945 it competes against the Ford Focus, VW Golf, Vauxhall Astra, Peugeot 308, Skoda Octavia, SEAT Leon, Mazda 3, Hyundai i30 and Kia C’eed. With that competition it is not going to be an easy task to conquest sales away from longer established new-generation models.
The name Pulsar, although new for the UK market, has been used by Nissan before as long ago as 1978 as a replacement for the Datsun Cherry in south-east Asia, Australasia and South Africa. The Almeria was originally a version of the Japanese market Pulsar launched in 1995.
As for the Nissan Pulsar of today there is the choice of two well known Nissan-Renault Alliance direct injection engines, the 1.2 DIG-T turbo petrol 115hp unit and the 1.5 DCi 110hp turbodiesel. The petrol unit will certainly appeal to retail customers on price and running costs with 56.5mpg in the Combined Cycle with 117g/km of CO2 emissions so road tax is £0 for the First Year rate and then only £30 for Year Two onwards and Benefit-in-Kind company car tax is rated at 16%. The turbodiesel will officially return 78.5mpg in the Combined Cycle with CO2 emissions of 94g/km so road tax is free and BIK tax is 14%. As for insurance costs the petrol models are rated Group 10 and the diesels 11. Specification options are Visia, Acenta, N-tec, and Tekna and there is an automatic transmission £1,350 option for petrol powered models.
A 1.6-litre DIG-T 190hp petrol engine is due next Spring and a NISMO sports concept Pulsar was shown at the Paris Motor Show in 2014 so expect the Pulsar to increase customer’s pulse-rates in 2015 and beyond.
I have just had a get-to-know it spell in the Pulsar Tekna powered by the sweet and quiet running 1.2-litre DIG-T direct injection turbocharged petrol engine with a six-speed manual gearbox. Being a top of the range spec model the official on the road price is £20,345 which looks a bit hefty but as we know in this competitive sector official prices are only a guide and the true price from a Nissan dealer might be a bit lower – it always pays to haggle especially as Nissan will be keen to get this newcomer off to a flying start in terms of sales and road awareness.
In terms of spec the Tekna lacks for nothing, too much to fully mention but the main items are; moving object detection, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, side rear and front colour cameras, Active Trace Control, cruise control with speed limiter, NissanConnect 5.8-inch touchscreen and entertainment system, central door locking, air conditioning, push button start, Bluetooth, leather upholstery, heated front seats, heated windscreen, electrically operated windows and door mirrors, idle stop-start, 60/40 split folding rear seats, 17-inch alloys, front fog lights, carbon effect rear diffuser, high level rear spoiler and honeycomb grille.
The exterior design is thoroughly modern with a rising side waistline giving it a wedge shaped profile. The Nissan V-Motion grille design marks the Pulsar out as a Nissan but in most other respects it is difficult at this early stage of its life to say for sure at a glance what car this is. At the rear the tail-lights are similar to those used on the Qashqai. Indeed under the body the platform, as well as the engine/drivetrain is similar to that of the Qashqai which gives a relatively long wheelbase in this sector and the really big advantage the Pulsar offers over its competitors is the very roomy rear leg space in an overall body length of 4,387mm. With wide opening doors it is very easy and comfortable to get in and out of the Pulsar with the extra legroom being a big feature. The headroom is good as well. The front is spacious as well with comfortable seats and a twin cockpit design for the fascia panel The controls and instruments are all well laid out but the heating and ventilation controls are a little fiddly and generally knobs do a better job. At least it doesn’t have one of those ‘tablet’ style control centres which certainly de-clutter the dashboard but are time consuming and a distraction to use.
At the rear there is a wide opening tailgate giving access to a 385-litre boot when it’s loaded to the waistline. With the rear seats folded this increases to 1,395-litres. The only negative point is having no variable height boot floor. As it is you need to drop items down onto the boot floor rather than just slide them in.
In terms of ride comfort and handling the Pulsar offers a compliant and bump absorbing ride even on this version’s 17-inch wheels. There is no harshness as the suspension copes well with potholes and poor road surfaces and there is very little road noise intrusion, all that most people want from a family car. It might not be as dynamic in the handling department as say a Focus or a Golf but it is certainly more comfortable and roomy. The handling is relatively neutral, it rides flat and level and thanks to the Active Trace Control system, which includes torque vectoring, there is no torque steer and understeer is minimal. With the high level of on-board safety equipment and the accomplished handling this particular Pulsar model will meet the needs of most people but enthusiasts might have to wait for the racier go-faster 190hp or NISMO models to come along.
The 1.2-litre four cylinder direct injection turbocharged petrol engine produces a healthy, for its size, 115hp with 165Nm of torque developed from 1,750rpm. For easy-going everyday use this engine is quiet, smooth and doesn’t sound stressed at high legal motorway speeds. Top speed is 118mph and zero to 62mph takes an acceptable 10.7 seconds. Where it lacks some flexibility is at low engine speeds with worthwhile torque not delivered until 1,750rpm which is a bit higher than some small capacity petrol engines these days. You just need to use more revs at low speeds or change down a gear to get the engine spinning. That said if you are not in a hurry then at low engine speeds in high gears the unit is really very flexible and fuss-free. During my week long test drive, perhaps with less motorway travel than normal on the run-up to Christmas, the real-life fuel economy was an impressive 47.8mpg which although down on the official 56.5mpg so I suggest the attractive running costs are another reason to give the Nissan Pulsar some serious consideration. It’s the overall package of space, comfort, high spec and low running costs that will appeal. It might not be a car for enthusiastic drivers – it’s more suited to smart ones instead.
MILESTONES: Nissan Pulsar Tekna 1.2 DIG-T 5-Door Hatchback. Price: £20,345. Engine/transmission: 1.2-litre, 4-cylinder, direct injection turbocharged petrol, 115hp, 165Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 118mph, 0-62mph 10.7 seconds, 56.5mpg Combined Cycle (47.8mpg on test), CO2 117g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year followed by £30 Year Two rate onwards, BIK company car tax 16%. Insurance group: 10. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles Dimensions/capacities: L 4,387mm, W 1,768mm, H 1,520mm, boot/load space 385 to 1,395-litres, braked towing weight 1,200kg. For: High spec including lots of safety equipment, interior space especially legroom for rear seat passengers, comfortable seats, compliant ride, good real-life fuel economy, refined engine, easy to drive, nice to live with. Against: Lacks low speed engine torque, anonymous styling, no adjustable height boot floor, some fiddly controls, un-certain as yet real-life residual values, enthusiastic drivers should wait for the 190hp and possible NISMO versions to arrive.. Miles Better News agency