No thrills attached
When Nissan decided to focus on special cars, competition was fierce. By introducing the next average size car at an average price, Nissan would merely be one of many. By introducing special models at average prices, Nissan would create a completely new market for itself.
And... Nissan developed a clever strategy on the way. The new models were designed in such a way that most parts would be interchangeable. In that way additional models could be introduced without new investments. This made developing an average car less of a risk.
Better still: because development costs are relatively low, Nissan could afford to create a model that's exclusively aimed at the European market. And because the range of "fun cars" was complete, Nissan could focus on building the most sane and functional car in its class.
Do start your test drive (or dealer visit) in the back of the car: the space in the rear is overwhelming! The Pulsar doesn't just offer more space in the back than its rivals, it is even more spacious than many cars from a higher segment. This doesn't go at the expense of the boot, at 385 litres it is still large (although the loading threshold is rather steep).
Room in the front is ample as well, but this goes for all cars in this segment. Another plus: the driver feels right at home. This is thanks to details like extra wide armrests in the doors and clear visibility all-round.
Once behind the wheel, the standard building blocks from the other Nissan models can easily be spotted. This isn't a problem, as it also means that this brand new car is as mature and smart as the existing models.
More important is the fact that the Pulsar is fitted with the same advanced electronics as the other models. The combined audio, navigation and communication unit works very well.
A true asset is the "Safety Shield", which combines several safety systems. For example, the driver will be warned about objects in the blind spot of the wing mirror and the car will automatically brake for obstacles if required. The Pulsar is, just like the bigger Nissans, fitted with camera's all around to make manoeuvring easy. As far as Autozine is concerned this is a bit over the top for such a compact vehicle.
The Pulsar doesn't just look different from the "fun cars" by Nissan, it actually handles differently as well. The Pulsar is meant to be as thrilling as a household appliance and tries to do its job as inconspicuously as possible. If the Pulsar shows any sign of a character, it is of peace and quiet.
Underneath the skin several systems improve the ride quality, but the driver never notices this. For example, handling is improved by feeding more power to the outer wheels in a corner (the outer wheels travel a longer distance than the inner wheels). With sporty cars this makes the vehicle more dynamic and capable; with the Pulsar it is merely a safety feature.
The same goes for the engines: they do their job in silence and are so forgiving that one hardly notices what engine (if any!) is under the bonnet anyway. At the moment of writing, the choice is limited: Nissan offers one petrol (1.2 DIG-T) and one diesel (1.5 dCi) engine. Both deliver about the same performance, but the way they do differs a little.
Both engines strongly depend on their turbo: below 2,000 revs per minute the power output is so limited that the speed even drops. At higher revs, the Nissan / Renault developed diesel is strong and very frugal. However, Nissan promises an average fuel mileage of 3.6 litres per 100 km (78 mpg) and that's highly optimistic, if not science fiction. Expect about 4 litres per 100 km (70 mpg) with a calm driving style and 5 litres (56 mpg) for a more lively driving style.
While the diesel engine is quiet, the petrol engine is positively inaudible. Depending on the direction of the wind, some noise can be heard from the A-pillar. On most road surfaces the tyres cannot be heard at all.
The petrol engine also strongly depends on the turbo, but has a more lively disposition. Again, in real life the engine is less frugal than Nissan promises. Expect 6.5 litres per 100 km (43 mpg) instead of the promised 5 litres (56 mpg).
When the throttle is pressed to the metal, the "1.2 DIG-T" shows an unexpected enthusiastic side, making the Pulsar fun to drive.
Why does Nissan introduce a new mid-sized family car after many years of absence? Because it can! When developing new cars was costly, Nissan opted for safety and strongly distinguished itself from the masses. Those looking for a special for a special yet affordable car had only one choice: Nissan.
In the meanwhile, Nissan developed an architecture that allowed for basic components to be interchangeable. This now makes it easy to introduce new cars. And because Nissan already offers a range of fun cars, the Pulsar could focus on comfort, functionality and practicality. Unlike most other cars in this segment, the Pulsar focusses on transportation rather than thrills.
- Quiet engines
- Excellent handling
- Spacious, especially in the rear
- Threshold boot
- Not exactly cheap
- Not as frugal as promised
"Progress, but no innovation" Vauxhall Astra
"Leap ahead" Volkswagen Golf
"Anchor point" Hyundai i30
"Friend to all" Mazda 3
"Battle of the classes"