With sedate looks and economy-focused engines, Nissan Pulsar performance wasn’t expected to be scintillating, and it isn’t. Whether you choose petrol or diesel, they’re adequate for the job of propelling the Pulsar.
From launch the Pulsar will be available with a choice of two frugal motors, the diesel expected to make up the bulk of sales.
The 1.5-litre dCi 110 has already seen service in a number of other Nissans (as well as partner Renault’s models), offering a sensible mix of economy and performance, particularly at lower engine speeds where the diesel’s greater torque figure – 260Nm at 1,750rpm – ensures it pulls away from junctions and completes overtaking manoeuvres with greater ease. On the downside, the 108bhp engine is noisy compared to rivals’ newer diesels, especially when worked hard.
Covering 0-62mph in a leisurely 11.5 seconds confirms this Pulsar isn’t one you’ll want to harry along and while its six-speed manual gearbox is smooth, the throw of the lever is long, promoting more careful and relaxed gear changes. This benefits fuel efficiency, with Nissan claiming an average of 78.5mpg – a mid-50s figure seemed more achievable on our test.
Switch to the 1.2-litre DIG-T 115 petrol and immediately you’ll notice is significantly quieter than the diesel, as well as lacking lower speed urgency. Roll towards a roundabout in third gear and you’re still likely to need to drop to second to avoid pedestrian pace around it. Peak torque of 190Nm at 2,000rpm confirms what’s felt on the road, while a marginal 5bhp advantage over the diesel, to 113bhp, ensures performance is only slightly better; the sprint from 0-62mph taking 10.7 seconds. Both have a theoretical top speed of 118mph.
Economy claims aren’t as impressive as the dCi’s, with 56.5mpg being the official figure. Again, a lower 42mpg was achieved during our test on the launch.
Those requiring an automatic gearbox can specify Nissan’s seven-speed Xtronic CVT transmission on the 1.2-litre petrol, while a 187bhp DIG-T petrol is scheduled to appear in 2015 providing a faster driving experience.
In a market where rivals aim to satisfy savvy buyers’ appreciation of keen driving, the Pulsar’s handling is disappointingly anodyne.
While enthusiasts may lament Nissan’s chosen direction for the Pulsar’s handling setup, the core demographic was left behind when the Almera disappeared from price lists will rejoice. This is a car that majors on comfort, and it does it well.
That ability to eat up miles with consummate ease won’t be lost on company car drivers, who Nissan hopes will account for 60 percent of Pulsar sales. It’s a car that you can step out of after hours on the road feeling relaxed and fatigue-free – the flipside is it’s not especially memorable.
Hand-in-hand with the Pulsar’s comfort aspect is its sheer easiness to drive. Pedals, gear lever and steering are all light and react best to gentle, persuasive inputs rather than manhandling. It’s no surprise to discover that the steering itself lacks much in the way of feel, but it grips well and corners accurately, before gently pushing wide as you unleash more power through the front wheels mid-bend.
Thankfully this comfort-centric aspect is well-controlled; body roll is kept largely in check through bends which necessitate a rapid change in direction, and neither does the Pulsar dive or pitch excessively under heavy braking and acceleration, respectively.
That wide expanse of glass and the slightly elevated driving position gives the Nissan Pulsar best-in-class all-round visibility. On models fitted with reversing cameras and the aerial viewing system, reverse parking into bays becomes supremely easy.
Everything around you feels well-assembled, with the upper aspects of the dashboard featuring soft-touch plastics and switchgear that should stand the test of time, if not a tactile delight to use. That’s true of the steering, pedals and gear lever too, which are light to operate and encourage a gentler action.
The two main analogue instruments are clear, while the five-inch colour display between them plays host to a variety of different menu and information options. Pulsars fitted with the colour touch screen on the raised centre console offer clear graphics but some of the virtual buttons on the screen itself can be a bit fiddly to hit precisely when on the move.
Nissan’s sensibly made all the wealth of technology included in the Pulsar package easy to use with unambiguous displays, something that will prevent some technophobe buyers being alienated.
Despite all its plus points, the Pulsar’s interior doesn’t feel very special and there’s little to get excited about – paler colours might help lift the mood but Nissan’s chosen a sombre palette for its interior.
Of the various factors influencing Nissan Pulsar comfort levels, the single most important of these is the quality of its ride.
Nissan has shied away from bestowing the Pulsar with the kind of enthusiast-satisfying handling that the Ford Focus is blessed with, instead offering a level of soothing compliance to the suspension that outsmarts both the Golf and smaller-wheeled Peugeot 308s. Both high and low speed ride quality is excellent, the Pulsar dealing effectively with initial, harsher ruts, as well as ironing out smaller road ripples.
This complements the very spacious interior well, particularly in the rear, although whether people really need limousine-like legroom in the back of a hatchback of this size is debatable. Choose an Acenta model or higher and the rear bench seat comes equipped with a centre armrest, complete with obligatory cup holders. The rear bench itself is roomy enough for three, each with an adjustable head restraint.
Front seat occupants will find they sit a little higher than in other hatchbacks in this class, allowing for a greater view of the road ahead, as well as making the Pulsar easier to get in and out of.
The smooth ride and decent level of build quality means that the Pulsar is a quiet and rattle-free place to be, although the clatter of the diesel engine option can be intrusive. It’s also free from too much wind noise, aside from the usual low level audible turbulence around the door mirrors.
It’s a glassy cabin, meaning it can get hot inside the Pulsar, so sensibly all models come with air conditioning, although we’d recommend buying at least the Acenta grade with its standard dual-zone climate control.