By Wayne Gorrett
🙂 Affordable pricing, generous kit, comfortable, spacious & refined…
😦 Most rivals drive better & its contemporary looks cool the pulse.
➤ What is it?
It’s the new Nissan Pulsar hatchback. In a revival of an old name, the Pulsar has been especially developed for the European market and was designed at Nissan’s studio in London, with key engineering development carried out at Nissan’s technical facility in Cranfield, Bedfordshire.
UK readers of a certain age will recall the 1978 Datsun Cherry, which used the Pulsar name in some countries. As chairman of Club Datsun (I know, get me!), I remember driving the Datsun Pulsar in Zimbabwe in the 80’s. Rudimentary thing it was, too. Still, it was posh both for its time and place as brand new cars were very expensive and subsequently quite rare where I grew up.
Built at Nissan’s Barcelona plant, the Pulsar is the first hatchback from the Japanese manufacturer since the Almera and the Primera met their belated demise back in 2006, both making way at the time for the arrival of some new ‘crossover’ thingy called the Qashqai and later, the quirky but affable Juke.
Nissan’s fortunes have significantly improved from the days when the Almera and Primera ruled a red-inked roost. In the intervening years, the runaway successes of the Qashqai, Juke and Note have revitalised Nissan’s bottom line, sufficiently so, that they thought it time to pop a big toe back in the automotive maelstrom of the British hatchback market.
The sector contains more than a few automotive piranhas, with nary an inch given by traditional class leaders such as the Ford Focus, VW Golf, Vauxhall Astra, Mazda3 and young upstarts like Citroen’s C4 Cactus. In such a peer group, you can perhaps begin to understand the task faced by the Pulsar to achieve any tangible impact.
➤ The Style Factory
Nissan has clearly played it safe with the Pulsar’s looks, appealing more to the conservative chooser-user happy to shun the more ‘out-there’ styling of the Qashqai and Juke.
Present are the marque’s new family characteristics of the contoured bonnet and the V-motion grille first seen on the new Qashqai and X-Trail and there are LED headlights available to give some visual interest along with the signature Nissan daytime running lights.
There’s contoured creasing along the base of each flank and the shoulder line, with ‘boomerang’ tail lights and a roof spoiler, while the bonnet has V-shaped creases accentuating the chrome Nissan flat-bottomed V. Wheel arches are given extra prominence, particularly at the front and there’s a swathing rear diffuser.
The overall visual aesthetic is pleasant, safe and ‘corporate’ – in a sales representative kind of way and I can’t help thinking that the designers have given themselves generous wiggle room for the mid-cycle facelift in three years’ time.
➤ The Inside Story
In the cockpit, first impressions are good but compared to recent Nissan offerings, one can’t help think that’s it’s been deliberately toned down. The dashboard design is a little plain – almost 90’s retro, while some plastics feel a little low-rent.
However, everyday tactile parts such as the steering wheel, gear-lever and the six-inch touchscreen display are shared with the Qashqai and the X-Trail – which is clearly no bad thing.
The fascia may be aesthetically neutral but it did feel well screwed together, which should translate into a squeak- and rattle-free future.
Thanks to the longest wheelbase in its class at 2,700 mm, interior space is excellent both front and rear and a good driving position is very comfortable and easily found. At 385 litres, the boot of the Pulsar is a decent size with the 60/40-split rear furniture in place. Fold them down and a very practical 1,395 litres of space becomes available, although the load bay isn’t at all flat when you do.
➤ Trim grades and equipment
There are four familiar Nissan trim grades across the 15-model Pulsar range; Visia, Acenta, N-Tec and Tekna.
The entry level Visia is priced from £15,995 and boasts quite a deep toy box of standard kit including a 5.8 inch colour screen, steering wheel mounted controls, Bluetooth and air conditioning.
Step up to the Acenta model and another £1,950 or so nets you added extras like emergency city braking, automatic lights and wipers and Nissan’s ingenious i-Key system.
The N-Tec versions as tested start from £19,295 and adds 17″ alloys, privacy glass and Nissan’s signature LED lights. It also offers a colour reversing camera and NissanConnect 2, an infotainment system offering full smartphone integration, Google’s Send-to-Car and access to a wide variety of apps.
At the top of the range is the Tekna, priced from £20,345, which gets further Nissan Safety Shield Technologies including forward emergency braking, moving object detection, lane departure warning and blind spot warning for the ultimate in passenger protection.
Even the entry level model is well equipped with six airbags, wheel-mounted audio controls, a tyre pressure monitoring system, anti-lock brakes backed up by electronic brake-force distribution, and a stability control system that also include Nissan’s active trace control, which keeps you from deviating from your steered path.
The Pulsar options list is mercifully brief, with most being cosmetic enhancements in one guise or another. These days, bundled options are the order of the day and Nissan offers four such packs across all Pulsar trim grades, all of which may be retro fitted at retail:
* Protection pack : Front + rear mudguards, velour mats and a soft boot liner – £249.
* Design pack, available in black, white or chrome: Front lip finisher, rear bumper insert, boot lower finisher – £260.
* Chrome style pack, available in black or white: Side sills, mirror caps – £249.
* Sport pack, on the manual or CVT auto: Sports pedals, rear upper bumper protection & entry guards – £330.