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DRIVEN ➤ Nissan Pulsar : Like, hatches be back!

14 Jun

By Wayne Gorrett

🙂 Affordable pricing, generous kit, comfortable, spacious & refined…
😦 Most rivals drive better & its contemporary looks cool the pulse.

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➤ 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

➤ Engines and Transmissions

There are three engine and two transmission choices to be made with the Pulsar and all are more than adequate for most drivers.

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Two turbo-charged petrol units of 1.2- and 1.6-litre capacity are complemented by the 1.5-litre diesel as tested. None will break the quarter-mile in terms of performance, but all are frugal and by and large well-mannered.

There is a six-speed manual gearbox and Nissan’s X-Tronic CVT (a.k.a. non-geared automatic) transmission, but only go for this if absolutely necessary as – oddly dependent on chosen trim level – it costs a lot more than the six-speed manual and like most CVT transmissions currently available today, is altogether quite tiresome.

➤ Safety First

The insurance-friendly Pulsar scored five-stars in the Euro NCAP tests. You can read the full test report here.

It was also awarded a pedestrian protection score of 75% – a relief for the multitude of errant UK jay-walkers.

Nissan’s new signature LED running lights are standard, with full LED headlights available further up the range and for the little ones, there’s two ISOFIX child-seat mounting points fitted to the rear bench.

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Safety equipment levels are high with six airbags fitted as standard and, depending on your chosen trim level, the Pulsar is supplied with a number of elements from their ‘Nissan Safety Shield’, such as lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning and even a radar-triggered, city-speed braking system in most models.

Again, version-dependent, the Pulsar can also be equipped with a self-cleaning reversing camera or several cameras giving an aerial, birds-eye view of the car.

In essence, the Pulsar is a remarkably safe car to pootle around in.

➤ The Drive

By its own admission, Nissan didn’t aim for the fun factor of the Mazda3 or Ford Focus when developing the Pulsar, preferring instead to target the refinement of the VW Golf and Audi A3. In nearly all respects it has succeeded as, apart from a flutter of wind noise from the large door mirrors above 65 mph, the Pulsar is very quiet at a cruise, even with the 109 bhp diesel as tested, which is almost petrol-like in audio refinement.

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Pilot the Nissan along a twisty B-road and you’ll discover strong grip and direct steering. There is absolutely no feedback through the steering wheel and the car is prone to more body roll than pretty much all of its rivals. Torque vectoring helps to resist understeer, while the progressive brakes and precise gearshift are easy to use.

The engines are mostly well-mannered, though overly tall gearing forces them to labour harder under acceleration than they otherwise might and undoubtedly blunts performance. The 1.6-litre turbo petrol arrived in the Spring, but even extra power doesn’t turn the Pulsar into a truly entertaining car. Instead, very decent ride quality, light controls and nonplussed progress are the order of the day here.

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There is a confident feel when under way and wind and road noise are very well suppressed, but while the combination of soft suspension and 17-inch wheels soaks up big potholes and bumps, the Pulsar feels unsettled on crusty surfaces. Still, the driving position provides good visibility.

➤ ICE and Connectivity

The Pulsar is quite the integrated pup around town. Both the ‘Around View Monitor’ and ‘Nissan Safety Shield’ are incorporated into the new Pulsar’s NissanConnect satellite navigation, Bluetooth and audio system via the 5.8-inch touchscreen display.

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It includes Smartphone integration, giving access to social and web applications such as Google, Facebook, Trip Advisor and EuroSports. The system includes aux-in and USB slots along with DAB radio.

➤ SUMMARY

As mixed bags go, the new Nissan Pulsar leads the pack. It would be easy to criticise it for being a little too dull and that many rivals are both better looking and more fun to drive. But with the Juke and Qashqai firmly resident in the brand stable, Nissan already cater for those looking for that sort of car.

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Priced from £15,995, Nissan has created a likeable car in the new Pulsar. It’s real trump card lies in its refinement. It is incredibly quiet and smooth, making it one of the most relaxed and becalmed hatchbacks around.

Sure, there’s little by way of sparkle from behind the wheel, but it’s very comfortable with exceptional ride quality – a car that is effortless to drive and fuss-free to own. It also has acres of rear legroom – more than larger Germanic saloons like the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 – no mean feat considering those two are class-leaders of the segment above the Pulsar.

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For user-choosers who are perhaps less interested in cars and are simply looking for something refreshing, reliable, comfortable, well-equipped and safe, then they could do much worse than the Pulsar.

I know that because I’ve driven them.

➤ Fast facts – Nissan Pulsar

* Model tested: 1.5dCi diesel, 6-speed manual in N-Tec trim.
* Price: £20,895 as driven. Pulsar range from £15,995 – £22,345.
* Power: 109 bhp @ 4,000 rpm.
* Torque: 260 Nm @ 1,750 – 2,500 rpm.
* CO2: 94 g/km.
* 0-62 mph: 11.5 seconds.
* Top speed: 118 mph.
* Engine rpm at 70mph: 1,900.
* Weights: Kerb 1,352 kg (fuelled). Gross vehicle 1,785 kg.
* Luggage Space (litres): 385 and 1,395, 60/40 seat split.
* VED Band: A, zero tax.
* Insurance group for model driven: 12
* Fuel tank: 46 litres (10.12 gallons).
* MPG: 78.5 (official combined). Over 509 mixed miles we recorded an average of 64.1 mpg, peaking at 73.3 mpg*.
* Theoretical range: Official: 794 miles. Tested 648 miles ( -18.4 per cent).
* Service intervals: Every 12 months or 18,000 miles.
* Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles, whichever is the sooner.
* All test vehicles are driven in a ‘normal’ driving style, with two adults and two canine children aboard. No attempt at frugality is made unless the test is specifically mpg-related, where stated.
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1 Comment

Posted by on June 14, 2015 in Driven

 

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One response to “DRIVEN ➤ Nissan Pulsar : Like, hatches be back!

  1. Anonymous

    February 14, 2016 at 19:14

    Yes that car runs well and you can on good drive u can get 81 m p g and more ok

    Like

     

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