Mike Humble :
Now don’t laugh but hear me out, the “all action Almera” – deleted from the range in 2006 left a bit of a hole in the Nissan portfolio. Going “way out” can sometimes do more harm than good and I’ll bet a few traditional Nissan customers will have been startled at the boldness of latter products such as Qashqai or Juke. Since the farewell of the Almera its not really made a plain and simple no frills five door hatchback designed in such as way it could vanish in a crowd of three.
Well… that is until now. Although not built in the UK (at the present time) the Pulsar sees a return to something more conservative and dare I say it – normal to the eye. Having spent a little time in a local Nissan showroom recently I must admit having got used to the curvaceous Qashqai and the totally bonkers Juke, the Pulsar sits like a Cuckoo in the nest alongside its fellow siblings. I wont say its boring nor will I say its unremarkable, but what I will say is that its pretty… erm… average in a nice kind of way. Its a very normal looking medium family hatchback… yes! that’s what it is – phew!
Just like Basil Fawlty’s hapless waiter Manuel, the Pulsar comes from Barcelona, but unlike Basils profuse apologies to his guests about this fact – Nissan have nothing to be sorry about. From first viewing the test cars paintwork was bright and deep with shut lines so precise you could calibrate a vernier calliper with them rather than the other way round. Nothing offends as you look around the exterior but equally nothing sets the heart racing either, but wait… this is EXACTLY what Nissan set out to achieve – an antidote to those who find the Juke just that bit too Jolly.
Basically, what we have here is a Nissan that can claw back the customer who just wants a typical hatchback without the fizz and perhaps stumbled into a Korean marque having found their trusty Almera or Primera quietly dropped from the brochure. Hopping inside we find the steering wheel and instrument cluster come via the Qashqai but the rest of the dressing continues the theme on the outside – no fuss, no bling and totally bereft of idiosyncrasy. The only thing remotely “different” is the “floating” centre part of the dashboard – nothing as bold or dramatic as you’d find in a current Volvo though.
Tekna comes with leather trim as standard along with a clever perimeter camera system, cruise, climate, lane deviation warning, forward emergency braking and almost every safety or traction abbreviation you could possibly think of. Unless your stature equals the late Robert Pershing Waldow you will have no problems with space. Rear Legroom is incredible, and even Marge Simpson would appreciate the headroom on offer – not only that but the Pulsar is also deliciously comfortable. It has a good driving position, well spaced and well sized pedals along with a commendable amount of space for odds and ends.
Despite having an engine of just 1197cc the Nissan / Renault alliance have produced a sweet little plant that revs freely, pulls with gutso and sips the juice like a well behaved child. To give the power on offer (115Ps) the H5FT power unit is turbocharged and those with good hearing will hear the wastegate give a little sigh when you change gear – that really did make me smile. Maximum torque (165Nm) is created at just over 1700rpm and useable grunt can be achieved from around 1300rpm… so despite its small cubics the 1.2 Pulsar pulls really really well – even in higher gears.
You’ll find strong brakes, a decent ride and rather excellent refinement as standard. Cruising along at speed is as effortless as a soak in a hot bath, only if the road surface is rough does any real intrusion enter the cabin to spoil a kind of hush that The Carpenters would have been envious of. But please be aware that its not a true drivers car though. The steering is too light and lacking in feel – that’s E-PAS for you and you can feel the car roll slightly on its lofty profile tyres when cornering with any form of aggression. The handling is safe and predictable at best… but the ride? its excellent.
Quality on the inside is fairly okay. There’s too much unpadded plastic on the dashboard and the appearance is hardly radical. Also, it seems that if there is an up-coming award for the number of shades of black in a car, Nissan better start writing their acceptance speech – its gloomier than a puncture in Lincoln… in the dark… on a cold and wet Wednesday… with toothache. Beyond the rear seats there’s a plentiful boot with almost 1400 litres of space for your goods or chattels, its just a shame the backrests don’t fold totally flat to the floor but that seems to be a growing trend these days.
If the Pulsar was a dessert – it would be Vanilla. If it was an object – it would be a table lamp – but neither of the aforementioned are aimed to be harsh or critical. The Nissan Pulsar offers a bigger interior package than most of the class and would make a perfect choice for those who just want a safe, secure and spacious family car without any brand kudos or fuss – its a car that you just switch on and use. It pretends to be nothing else but promises security and functionality.
And to some people that’s all that matters!
AUTOBRITANNIA.NET RATING : 7/10
THE HUMBLE OPINION
Want a car that just starts, stops, corners and can even do all the aforementioned in reverse too? Your local Nissan dealer is waiting for you with a piping hot Flavia. But seriously, the Pulsar offers a VAST amount of interior space and specification for the money, not only that but its unbelievably comfortable and effortless to drive. Despite its plain Jane exterior, it shifts like a trodden on cat when you want it too and even then it remains economical.
Not everyone is that brand conscious or wishes to cruise down Brentwood High Street looking like Kanye West – thank God I say. Its smoother than almost all the rest and if you try specifying a Golf to the Tekna level of trim you will wince as you get worrying close to 30K. The dealers will treat you with a little more respect and dignity than Uncle Henrys finest and if it does go wrong they will put you top of the heap not bottom of the pile.
But it also marks a return of what Nissan always used to be about – quiet efficiency without any stress. Okay the Pulsar may not be a car we all dream about, but for those who don’t want to know about the intricacies of an apex… or care for what lives under a bonnet – the Pulsar is a dream come true… and one that’s pleasingly affordable.
Think of it as being the automotive equivalent of Windows XP!
Should you buy and if not why: This one’s okay… you know?
Model Tested: Nissan Pulsar 1.2 Tekna
Produced by: Nissan Motor Company Barcelona Spain
Price: £20,345 OTR
Engine: Nissan / Renault 1197cc 16v Turbo Petrol
Power: 115Ps with 165Nm of torque
Performance*: 0 – 60 in 10.7 seconds 118mph max
Transmission: 6 speed manual front wheel drive
Brakes: All round discs with ABS/EBD & emergency forward braking programme – Lever park brake
Fuel Economy: *56.5mpg (51mpg on test)
VED: Band C
* = Manufacturers Claimed Data
THE HIGHS: Astonishing rear legroom and space – Great refinement – Ride comfort – Well equipped – Good value for money – Good performance – Credible economy – Easy to use controls – Sat Nav & infotainment works well – Exterior fit & finish is very good.
THE LOWS: Dull interior – Not the most exiting styling package – Looks messy under the bonnet – Handling is best described as predictable and nothing more – Boot space spoilt by the lack of a flat floor when seat backs are folded.
For more information on the Nissan Pulsar CLICK HERE