We take an in-depth look at the new Nissan Pulsar, which is set to go on sale later this year for £15,995

The launch of the Nissan Pulsar marks the company's first steps into re-establishing a foothold in the high-volume European hatchback market.

While it might seem a curious tack for a brand that has in recent history made its mark primarily with crossovers, there are myriad reasons for its move.

"The Qashqai has a massive following," says Pulsar product manager Andrew Limbert, "but it's not ideal to have all our eggs in one basket.

"We can increase volumes by spreading out and drawing more people into the brand by catering for their needs. We also think we can bring something to the sector for buyers from other brands."

With the new Qashqai, Juke and X-trail having established a common Nissan look, it's not surprising to see familiar cues throughout the new five-door Pulsar hatchback.

“In the past you could say we’ve been quite guilty of very different directions on design", comments Limbert. "Now we’ve got much more family resemblance and a stronger statement.

Even entry-level models will effectively look the same as their more costly counterparts, with matching headlight designs, alloy wheels and gloss black and carbon-effect exterior trims.

Customisation opportunities will be limited though, most likely to small details like mirror cap covers, unlike other products in Nissan's range. Unlike the Juke, personalisation is not an important part of this car's character or appeal.

Inside you'll find a spacious cabin with ample seating for four, if not five, adults. The fit and finish is impressive – even those this is still effectively a prototype – and the materials used throughout are of a suitably high standard. Everything is laid out in an intuitive fashion and it's not difficult to find a comfortable seating position.

The sheer amount of room in the back, in particular, is impressive. "It offers more space than many larger D-segment cars in the back", says Limbert. "The door openings are wide too and we've made sure that you can access things like the Isofix points quickly. It's all about practicality and space."

A large 385-litre boot – some five litres more than a VW Golf – should prove more than adequate for most, while the rear seats can be folded to further increase the car's luggage capacity. They don't fold flat, however, but at least the option is there.

Equipment levels are high throughout the range, furthering the Pulsar's appeal. Trim levels comprise Visia, Acenta, N-tec and range-topping Tekna. Even the entry-level trim, however, features air-con, Bluetooth, a five-inch infotainment screen, cruise control and start stop.

An array of advanced safety equipment will be offered too, including Nissan's surround-view camera system with a moving object alert feature. "We aim to make the technology accessible in our line-up," states Limbert. "You don't have to pay the big expensive options prices to get the kit."

This idea is furthered by niceties such as a colour driver's information display, lifted from the Qashqai, being standard across the range. Features like these serve to bolster the ambience and quality feel of the Pulsar.

Nissan has benchmarked the Pulsar against the Peugeot 308, Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Kia Cee'd and Renault Mégane. This process highlighted areas that needed improvement; for example the Golf proved quieter inside which led to further revisions for the Pulsar.

Mechanically the car is comparatively conventional, with initial engine options including a 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and a 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel. All are front-wheel drive and come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard.

A CVT will be available for buyers of the 1.2-litre petrol version. It will feature a sports mode, granting driver's access to seven pre-programmed 'ratios', in order to deliver more predictable responses.

We won't be driving the new Pulsar until later this year but Limbert offers some insight as to what we might expect. "We've tried to give it a similar flavour to the Juke and Qashqai. Sportiness isn't a priority but it does corner in a pretty flat fashion."

The Pulsar has also reputedly benefitted from trials on UK and European roads, in an effort to make sure it performs and rides in an appropriate fashion.

In 2015 a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine will additionally be offered. While not designed to be an outright high-performance choice, it should present customers a model that's a little more driver-oriented.

Nissan hopes for the Pulsar to appeal to a wide range of people, from younger buyers moving up from a supermini, all the way up to business users looking to downsize to a roomy yet more compact and cost-effective hatchback.

"This is also for customers who don't want something as big as a Qashqai", notes Limbert.

Overall the initial impression is of a well-built, practical and smartly finished hatchback that majors on ease of use. It may not be as emotive as other models in the brand's line-up, and sticks more closely to the rules of the sector in which it's to compete, but it's likely to appeal to a wide range of customers.

Later, a high-performance Nismo version may be made available. "We'll see," muses Limbert. "We can't really discuss that but of course we don't rule it out.

"Obviously in the UK the Pulsar name has heritage; in the UK Nissan used to offer the Sunny GTI-R. In Japan it was called the Pulsar and quite a few were brought in as grey imports. It's something we'd be interested to follow up."

The new Nissan Pulsar is officially on sale at the end of September, with prices starting at £15,995.

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Our Verdict

NIssan Pulsar
Nissan's V-Motion grille marks the Pulsar out as a Nissan, but it's debatable whether you'd be able to name the car if this was covered up

Nissan's return to the European mainstream is hatched

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Comments
23

10 July 2014
So this is a budget offering tarted up for Euro tastes. Nissan just can't do cheap interiors well. Fact; Compared to Golf, 308, Focus, this looks like a cheap n nasty offering.

10 July 2014
The fundamentals seem right, plenty of space, practicality, equipment and good engines but the styling inside and out is a let down. It wouldn't take much to liven it up a bit.

10 July 2014
After running away screaming from that segment they've decided to come back for another drubbing? Obviously the success of the Qashqai has gone to their heads.

Next week: new Primera to take on BMW 3 series...

10 July 2014
Afternoon Oilburner and michael knight. Nissan pitches the car the car as a rival to the likes of the Toyota Auris and Kia cee'd; the Qashqai serves more as its alternative to the Golf. Obviously there's a little overlap here and there though, hence why they've benchmarked it against the Golf. It's also cheaper than the VW, as you'd expect, and notably better equipped as standard.

10 July 2014
Afternoon Lewis,
If they use the Golf (and by extension other C-segment hatches) as name-checked benchmark competitors, the product needs to stand comparison with those cars. I could be wrong but this has none of the refinement, inside or out, that the Golf has, let alone the Auris (aim high boys!)

10 July 2014
michael knight: Question, if I may - how exactly does one judge the refinement of a car based on photos? I would have said a more hands-on approach is required to make any judgements about how refined or otherwise a product is, or at the very least actually looking at it in the metal. For all we know the Pulsar may not end up quite matching the refinement of a Golf, but I'm not entirely sure how we can draw any conclusions on that without actually (a) seeing one or (b) driving one.

11 July 2014
Dave Ryan wrote:

michael knight: Question, if I may - how exactly does one judge the refinement of a car based on photos? I would have said a more hands-on approach is required to make any judgements about how refined or otherwise a product is, or at the very least actually looking at it in the metal.

Hello Dave - I'm talking about interior design-refinement rather than the actual NVH of the car. I know because I work for the company. Beyond that I can't say anything but compared to Nissan's other Euro-centric products (Qashqai, Juke) this and the current Micra are embarassing.

25 July 2014
michael knight wrote:

Hello Dave - I'm talking about interior design-refinement rather than the actual NVH of the car. I know because I work for the company. Beyond that I can't say anything but compared to Nissan's other Euro-centric products (Qashqai, Juke) this and the current Micra are embarassing.

Thanks for the reply. Out of curiosity, which company do you refer to? If it is Nissan then it seems rather counterproductive to slag off your own products on the internet (to say nothing of probably offending your marketing team...). In any event, your observations seem to be contradicted by Lewis' remarks on the interior refinement which I find curious.

11 July 2014
Oilburner wrote:

After running away screaming from that segment they've decided to come back for another drubbing? Obviously the success of the Qashqai has gone to their heads.

Next week: new Primera to take on BMW 3 series...

You may laugh but in some ways it could be a better car. The P11 versions of the Primera were great drivers, cheap as chips, bombproof and bvest of all - not 'Motherland' built.

The 3 series from 1999-2001 (V reg to Y approx) had plenty of issues.

Who says they couldn't do it?

14 August 2014
Bang on, the P10 and P11 Primeras were superb drivers cars for their time, utterly reliable and durable vehicles. A bit disappointing this thing, maybe it drives better than it looks aka Primera

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