The Pulsar is based on the Renault-Nissan Alliance small platform (think Note, etc), but has an impressive 2700mm wheelbase relative to its conventional C-segment 4.3 metre length. There are MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear.
And it comes with lots of stuff: an LED headlight option, emergency braking radar, internet connection and DAB radio, automatic parking, a reversing camera that cleans itself, lane-departure and blind-spot warning, and more. All in a car priced from £15,000-£20,000; about 10 per cent less than a Volkswagen Golf, by Nissan’s reckoning.
Also by Nissan’s reckoning, the Pulsar isn’t really a Golf rival. Nissan is thinking more along the lines of a Hyundai i30 or Kia Cee’d. The kinds of cars whose makers, 10 years ago, tried to tempt buyers in with lots of stuff at low prices, but who now tempt them by offering pleasing baby-premium interiors, multi-link rear ends and extremely capable dynamics.
The Pulsar doesn’t quite have all of those. Oh, it feels well-assembled enough inside, but the brightwork is a touch clumsy – real metal components don’t look like that – and there are too many hard plastics.
Ergonomically it’s generally good, though – there are wide armrests on the doors and the driving position is sound. And there’s bags of legroom in the rear. The entertainment system and the like is mostly lifted straight from the Qashqai.
There are two engines first of all; a 1.5-litre diesel and a 114bhp 1.2-litre petrol turbo tested here. It’s the same engine as in the Qashqai, so is pleasingly quiet and only modestly powerful, but willing above 2000rpm – as is the experience generally. This is a pretty refined car.
The ride is generally smooth; better in the 1.2 than the heavier-engined, 1.5-litre, 109bhp diesel we’ve also driven. But look for anything beyond mediocre smoothness, towards the kind of mild involvement that make a Golf or Ford Focus – or even a Cee’d or i30 – compelling, and you’ll be searching a long time.
The steering’s light and inert (again, heavier in the diesel). It’s an easy car to rub along with. To sit in and drive, the Pulsar is one of the least interesting cars in the segment.