First Drive: Nissan Pulsar

The Nissan Pulsar is a car…

It does everything that you expect a car to do, from going forwards at a speed high enough to get places in a reasonable time frame to seating five people in an acceptable degree of comfort.

It’s quite economical too, and has a reasonably sized boot. It’s also not too expensive and will happily fit in a garage.

If all you want from a car is simply something that works as a form of transport, then the Pulsar could be for you.

The Pulsar marks Nissan’s return to the C-segment, the brutally competitive part of the market that includes the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf, and it’s gone for an entirely inoffensive proposition.

From the plunging bonnet line and family v-grille rise sharp creases that flow along the side of the car to boomerang style lights at the back. It’s unmistakably a Nissan, but the proportions are such that at first glance you might not pick out which Nissan it is.

Move inside and you’ll find a cabin covered in high quality materials that are bolted together perfectly, with a centre console appearing to float in front of the main dashboard. That console houses the touch screen that allows access to an almost overwhelming array of technologies, including Nissan’s so-called Safety Shield.

This combines lane departure warning and blind spot warning with moving object detection, which warns a driver about pedestrians or animals that may not be visible. There’s also the 360-degree Around View monitor and NissanConnect that integrates with smart phones and offers full satellite navigation, although you’ll have to pay for the top-level Tekna specification if you want to benefit from these.

You will benefit from impressive amounts of shoulder and elbow room, while the concave dashboard creates the illusion of even more space, making it feel particularly accommodating.

Despite being just 4.39m long, sitting somewhere between a Focus and an Astra, the Pulsar boasts incredible amounts of room for its rear occupants. With the longest wheelbase in its class, there’s 692mm of leg room in the back seats, beating all of its sector rivals and shaming many of the larger cars from a class above.

Boot space is good too, with 385 litres available. Fold down the rear seats and that increases to 1,395 litres.

Under the bonnet you’ve got a choice of a 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel engine, both turbocharged, producing 115PS and 110PS respectively. The diesel engine has been cleverly revised, making it smoother and more refined than in previous installations across the Nissan/Renault range, with particular attention paid to start up shakes and rattles. Those revisions also make the stop/start system less intrusive.

The same can’t be said about the gearbox, which is a clunky affair that, for some strange reason, makes third gear difficult to engage. This was tested on another car and was consistent, but perhaps the early build nature of the test models has something to do with that.

The ride is as smooth as the engine though, almost floating along the motorway and isolating every undulation, crack or expansion gap. Move on to more entertaining roads and the Pulsar shows why it’s such a comfortable ride; the soft suspension just can’t cope with enthusiastic driving, rolling from corner to corner and leaving the adventurous drivers unsatisfied.

At least it’s economical though, returning 78.5mpg according to the official figures. Driving around the launch roads saw the car return 57.2mpg, which is quite a feat considering the foot-down approach that was being taken for some periods.

The end result is that the Pulsar is a perfectly capable car, able to do everything that is required of a car, which will be enough for many buyers. But in creating something that’s comfortable, quiet and spacious, they’ve forgotten to tick the box marked ‘interesting’.

That might be fixed early in 2015 when a 190PS version becomes available, and there’ll undoubtedly be a Nismo variant in the years to come.

Until then, the Pulsar feels like a car for Note owners who want to upgrade, but the Qashqai is just a bit too big and the Toyota Auris is just a bit too exciting. Predictable, sensible and adequate.

Adequate rather than remarkable just doesn’t cut it in this segment though, so unless some excitement is injected in to the range, I fear there’s a chance that the Pulsar could go the way of the Almera all over again.

Model Tested: Nissan Pulsar Tekna dCi 110
Price: £21,495
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo diesel
Top speed: 118 mph
0-62 mph: 11.5 seconds
Power: 110 PS (108 bhp)
Torque: 260 Nm (192 ft-lb)
Official fuel economy: 78.5 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 94 g/km
Car tax band: A / £0 per year
Insurance group: 12E
Kerb weight: 1,307 kg

Some photography provided by Adam Tudor-Lane.

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