Nissan Pulsar 1.5 dCi Tekna review
After phenomenal success in the sporty 'crossover' market with the Qashqai, Japanese car maker Nissan has gone back into the medium size family hatchback market; think VW Golf, with the Pulsar after a nine year gap. Entry level models are particularly good value and Nissan has a good reputation for reliability.
If you wanted to be toffee nosed you could say the Pulsar is unremarkable in almost every way; but safe, consistent and economical is fine for most folk and the Pulsar is more spacious and practical than a Golf. Diesel makes most sense for company car users because of low official CO2 emissions.
Review by Russell Bray
The new Nissan Pulsar is available with a choice of petrol or diesel engines. We tried it with the familiar Nissan turbocharged 1461 cc four-cylinder diesel. This engine produces 108 bhp at 4,000 rpm and maximum torque of 119 lbs ft from 1,750 to 2,500 rpm. It's a bit grumbly at low speeds around town but impressively quiet after that. There's a bit of old school turbo surge at times and quite enjoyable it is too. Nissan claims 0-62 mph acceleration in 11.5 seconds but the test car was slightly quicker against the stop watch. Top speed is 118 mph. Tall gear ratios mean quite a lot of gear changing to liberate the best efficiency if you don't want the engine to labour in urban situations.
The Pulsar is more about comfort, impressive quiet refinement and a relaxing drive than hammering round corners for the fun of it. There are enough cars that do that and Nissan can always add a sporty version later if demand warrants it. There's plenty of grip from the front wheel drive chassis and good stability, but not much 'feel' through the electrically assisted power steering. Ford's Focus still leads the class in the handling discipline, but torque vectoring via subtle braking of the outside front wheel means there isn't the plough on understeer that used to inflict dreary Nissans of the past like the Almera. The Nissan's softish suspension means there is quite a lot of body roll. Light steering makes it easy to park.
At first glance the Pulsar's styling is rather nondescript, but live with the car and see it in different lights, especially dark coloured versions, and you can appreciate some of the subtle curves in the bodywork. It has a family face resemblance to the Qasqai 'soft' roader and is pretty sleek judging from the lack of wind noise at speed. One of the Pulsar's strengths is cabin room. You get more space and practicality than you do in a VW Golf and cabin room, especially in the back, rivals the bigger VW Passat. Boot volume is 395 litres and that increases to a huge 1,395 litres if you fold down the split rear seats, but unfortunately they leave a big 'step' in the load area when folded and the load sill is high to lift bags over. Length 4387 mm; width 1768 mm (excluding mirrors).
COMFORT & CONTROLS
In cold analysis terms I didn't find the driver's seat of the Pulsar that comfortable, but equally, even after journeys of more than a hundred miles I never got out of the car with any aches. Rear seat space is excellent and even matches cars in the next size segment up. You need to use the slick gear change a lot in general motoring to make the most of the tall gears so thankfully it is paired with a light clutch. The steering is light.
General refinement is in the VW Golf or Audi A3 category. Friends commented on the clarity and layout of the dashboard and centre console. The steering wheel and colour TFT display between the speedometer and rev counter seem borrowed from the Qashqai and there's no harm done there. The radio and cruise control can be worked using buttons on the steering wheel spokes.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
I felt quite pleased with the 46.8 MPG to 52.5 MPG I got out of the Pulsar most of the time and even beat 62 MPG on one occasion, but generally, of course I was well adrift of the 78.5 MPG combined figure produced by laboratory tests designed for inter model comparisons. See our section on Real MPG for reasons why. Carbon dioxide emissions of 94 g/km mean there is no road tax to pay as it slips under the current 100 g/km rating. Service intervals are at 18,000 miles (12,500 for petrol) or annually. The diesel models are more expensive than petrol versions to buy so the usual anti-green argument applies that you need to do more miles to balance or justify the higher cost.
Although the official CO2 emissions figure is 94 g/km, the Real MPG suggests this should be more like 140 g/km is real-world driving - but still relatively good compared to similar models in class. Engine stop-start technology to save fuel in traffic jams is standard. Major changes to the engine's working parts have reduced vibration, while the overall weight has been reduced with new lightweight components. The LED front lights produce a crisp, white light and use less power than conventional bulbs.
The upside of diesel is reduced CO2 emissions, the downside is higher NOx and particulates as compared to petrol. Taking into account the fuel type, official CO2 emissions, and adding life cycle emissions for all main pollutants for fuel and vehicle production, the NGC Rating for the car tested is 27.
In top of the range Tekna spec there isn't much more you would want on your Pulsar. Externally there are 17 in alloy wheels, front fog lights and privacy glass and inside leather seats (front heated), a 5.8 in navigation and entertainment colour touch screen with colour front, side and rear cameras for better vision when parking. There's also a DAB digital radio, audio CD with six speakers and Bluetooth with microphone. Safety equipment includes low-speed collision avoidance braking on Acenta models and above, while the top spec Tekna gets lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring and the surround view cameras. The NissanConnect system comes with a range of features including full smart phone integration, Google Send-to-Car and access to useful apps.
Model tested: Nissan Pulsar 1.5 dCi Tekna
Body-style: Five-door family hatchback
Engine/CO2: 108bhp 1461cc four-cylinder turbo diesel / 94 gCO2/km
Trim grades: Visia, Acenta, n-tec, Tekna
On-road price: Petrol models from £15,995. Diesel test car £21,945
Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 STARS