Nissan Pulsar 2014-2018 review

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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

Pulsas in n-tec specification feature LED headlights with an LED signature strip

The Pulsar is more recognisable as a Nissan from the rear, not least because of its Qashqai-like rear lights

The Pulsar features a prominent rear boot spoiler; don’t in any way mistake this for sporting ambition

Mottled rear diffuser looks a little out of place on the back of such an otherwise pedestrian design

The driving position and front passenger space are both excellent

The Nissan’s controls are for the most part intuitive and easily accessed

The Pulsar shares the Qashqai’s multimedia system, which is good because it’s generally one of the better units offered in a mainstream model

A six-speed manual is standard; the 1.2 DIG-T is available with a CVT for £1350

Active Trace Control helps the Nissan mitigate understeer

Front seats are comfortable, if a bit on the plain side to look at

There’s a huge amount of legroom back here, plus good headroom

Boot is a good size. Capacity beats that of a Volkswagen Golf by five litres

Engine options consist of a 1.2-litre petrol or a 1.5-litre diesel

A hotter Nismo version may come to market in the future

The 1.5-litre diesel is perfectly serviceable

The Pulsar is composed and reasonably well balanced but lacks bite

It’s soft-riding and benign but not inclined to engage its driver

Competent and inoffensive but wholly lacking in personality and verve

Close by Nic Cackett 6 January 2015 Follow @@autocar Share

How we test cars

After a pretty lousy performance at the turn of the century, a hugely successful few years have followed for Nissan.

The hugely popular Nissan Qashqai and Nissan Juke have doubled the firm’s UK market share since 2007, but a greater trick has been to transform Nissan’s reputation from a peddler of some of Europe’s most staid and boring volume models to the creator of some of its most bold and interesting ones.

The 1978 Datsun Cherry used the Pulsar name in some countriesNic CackettRoad tester

The firm now has ambitions to break in among Britain’s most successful brands.

But in order to seize the seven per cent share of the UK market on which it has designs and to force its way in among Ford, Vauxhall, Volkswagen, Audi and BMW in sales terms, Nissan must return to the part of the market it left when it killed off the Almera. It must go back to making plain, predictable and ordinary family hatchbacks.

So has it judged its crucial re-entry right with this, the new Pulsar? Designed and engineered for Europe, this is Nissan’s idea of the perfect showroom foil for a mid-size crossover: rational, conventional and pragmatic.

But is that the stuff of which great family hatches are made? Let’s find out.


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

Model tested: Rating: 6

Nissan Pulsar 2014-2018

GoodGenerous cabin spaceRefined and frugalEasy to driveBenign ride qualityBadBland, both to look at and to driveA gamble on residualsLacklustre interior



Pulsas in n-tec specification feature LED headlights with an LED signature strip

The Pulsar name isn’t widely known in the UK, but it’s got a long history. Introduced in 1978 as a replacement for the Datsun Cherry, the first version (codenamed N10) came to Europe as a Cherry but was sold in south-east Asia, Australasia and South Africa as the Pulsar.

The car we knew as the Almera was originally a version of the Japanese-market N15 Pulsar, launched in 1995. Nissan GB discontinued the Almera in 2006, but Nissan continued to sell a conventional five-door — the Tiida — in Europe.

The scuttle is low, the pillars are sensible and the mirrors are a good size. Visibility all round is very good, as a resultMatt SaundersRoad test editor

Given that no one in Britain or Europe knows what to expect of it, you might be inclined to praise Nissan’s adoption of a route one approach to the design of the Pulsar. We’re not. To us, this car is evidence of slightly constrained thinking and limited ambition that perhaps even borders on protectionism.

You have to look past the car’s deeply conservative shape and styling, for example, and past its conspicuous lack of any identifiable character, to its practicality and obliging functionality in order to find its first real selling point.

This is a lot of car for the money. It’s got huge passenger space, and yet it’s barely an inch longer than a Ford Focus. But in the premium-brand age, even volume options need a bit of visual allure in order to present a desirable proposition.

Furthermore, to explain away such blandness by defining your new car as opposition to the pair of vastly more interesting crossover siblings on the other side of the same showroom isn’t a convincing rationale. The Nissan Qashqai would surely have had nothing to fear from a much more handsome and imaginative hatchback than this.

Pragmatism and convention define what’s underneath the Pulsar, too. The engine choices are also restricted to a 113bhp 1.2-litre turbo or a 187bhp 1.6 petrol unit, or a 108bhp 1.5-litre turbodiesel.

The powerful DIG-T 190 models gain a revised chassis, a sharper drive, 17- and 18in alloy wheels and sportier tweaks to the exterior – but the richer end of the diesel spectrum is unrepresented.

The car is based on the Common Module Family all-steel platform used by the Qashqai and Nissan X-Trail, suspended by front MacPherson struts and a rear torsion beam. The 1.5-litre diesel weighed 1350kg on our scales; that’s quite light for such a large five-door.

Four trim levels are offered; Visia, Acenta, N-Connecta and Tekna. Standard kit is comprehensive and includes tyre pressure monitoring, a 5-inch TFT screen, Bluetooth connectivity, USB connectivity, air conditioning, electric windows, cruise control and electric mirrors. 

The Pulsar is also the fourth recent introduction in the wider Nissan family, after the Qashqai, X-Trail and the Infiniti Q50, to feature a chassis technology called Active Trace Control.

The system is a development of the electronic stability control system (known as VDC in a Nissan) and is ostensibly a torque-vectoring understeer mitigator, but to explain it simply as an electronic alternative to a limited-slip differential would be both inaccurate and misleading.

Normal ESP systems have now been developed to quite a high standard, but they remain primarily devoted to taming sudden oversteer. They intervene with the brakes when the car’s actual yaw rate (its rate of change of direction) suddenly accelerates beyond the one implied by the steering angle.

Active Trace Control can account for a lower-than-desired rate of yaw by applying the brakes gently to both inside wheels in order to mitigate it.

With the VDC system’s Anti-Slip Regulation wheelspin control quelling excessive mid-corner acceleration, ATC is intended to intervene imperceptibly, dealing with gentle initial understeer to make the car go where you point it when grip levels suddenly decrease. 

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