Nissan Pulsar hatchback (2014-2018)
"The Nissan Pulsar family hatchback is spacious and refined, but it’s a bit lacking in the fun department"
- Very practical and spacious
- Cheap to buy and run
- Well equipped
- Awkward styling
- Mixed interior quality
- Not much fun to drive
Nissan took a short break from competing in the family hatchback class and returned, in somewhat low-key fashion, with the Nissan Pulsar. It may not have taken the world by storm but the Ford Focus rival makes a solid addition to the Japanese manufacturer's range, and provides families with an alternative to its extremely popular Nissan Qashqai and Nissan Juke crossovers.
The Pulsar lines up against the Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon. The keen pricing of entry-level models also puts it in a strong position to take on the Hyundai i30 and Kia Cee’d, where its no-nonsense character really shines through.
Although the Pulsar is rather functional in personality, it's not completely lacking in style. The interior has strong overtones of the Qashqai, both visually and in terms of build quality, and there’s plenty of equipment on board; all models have air conditioning and steering-wheel mounted controls for the stereo system, while range-topping Tekna models gain sat nav, DAB radio and a 360-degree camera system as a parking aid.
Only three engines are offered, one of which is a 1.5-litre diesel that produces 109bhp. It's not particularly quick, with 0-62mph taking 11.5 seconds, but is perfectly capable of keeping up with traffic and claims official economy of 78.5mpg, which is great news for those who expect to cover high annual mileages.
If you're more likely to cover 12,000 or less in a year, the 113bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine may suit you well, particularly if you make a lot of short or urban journeys. It may not be as economical as the diesel, but it still manages up to 56.5mpg, and can do the 0-62mph sprint in 10.7 seconds. This is the only engine that can be specified with an automatic gearbox, but performance is blunted slightly if you do so.
In contrast, the 1.6-litre DIG-T petrol offers a surprising turn of speed. This engine is related to that used in the Nissan Juke Nismo RS and Renault Clio RS, and produces 188bhp. It’s not quite as sporty in character as it is in those cars, and goes without their rorty exhaust note, but can still propel the stealthy hatchback from 0-62mph in just 7.7 seconds.
There’s no doubting the Pulsar is good value, starting from around £13,000 and undercutting most of its rivals. With a lower price tag, the Pulsar is competitive, but start heading up the range and the Nissan finds itself up against very stiff competition from the likes of the Golf, SEAT Leon and Mazda3.
If you’re a private buyer, the diesel model is likely to hold onto its value best, although the Pulsar won’t match the aforementioned Golf or an Audi A3 for resale values.
Nissan has a good reputation for safety and the Pulsar doesn’t disappoint, with a five-star Euro NCAP rating awarded in 2014. Standard safety kit includes six airbags, while advanced technology like autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning and blind-spot warning are available higher up the range.
The Nissan Pulsar finished 23rd out of the 75 cars ranked in our 2017 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK. It might not be as much fun to drive as a Ford Focus or SEAT Leon, but if you’re after a practical and sensible family hatchback, the Nissan Pulsar is a solid choice.