Review: Nissan Pulsar (2014 – 2018)
Refined and comfortable hatchback. Huge amounts of rear legroom. Quiet engines even at motorway speeds. Good equipment levels as standard.
Ordinary to drive. Drab interior. Doesn't stand out from the competition.
Nissan Pulsar (2014 – 2018): At A Glance
After a brief absence, Nissan is back with a hatchback, something we've not seen since the Almera was discontinued in 2006. When Nissan replaced the forgettable Almera with the Qashqai it declared that the traditional hatchback was a thing of the past.
The brave new world of the 'crossover' was the future for family buyers and indeed Nissan led the way with the Qashqai, creating one of the most popular cars of recent times.
So why is it returning to a hatchback now? Well while the demand for crossovers has exploded, the fact remains that the market for hatchbacks is the second largest in the UK and remains similarly popular across Europe. Nissan can't ignore that potential so now it's returning with the Pulsar.
The five-door hatch is positioned slightly below the Qashqai - prices are roughly 10 per cent cheaper - with Nissan arguing that the Pulsar is more of a competitor to the Hyundai i30 than the Volkswagen Golf. Of course the Qashqai influence isn't far away and Nissan has attempted to bring some of the characteristics of its crossover into the Pulsar.
The firm describes it as an 'athletic design' but while it's tidy it's far from exciting, lacking the flair of the Juke or the presence of the Qashqai. Inside it's a similar story with a fairly ordinary cabin that does little to get your attention. On the plus side, while it has few bells and whistles, the Pulsar feels a well finished and sturdy car. However it's real trump card comes with refinement.
The Pulsar is incredibly quiet and smooth, making it one of the most relaxed hatchbacks around. There's little in the way of sparkle from behind the wheel, but it's very comfortable with superb ride quality. It's a car that's effortless to drive and fuss-free to own. It also has acres of rear legroom - more than larger saloons like the BMW 3 Series.
There's a 1.2 DIG-T petrol, a 1.6 DIG-T petrol and a 1.5 dCi diesel. The latter is impressively economical with a claimed 78.5mpg and CO2 of just 94g/km but both it and the 1.2 are refined and quiet on the move, giving decent performance when required. The 190PS DIG-T isn't as fast as you might expect, but it does give the Pulsar a decent turn of pace.
While other hatches may have a lower entry-level price, Nissan has ensured there are no basic models in the range so even the base Visia gets a 5-inch colour screen, steering wheel mounted controls, air conditioning and Bluetooth as standard.
What does a Nissan Pulsar (2014 – 2018) cost?
Nissan Pulsar (2014 – 2018): What's It Like Inside?
The Pulsar has a long wheelbase which is not only good news for ride comfort but also means impressive interior space. In fact the Pulsar has the most rear legroom of any hatchback this size by some considerable margin. Nissan says it's even more than a saloon like the BMW 3 Series and it certainly feels it. Even with the driver's seat all the way back a tall adult can comfortably sit behind.
Along with all that legroom, there's also lots of headroom and the wide opening doors make getting access to the back seats easy. Although those with younger children in car seats might find it harder to reach them from the front, as the rear seats are so far back.
The interior of the Pulsar certainly feels solid and well finished, so despite the drab design, it's a very comfortable cabin, helped by well designed seats and small details like plenty of cushioning on the door armrests. Nissan has kept things simple with easy to read dials, simple air conditioning controls and an intuitive multifunction steering wheel.
It's not the most modern of designs and certain elements of the Nissan interior feel a little dated, like the switches tucked away by your right knee but things improve thanks to the 5-inch colour screen on the centre console, plus there's a new, more modern trip display between the two main instrument dials.
Tekna and n-tec models go one further with the impressive NissanConnect system which has a 5.8-inch screen with navigation. It also includes DAB and smartphone integration but the most useful feature is the Around View Monitor. This uses tiny cameras around the car to project a 360 degreen bird's eye view onto the colour screen. It's ideal for parking in tight spots such as multi storey car parks or small parallel spaces.
The Pulsar has a reasonably large boot at 385 litres - about the same as a Hyundai i30 - with a wide opening. The rear seats fold flat which is useful but there are no useful levers in the boot to do that which means you're forced to lean in order to pull the handles which is hardly user-friendly.
Standard equipment from launch
Visia has a 5-inch colour screen, steering wheel mounted controls, air conditioning and Bluetooth.
Acenta has Forward Emergency Braking, automatic lights, rain sensitive wipers plus the Nissan i-Key keyless entry system.
n-tec comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, a colour reversing camera, LED lights and the NissanConnect 2 system which has smartphone integration plus Google Send-to-Car.
Tekna adds Nissan Safety Shield which includes Moving Object Detection, Lane Departure Warning and Blind Sport Warning.
Child seats that fit a Nissan Pulsar (2014 – 2018)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Nissan Pulsar (2014 – 2018) like to drive?
The Pulsar majors on comfort rather than sharp handling and it certainly rides well, coping well with rough roads and potholes. It's also impressive on the motorway where it will cruise along in a very relaxed nature helped by low noise levels both in terms of engines and general road noise.
It's certainly an effortless car to drive and easy to park in town too thanks to good visibility. Where it's not so strong is through corners. The steering is reasonably well weighted but it feels artificial and it lacks the agility of other hatchbacks like the SEAT Leon and isn't as keen into bends. Front end grip could be better and while the forgiving suspension set up is good for comfort, it also means considerable body roll in corners.
While this is by no means the be-all and end-all for a family hatchback like this, it does mean the Pulsar is dull to drive. Of course that's not a priority for everyone and the Pulsar redeems itself in other areas. The major controls are all well weighted and the shift on the six-speed gearbox has a rewardingly positive action.
Just two engines are available in the Pulsar from launch - a diesel and a petrol. Fortunately both are very good but it's the 1.2-litre DIG-T that impresses the most. Despite its modest size it produces 115PS and the fact that it's turbocharged means it has a decent torque figure of 190Nm that's available from low revs.
It has good eagerness low down, making it ideal around town, and although it can run out of puff at higher revs, it pulls reasonably well in-gear making it more than adequate for motorway driving. In fact at around 70mph it feels very quiet and relaxed. It doesn't have the zest of rival engines like Volkswagen's 1.2 TSI, but it's incredibly refined nonetheless while claimed economy is 56.5mpg.
The other choice is the 1.5 dCi diesel with 110PS. If you're covering longer distances then this is the best choice thanks to official economy of 78.5mpg while CO2 emissions of 94g/km means there's no annual car tax to pay. Like the petrol engine, the dCi is very quiet in the Pulsar with little vibration through the clutch pedal or into the cabin, even when pulling from low revs.
The dCi comes as standard with the same slick six-speed manual gearbox as the DIG-T but currently there's no automatic diesel model, the only auto is the XTronic CVT on the 1.2-litre.
All Pulsar models, with the exception of the entry-level Visia, come with Nissan's Forward Emergency Braking system as standard. Like Ford's Active City Stop system, this will automatically apply the brakes if it recognises via a radar that an impact is inevitable and if the driver doesn't react.
|1.2 DIG-T||54–57 mpg||10.7 s||117–118 g/km|
|1.2 DIG-T Automatic||55 mpg||12.7 s||118–119 g/km|
|1.5 dCi||74–79 mpg||11.5 s||94–118 g/km|
|1.6 DIG-T||37–50 mpg||7.8 s||134–138 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Nissan Pulsar (2014 – 2018)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
What have we been asked about the Nissan Pulsar (2014 – 2018)?
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