When we first tested the Nissan Pulsar, we
found it to be a safe and very practical hatchback, but it’s fair to say it was missing the
fun factor. Nissan had been away building crossovers for some time, and when it returned
to the family hatch arena, it failed to bring a sporty version to the table.
Well, now it has. With a 187bhp petrol engine, the Pulsar DIG-T might not rival the likes
of the Golf GTI, but it’s performance puts it in contention with warm models like the
Kia Cee’d GT, Peugeot 308 GT and Hyundai i30 Turbo, while giving it a power advantage
over the Leon FR 1.4 TSI. So, what’s it like? Well, despite its fairly
impressive power figures, it all comes from a small 1.6-litre turbo petrol. In reality,
that means it doesn’t feel really quick at low revs, so despite slightly shorter gearing,
you’ll need to hold on until the turbo comes to life. When it does, the Pulsar can get
to 62mph in 7.7 seconds, which is quite impressive, even if it never feels quite this quick in
reality. Perhaps this is partly because it’s actually
quite refined. This is no ‘boy racer’ ‘go faster’ edition, instead, it’s a
sensible car which offers an extra surge of power when you need it. And, that should suit
drivers who often use fast A-Roads and need to perform the odd overtake, or people who
drive on the motorway. In the same vein, the steering and handling
have only been mildly revised and sharpened up, so while there’s slightly less body
roll, it’s not significantly different to drive to a standard model. We’d stick with
the 17-inch wheels if possible though, as the 18s do firm up the ride somewhat.
The Pulsar comes equipped with Active Trace Control, which can brake the front and rear
brakes closest to the apex of a corner to reduce understeer, but in reality, this feels
more like a safety feature than a driver aid and if it triggers, the Pulsar already feels
out of its comfort zone. This is definitely more of a cruiser than a hot hatch. Economy
is respectable, with up to 49.5mpg, although this drops to 47.9 if you go for the 18-inch
wheels. The DIG-T engine is available in three trim
levels; Acenta, N-tec and Tekna, which all get unique black and silver diamond-cut alloy
wheels, redesigned headlights with a black bezel and chrome projectors and a chrome tailpipe.
Inside, there’s this trim which extends the width of the dash, and the Tekna model
gets white stitching on its three-spoke steering wheel and leather seats.
Other than that, there are no badges or sporty dial packs, like you will find in the 308
or Cee’d GT, and the seats aren’t very figure hugging.
What you do get is lots and lots of space. The Pulsar is actually based on the same underpinnings
as the Qashqai crossover, and it boasts more legroom for backseat passengers than any car
in the class. The boot is big too, with 385 litres just
beating the Golf for size. We love the Around View Camera, with its superb bird’s eye
view of the car and the Pulsar is very safe, with the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash
testing and the option of automatic braking to help avoid low-speed accidents.
The Pulsar with the DIG-T engine is around £2k more than the 1.2-litre, which is the
only other petrol engine in the range, so it starts from £19,645. We’re driving the
top-of-the-range Tekna, costing from £22,645. The entry-level Cee’d GT comes in at £20,705,
while the petrol 308 GT is more expensive at £24,095.
While the Pulsar now has an engine with more power, performance fans will still be waiting
for a more hardcore hot hatch version. If you’re after a fun, small Nissan, the Juke
Nismo is far more entertaining. But, the Pulsar is a spacious, safe family
car, and if you just want a model which has some grunt in reserve when you need it, the
DIG-T could fit the bill. So does the Nissan Pulsar hit the right notes,
or fall flat? Let us know in the comments section and don’t forget to subscribe to
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