Nissan has unveiled the all-new Pulsar hatch – its answer to the Ford Focus, VW Golf and Vauxhall Astra. The car marks the brand’s re-entry into the highly competitive family hatch segment for the first time since the Almera ceased production in 2006, and revives a name originally used in 1978 but never here.
The Pulsar is designed to slot below the new Qashqai and X-Trail in the line-up to form a family of three, and its resemblance to its SUV big brothers is striking. At the front, the V-shaped grille surrounding the badge, and angled headlights, are virtually identical to the Qashqai’s, as are the strong shoulder line and upturned crease above the sills.
The Pulsar name has been used in global markets since it was introduced in 1978. In some European markets the Sunny was called Pulsar, and it was also used on the car that we knew as the Almera.
Nissan’s new Pulsar goes on sale in the UK in autumn 2014. The cheapest model will be the Pulsar Visia, starting from £15,995. It’s equipped with a five-inch touchscreen infotainment centre, Bluetooth connectivity and air-conditioning. 16-inch alloys are standard, while cruise control and electric mirrors are also factory-fit.
Spending from £17,645 gets you the second Pulsar model: the Acenta. Extra kit comes in the shape of autonomous emergency braking, dusk-sensing lights, automatic wipers and keyless entry.
The third model in the family is the Pulsar ntec, which brings 17-inch alloy wheels, tinted glass and LED running lights. A reversing camera and upgraded infotainment system with extra functionality like smartphone integration and downloadable apps is also thrown in. It’ll set you back £18,995.
Topping the tree is the Nissan Pulsar Tekna. Starting at £20,345, Nissan throws everything it’s got into the car, adding safety features like moving object detection, lane departure and blind spot warning aids, under the ‘Nissan Safety Shield’ umbrella. Heated leather seats are also added to garnish the top-dog Tekna.
Under the Pulsar’s bonnet, Nissan will offer the choice of either the 113bhp 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine seen in the recently updated Juke crossover, or the brand’s 109bhp 1.5-litre turbodiesel driving the front wheels. A choice of six-speed manual or ‘Xtronic’ CVT automatic transmissions are offered.
Nissan has also confirmed there’ll be a faster 189bhp, 240Nm 1.6-litre petrol Pulsar available from early 2015. A Golf GTI-rivalling Pulsar Nismo is likely to boast a 197bhp version of the same engine, while an even hotter 215bhp Pulsar Nismo RS, featuring a mechanical limited-slip diff on the front axle, is also expected in due course.
At 4,385mm in length, the Pulsar is 115mm longer than the Golf. The wheelbase is 63mm longer, too, at 2,700mm. Exact figures have yet to be released, but Nissan claims the new car offers “considerably” more rear leg, shoulder and kneeroom than its rivals.
The Pulsar should be one of the safest cars in its class thanks to the adoption of the Safety Shield package already available on the X-Trail, Qashqai and facelifted Juke. This includes autobraking, a 360-degree camera system giving the driver a full picture of their surroundings when parking or pulling out, plus lane-departure and blind-spot warning.
While the Pulsar was originally to be built in Nissan’s Sunderland factory, that capacity will now be taken up by Infiniti’s Q30 compact crossover. Instead, the new hatch will be made in Barcelona, Spain, although it was designed at Nissan’s studio in Paddington, London, while the engineering development was carried out at its base in Cranfield, Beds.
Nissan's new Golf-rivalling Pulsar has also opened its doors for the first time. In keeping with its ‘shrunken Qashqai’ look on the outside, the cabin borrows plenty of cues from its sister car, while a number of components are carried over entirely.
The steering wheel, for example, is identical, along with the gearlever, instrument cluster and central display. But the dash architecture is different and swoops around the main control panel, while chrome and piano black trim improve the feeling of quality.
The new Nissan Pulsar hatchback will have superior refinement to its premium German competitors, according to Nissan’s Vice President, Andy Palmer. Speaking to Auto Express at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Palmer qualified a Tweet he posted on 27 June, which read “Nissan Pulsar dynamic sign-off today - superb NVH!”
“I’m not looking for a car that is ultimately very very sporty”, he told Auto Express. “I’m looking for something that can transition a customer from a Qashqai to a hatchback. It needs the same DNA, but we want to keep ex-Qahsqai buyers in the Nissan family. It has to have a familiar design and handling.
“It’s very smooth, and doesn’t transmit impulses back into the car”, according to Palmer. “[The Pulsar] is very solid, and very neutral. Yesterday I knocked the VDC [stability control] off and starting sliding it through a few roundabouts! It’s very balanced, but we haven’t given it particularly fast steering. The steering is quite light, so it’s good for urban use and normal customers. The NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) is better than our competitors. Wind noise is excellent, and structural noise is very good.”