Nissan Pulsar 2014-2018 review
The Nissan Pulsar fills a hatchback niche that was left vacant when Nissan first introduced the Qasqhai crossover
Its strong points include the spacious interior, which can shames larger cars from the class above, decent standard equipment levels, and a full-house of safety kit that delivers an impressive five-star safety rating. The downsized engines only offer adequate performance, but they are economical.
You won’t find much ‘sizzle’ in any part of the Pulsar driving experience, but if you’re only looking for practical, refined and comfortable A-to-B transport, the Pulsar is a sensible, but rather uninspiring choice.
The Nissan Pulsar is a mid-size family hatchback that's based on the same platform as the Nissan Qashqai crossover. That model replaced the dull Almera in 2006, and proved to be an instant hit for Nissan.
When the Qashqai launched, Nissan said it marked the end of hatchback production from the firm. However, while the Qashqai was a hit, Nissan decided in 2015 to reintroduce a hatchback using the same platform, engines and technology as the Qasqhai. However the Pulsar was never a strong seller in the UK, and the hatchback was withdrawn from sale again in 2018.
Part of the reason for the Pulsar's failure was the sheer breadth of talent in the hatchback class made it an also-ran from the start. Attractive attributes such as its excellent interior space, cruising refinement and suite of driver aids grouped under the ‘Nissan Safety Shield’ umbrella couldn't help it. Competitive pricing meant it was a rival for models such as the SEAT Leon, Hyundai i30, Kia Ceed and Peugeot 308, although it was a step too far for the Nissan to compete with the likes of the Ford Focus, Mazda 3, Honda Civic and Volkswagen Golf.
The Pulsar was launched with two engines options in 2014. There was a 1.2 DIG-T 115 turbo petrol, or a 1.5 dCi 110 diesel. Only the 1.2 petrol is available with Nissan’s Xtronic CVT automatic gearbox, though.
In May 2015 the more powerful 1.6 DIG-T 190 turbo petrol joined the line-up, while the suspension was revised to add a sportier feel, including sharper steering and a stiffer chassis. The Pulsar DIG-T 190 is recognisable by minor styling upgrades inside and out, including unique 18-inch alloys. This is the performance flagship of the range, and remaind as such, because while a Pulsar Nismo hot hatchback was mooted, it never came to fruition.
The trim range for the Pulsar is the same as it is for the Qashqai. That means there's Visia, Acenta, n-tec and Tekna models. The only engine and trim combination you can’t have is a Visia model with the 1.6 DIG-T 190 petrol.
From Visia upwards, all models have a healthy standard spec, including a five-inch colour TFT display in front of the driver, six airbags, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, cruise control, air conditioning, tyre pressure monitoring and a CD player.
Acenta trim adds a six-speaker stereo, automatic lights and wipers, dual zone AC, fog lights, heated mirrors and a leather steering wheel to the kit list.
N-tec trim highlights include privacy glass, LED headlamps, NissanConnect infotainment and a reversing camera, while Tekna trim is well equipped, with heated leather seats, plus the full Safety Shield package with Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning and a surround camera system.
The Pulsar name isn't a familiar one in the UK, but it has been used worldwide on models that were called the Cherry, Sunny and Almera in the UK. Unlike the Qashqai, which is built at Nissan’s plant in Sunderland, the Pulsar is assembled in Barcelona, Spain. Not only is its platform shared with the Qashqai, it also underpins the latest Renault Megane, Kadjar and Scenic models.
While the Pulsar was never a sales success for Nissan, it's now quite a promising used purchase. Depreciation has seen prices fall faster than they have for the Qashqai, and if you don't want the high riding SUV looks of that car, the Pulsar offers all the same kit and nearly as much space as its crossover cousin.