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Nissan has returned to the core fleet segment of lower medium hatchbacks with the new Pulsar, a model designed to fit between the Note supermini and its ultra-successful Qashqai crossover that was launched in 2007 when Nissan decided to exit the core lower medium marketplace by ending production of the Almera.
Now it's back, with Nissan admitting there is a gap in its range, particularly when trying to appeal to fleets, and on paper the Pulsar impresses, starting with it s choice of efficient petrol and diesel engine. One of each, the petrol offers chkhp and g/km, and is predicted to take an even share of sales against the hp and 94g/km diesel. An auto, adding just 2g/km is available only on the petrol, and a 138g/km 190hp performance petrol model will follow next spring.
The diesel, driven here, offers good refinement, but lacks any real surge of performance and needs to be worked to make progress, something that is even more true for the lacklustre petrol engine.
There's a little wind noise at motorway speed, but the car is comfortable yet handles tidily enough where needed, and the steering is nicely weighted for both town and A-road use.
Interior space is a huge selling point for the Pulsar, particularly in the rear where only the Skoda Octavia can offer any sort of rivalry, and Nissan's figures put the knee room of 692mm as better than the claimed 589mm average from the class above. Boot space is also very good, and the luggage area feels larger than the firm's claimed 385 litres, which officially puts it around the middle of the segment.
Nissan is expecting a large share - 42% - of buyers to plump for the second trim level up of Acenta, which the firm claims reflects the good standard equipment offered early in the range line-up. That includes the forward auto brake system that prevents or mitigate low-speed accidents, and Nissan claims is worth a four insurance group reduction.
A five-inch touchscreen is fitted as standard, which is smaller than most rivals' offerings, and the rest of the cabin is laid out logically, though plastics of varying qualities are evident, including some harder surfaces to counter the soft-touch effect higher up the dashboard.
The company claims it has "tried to give the character and emotion from the Qashqai in a C-segment design", but the Pulsar's styling won't make it standout in a crowded segment. There's nothing inherently wrong with the looks, but from the rear especially it looks like an amalgamation of various other models.
Overall, the Pulsar doesn't do anything particularly wrong, and if safety equipment and in particular rear space is a priority then it's a winner. Ditto if safety equipment is a priority. But it's middling in pretty much every area, the automotive epitome of 'fine'.
The costs equation is a similar story. In this top-spec Tekna trim level, the Pulsar manages a residual value of just 28.4%, which is less than key rivals including the Ford Focus, Toyota Auris, Kia Ceed and Hyundai i30, but the lower P11D price than equivalent trim levels means only the Auris Hybrid comes in with a lower cost per mile.
The Pulsar gives Nissan representation in a sector crucial to business car success, but doesn't have the desirability or innovation to move the brand on in the way Qashqai and Juke have done.
Nissan Pulsar 1.5 dCi 110 Tekna
Model price range
BIK 20/40% per month
A tidy car born of rationality rather than emotion