CarsMotormouth Reviews

Nissan’s hatch is good but fails to qash in on lucrative market

Nissan Pulsar
Nissan Pulsar

It looks like a foregone conclusion that Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea will claim the Premier League title this season. And, truth be told, there are only two, possibly three, teams that could win it every year.

It’s a similar case in many leagues across Europe. So, why is it that the lower-ranked teams keep fighting it out to either stay in the league or consolidate their place in the top tier? It’s simple really — money!

The revenue from TV rights is massive and everyone wants a piece of the pie – even the smallest piece is worth quite a bit. And this is also the case in the motoring world.

Take Nissan for instance – it eats the largest chunk of the crossover pie, gorging on the spoils that the Qashqai has delivered since its debut back in 2007. It has continued to set the standards, and the latest version simply is the best crossover you can buy.

So if the Qashqai is the king of the Premier League, what of the Champions League? The lucrative C-segment, which sees the VW Golf and Ford Focus as table toppers, is a league that Nissan hasn’t qualified for since the rather bland Almera.

But being the biggest segment in Europe — and Ireland — Nissan had to come up with a new plan of attack, and that came in the shape of the new Nissan Pulsar.

Let’s start by saying the Pulsar has a huge task trying to mix it with the big boys like Volkswagen’s all-conquering Golf and Ford’s popular Focus. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t enjoy success, even if it will never be the number one in the segment.

Small hatches are what we love, and while Nissan tried to keep up with demand with its Qashqai, executives took their eye off the ball in the hatch market. Also, they couldn’t very well return to the market with a refreshed Almera — that just wouldn’t work. And Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn declared that Nissan wouldn’t make ordinary cars anymore.

A bold statement indeed, and one that has been followed through with the new X-Trail, Note, and now Pulsar, giving Nissan a stable of very good cars.

The Pulsar doesn’t raise your heartbeat when you first look at it. It’s nice, but not desirable. And the inside is very much Qashqai-esque, taking the main controls and infotainment system from its crossover sibling. Space is the biggest plus for the Pulsar. Among the hatch offerings, it has more space than most – even the back-seat passengers enjoy stretching the legs a little. It has a decent boot also, which is more than enough for the weekly visit to the supermarket.

My test car came with the tried-and-trusted 1.5-litre diesel four-cylinder that is used in various other Nissans and Renaults. It puts out a respectable 110hp and 190Nm of torque that gives it a reasonable turn of foot.

The steering is actually very well weighted and you get a good feel for the road. The ride is also quite good, the suspension being firm without being too harsh. The Pulsar does tend to understeer when you drive it aggressively through the corners, but the customers this is aimed at won’t find themselves in that situation too often.

Nissan seems to have concentrated more on the economical side of the Pulsar, rather than the sporty side. Producing just 94g/km CO2 (€180 tax) and a claimed 3.6 litres per 100km (more like 5.5 in real terms), the Pulsar is firmly aimed at cost-conscious families.

The Pulsar is never going to be as well made as a Volkswagen Golf or as sharp as a Ford Focus, and maybe Nissan is concentrating on solidifying its title as best for crossovers, I just feel the company could have added a little spark to its Pulsar to give it a chance of competing with the big boys.

Paul Keown