On a launch a few years ago, I drove a facelifted pea green Nissan Almera round greasy north-east streets in grimy fog. One of the most depressing cars I have ever driven, I thought that Nissan’s phalanx of genre-busting crossovers and bonkers Nismo cars had consigned such motoring nonentities to history. But I had not driven a Nissan Pulsar.
Let’s be generous though and deal with the hatchback’s good points first. The diesel engine, the staple 115 dCi Renault-Nissan motor, is as refined in this as in any car and emits just 94g/km, while the new 1.2-litre DIG-T petrol unit revs healthily and makes a nice noise. There’s also quite a lot of standard equipment for the price.
Nissan Pulsar: first, the good points
The wheelbase of the Barcelona-built Pulsar, at 2.7 metres, is the longest in its class, no doubt helping the supple ride quality, and rear legroom (all 692mm of it) at least matches a Skoda Superb, and might even better it.
The Pulsar also has – and be prepared to fall on them faint with amazement – the widest front door armrests in the sector. Spanning 95mm across their softly bolstered width, such cosseting homes for elbows are not usually seen outside the luxury sector, Nissan reckons. And there’s more. How about a self-cleaning reversing camera? It can choose to clean itself with a jet of water, or air, or both. Whichever suits!
And the worst bits of the Nissan Pulsar. This may take some time...
The story then takes a turn for the worse. It exudes the character of a car built with all the bits Nissan didn’t want for the stuff it gets excited about.
Quite where some of the plastics in the cabin were introduced to each other I have no idea. But it must have been dark, for as an example of the lack of bother about finish, a shiny, hard half of the transmission tunnel butts up against a more plusher, softer section, while on every car we tried the gap between dash and door on the passenger side was twice the width of the driver’s side.
Oddly, the passenger seems to sit a couple of inches higher than the driver as well, although perhaps a slump-shouldered ennui had set in behind the wheel and accentuated this impression.
That’s because it handles with little vim, the steering wheel and the suspension it is linked to performing the perfunctory role of moving the scenery about before your eyes.
Nissan Pulsar review: not the sharpest tool in the box
Nissan has, probably correctly, decided that the Pulsar’s owners will not be dreaming of being the next Lewis Hamilton. Piercing this rather dull experience is a crash detection system that screams in panic at the presence of almost every nearby object. So perhaps they are worried about being the next Nico Rosberg.
It does looks okay though, like a not quite fully formed Qashqai, but to turn a well-worn adage on its head, is better in the pictures than in the metal while the carbonfibre-effect rear diffuser, a pointless affectation on most cars, is exceptionally pointless on this one.
So for customers wanting something less pokey than a Juke, not as big as a Qashqai, not as fun to drive as a Focus, or as stylish as a Golf, but better than an Almera, the Pulsar is most definitely for them. But, CAR reader, it is not for you.