A closer look at the new Nissan Pulsar hatchback – exclusive studio shots

A closer look at the new Nissan Pulsar hatchback – exclusive studio shots

We travel to Paris to for a guided tour of Nissan’s new hatchback, which is set to go on sale later this year for £15,995

The launch of the Nissan Pulsar marks the company’s first steps into re-establishing a foothold in the high-volume European hatchback market.

While it might seem a curious tack for a brand that has in recent history made its mark primarily with crossovers, there are myriad reasons for its move.

“The Qashqai has a massive following,” says Pulsar product manager Andrew Limbert, “but it’s not ideal to have all our eggs in one basket.

“We can increase volumes by spreading out and drawing more people into the brand by catering for their needs. We also think we can bring something to the sector for buyers from other brands.”

With the new Qashqai, Juke and X-trail having established a common Nissan look, it’s not surprising to see familiar cues throughout the new Pulsar hatchback.

“In the past you could say we’ve been quite guilty of very different directions on design”, comments Limbert. “Now we’ve got much more family resemblance and a stronger statement.

Even entry-level models will effectively look the same as their more costly counterparts, with matching headlight designs, alloy wheels and gloss black and carbon-effect exterior trims.

Customisation opportunities will be limited though, most likely to small details like mirror cap covers, unlike other products in Nissan’s range. Unlike the Juke, personalisation is not an important part of this car’s character or appeal.

Inside you’ll find a spacious cabin with ample seating for four, if not five, adults. The fit and finish is impressive, and the materials used throughout are of a suitably high standard. Everything is laid out in an intuitive fashion and it’s not difficult to find a comfortable seating position.

The sheer amount of room in the back, in particular, is impressive. “It offers more space than many larger D-segment cars in the back”, says Limbert. “The door openings are wide too and we’ve made sure that you can access things like the Isofix points quickly. It’s all about practicality and space.”

A large 385-litre boot – some five litres more than a VW Golf – should prove more than adequate for most, while the rear seats can be folded to further increase the car’s luggage capacity. They don’t fold flat, however, but at least the option is there.

Equipment levels are high throughout the range, furthering the Pulsar’s appeal. Trim levels comprise Visia, Acenta, N-tec and range-topping Tekna. Even the entry-level trim, however, includes air-con, Bluetooth, a five-inch infotainment screen, cruise control and start stop.

An array of advanced safety features will be offered too, including Nissan’s surround-view camera system with a moving object alert feature. “We aim to make the technology accessible in our line-up,” states Limbert. “You don’t have to pay the big expensive options prices to get the equipment.”

This idea is furthered by niceties such as a colour driver’s information display, lifted from the Qashqai, being standard across the range. Features like these serve to lift up the ambience and quality feel of the Pulsar.

Nissan has benchmarked the Pulsar against the Peugeot 308, Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Kia Cee’d and Renault Mégane. This process highlighted areas that needed improvement; for example the Golf proved quieter inside which led to further revisions for the Pulsar.

Mechanically the car is comparatively conventional, with initial engine options including a 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and a 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel. All are front-wheel drive and come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard.

A CVT will be available for buyers of the 1.2-litre petrol version. It will feature a sports mode, granting driver’s access to seven pre-programmed ‘ratios’, in order to deliver more predictable responses.

We won’t be driving the new Pulsar until later this year but Limbert offers some insight as to what we might expect. “We’ve tried to give it a similar flavour to the Juke and Qashqai. Sportiness isn’t a priority but it does corner in a pretty flat fashion.”

The Pulsar has also reputedly benefitted from trials on UK and European roads, in an effort to make sure it performs how customers might expect.

Later, in 2015, a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine will also be offered. While not designed to be an outright high-performance choice, it should offer customers a model that’s a little more driver-oriented.

The company hopes to sell in the region of 8000 to 10,000 Pulsars in the first year of UK sales, which seems reasonable for a new model that’s entering into what’s effectively a new sector for the brand. “We’re not going in intending to beat the Golf, or take over the C segment,” states Limbert.

Nissan hopes for the Pulsar to appeal to a wide range of people, from younger buyers moving up from a supermini, all the way up to business users looking to downsize to a roomy yet more compact and cost-effective hatchback.

“This is also for customers who don’t want something as big as a Qashqai”, says Limbert.

Overall, the initial impression is of a well-built, practical and smartly finished hatchback that majors on ease of use. It may not be as emotive as other models in the brand’s line-up, and sticks more closely to the rules of the sector in which it’s to compete, but it’s likely to appeal to a wide range of customers.

Later, a high-performance Nismo version may be made available. “We’ll see,” muses Limbert. “We can’t really discuss that but of course we don’t rule it out.

“Obviously in the UK the Pulsar name has heritage; in the UK Nissan used to offer the Sunny GTI-R. In Japan it was called the Pulsar and quite a few were brought in as grey imports. It’s something we’d be interested to follow up.”

The new Nissan Pulsar is officially on sale at the end of September, with prices starting at £15,995.

Read more about the new Nissan Pulsar.

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