Day one: A few years ago Nissan decided it didn’t want to make a Golf sized car. It wanted to make something taller and less conventional and which appeared to have too many vowels in its name. Hence the Qashqai. It was a huge success, everyone started doing similar things, so now in what feels like a fit of pique Nissan has decided it also wants to do a Golf sized car again. This is it. It looks like a slammed, badly drawn version of the new Qashqai. Underneath, it’s built on a grab bag of parts from the Micra, Leaf and Qashqai. That’s all I can tell you for today. It’s Thanksgiving and my American wife is taking me to lunch at an American restaurant where some beer might be drunk and my own body weight in turkey eaten. No driving then. Sorry.
Day two: Right then. A trip across London in my Pulsar. It feels to all intents and purposes like a car. It goes, it stops, it changes direction when requested. The diesel engine is reasonably smooth. It’s not exciting but nor is it terrible. It’s just a car. You went into a shop, you asked for some car, this is what you got.
Day three: A bit of trundling around. Nothing to report. A man in a supermarket car park appears to give the Pulsar a double take. He might just have had a twitch. It’s not an unattractive car but nor does it grab your attention. This press demonstrator hammers home the effect by being washing machine white. It would a good car in which to pass discreetly through almost any environment. If it was getting a bit tasty, you could even paint UN on the door.
Day four: We’re off on a family trip to see some friends in the countryside. For various reasons, we take my Mercedes estate. Not that the Nissan wouldn’t be up to hauling a pushchair and various other bits of baby-related gubbins. The boot is a good size. There’s also quite a lot of room for people. In fact, Nissan claim the Pulsar has more rear legroom than a BMW 7-series. Excellent news for chauffeur-driven but tight-fisted international industrialists who don’t want to be noticed.
Day five: Compared to, say, a Golf or a Focus the Pulsar can feel like a car from a previous generation. The interior is a bit plain, some of the plastics are low rent, and it all feels quite simple. Actually there’s quite a bit of tech including radar cruise, lane departure warning, blind spot warning and a 360 degree parking camera. But it wears this tech lightly, rather than ramming it down your throat. Basic stuff like changing radio stations and adjusting the climate control is simple. Which is good.
Day six: Another trot across London. The Pulsar is very easy to drive smoothly. It sounds daft, but plenty of car companies get this wrong, even ones who should know better. I don’t really have anything else to tell you. Oh no wait, I looked up what the Pulsar name means and Wikipedia told me it’s a portmanteau of ‘pulsating star’. Since this was on the internet I assumed this was bollocks but I’ve checked it with a man at Nissan and it turns out to be true. In a way I wish they’d just called it the Nissan Pulsating Star but perhaps this would be over selling the car. ‘What are you driving at the moment?’ ‘I’ve got a Pulsating Star’. ‘Wow! That sounds amazing! Wait a second, that just looks like a white, medium-sized hatchback, you silly tit’.
Day seven: When the Pulsar came out the reviews seemed quite lukewarm. I think all the journalists had been driving it like Troy Queef, or at least copying their thoughts from a helmsmith they spoke to in the bar at the launch. It’s true, if you drive it like a wheelwright it’s far from a hot hatch. The steering is too low geared, it rolls a bit, it’s clearly not set up for tillermanship. But on the plus side, the ride is decent, the gearchange is delightfully smooth, it copes with normal driving in the manner of a normal car.
Goodbye: The Pulsar is going away. I do not want to buy one. You’re reading this website, you’re probably quite into cars, you will not want to buy one either. But that’s not the point. This isn’t a machine for people who like cars. It’s for people who don’t like cars. People who don’t want to stand out but do want a smooth, quiet, spacious car which is simple to drive, easy to see out of and causes them no trouble. The Pulsar nails all of those things in a wilfully unexciting way. If you just need to get around and wouldn’t know lift-off oversteer if it came with a free microwave the Pulsar understands your position and gets on with the everyday business of being a car. As such, it’s brilliant.
The car talked about here is a Nissan Pulsar Tekna dCi 110. It has a 1.5-litre turbocharged diesel engine making 109 horsepower. They say it can get from 0-62 in 11.5 seconds and on to 118mph. In this spec it costs £21,945.