A week with a Nissan Pulsar

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AWWNissanPulsar1Day 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.

AWWNissanPulsar2Day 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.

AWWNissanPulsar3Goodbye:  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.



  1. Nissan seems to be sort of cornering in on the “cars for your mom” market. Your mom, after all, doesn’t care about driving like she’s on fire. She wants something reliable with lots of space so she can carry home groceries or a big tray of flowers from a greenhouse, and with a lovely ride so it’s comfortable, and basically every Nissan has these mom essentials. All it really needs is an integrated picture frame so they can put a picture of their grandkids in there to point out to everyone they’re driving with, maybe a system where they can connect with other moms in Nissans to share the numbers of their nice single kids so they can awkwardly try to set them up and get more grandkids.

  2. I baulked a bit at the price – surely there are plenty of nice, discrete ways of getting from A to B for a lot less than 20 grand.

  3. This is exactly the car that Bond should drive. DB10 my arris.

  4. ‘Pulsar’ just gives me images of a badly modified 90’s Sunny counterpart, with a small rear numberplate, an awkward rear fog hanging from its wires below the rear bumper and an aged dealership sticker in Japaneese. Inside is the smell of Lynx Africa, empty packets of Camel lites and a retro fitted boost gauge installed with a chisel. Was any of this present?

  5. I’m with Bill on this… if you just want to buy a lump of Golf-sized car, there are surely much cheaper ways into motoring mediocrity.

  6. Absolutely. A 500 quid Yaris from Gumtree would give you most of what you need, if simply getting about the place is what you require. But that’s to ignore the huge number of people who have more than £500 to spend on a car but absolutely no interesting in the buying or driving process. They just want a warranty, the reassurance of a nearby dealer, and that nice new car smell. The Pulsar does all that without being overbearing or over complicated. It’s absolutely fit for purpose.

  7. Pulsar was a Nissan/Datsun model in Canada back in the 1980’s.

    I guess this helps to meet the recycled materials content requirements.

    Sure is easier than coming up with something new.

  8. So they’ve brought back the Pulsar name worldwide then.

    I had assumed that the name was just for Australia, as a result of the unmitigated disaster of the Tiida.

  9. Hang on, didn’t Ford have a Pulsar in Australia a couple of decades ago, or did I dream that?

  10. Almost £22,000 seems a hell of a lot of money for a tampon

  11. Erm, surely you know about the Pulsar GTI-R….?

    A hot hatch that at one time I actually wanted to buy. Until I chatted to an owner, who said you have to sell your granny to buy parts – and your car is off the road half the time because you need said parts, and are out of grannies.

  12. The basic spec Kia Cee’d is less money and the people who buy cars like this don’t care about the badge…. and lets face it how many old people will know how to use or even understand “radar cruise, lane departure warning, blind spot warning “… the rear camera might come in handy, but only to make sure they hit your car when reversing out of a space…

  13. That’s a whole lot of cash for an albeit very capable but uninspiring motor car… with no badge or model prestige I wonder if even the most “ignorant” new car buyer will be convinced that it’s worth so much loot.

    As for the ‘lane departure warning’ nonsense, my car has that – my eyes.

  14. Oh Jennifer, how can you say no badge or model prestige, shame on you…

  15. i rather have the washing machine.

  16. ‘d

    (left that bit off)

  17. With the benefit of hindsight I would like to extend my huge apology to all Nissan owners… to imply that the brand holds no prestige was a shameful and poorly considered thing to do. I hang my heads in a shame.

    As penance I will immediately sell my beloved Swedish saloon (no, not a Volvo) and buy the first PAO I come across.

  18. Whilst the name ‘Pulsar’ conjures up images of decaying beige 80’s boxes, and is thus lamentable, I suspect that using that aging moniker rather than the curiously scatological ‘Pulsating Star’ was wise.

    I assume though that there has been some vile headlightery, as it seemingly the norm for all new cars. Normal headlights sir, or would sir prefer to have random stripes of ghastly LEDs poking out from what would otherwise be sir’s perfectly normal headlamp?

  19. “This isn’t a machine for people who like cars. It’s for people who don’t like cars.”

    So just like the Quashqai then?

  20. What was wrong with calling it Sunny?

  21. You’re sorta, kinda dreaming, Phil. You’re thinking of the rebadged and only slightly restyled Mazda 626, which Ford were flogging as the Telstar. Named after early, wood-burning communications satellite.

    I never ceased to amaze me how surprised Telstar owners were when I pointed out that they were actually driving a Mazda. Absolutely clueless!

  22. The bigger question is why those of us who pretend to want something sporty (myself included) fall for the silver bits and pointy handling when we are all actually after essentially the same thing. A Focus is not a Ferrari, A Golf is not a Roller. In this respect cars like the Pulsar are honest. And I quite like that. Even as a car fan, the mind-numbing competence of Japanese brands is impressive to usualy not notice…

  23. I predict a long and glittering career in the hire-car business for the Pulsar.

    And in three to five years time, a glut of high mileage, tatty looking ex-hire car Pulsars for sale on Auto Trader.

    Residual values? You’ll be lucky!

  24. My Mum would call this a “ruddy good A to B car”

    So in conclusion, I would buy a Golf.

  25. Really any strong reason for any buyer type to go for this car?
    Seems typical Nissan fare – slightly over-priced ‘standard white-goods’ motor that the equivalent South Korean, (or even discounted second-tier Euro) rival would easily match, but comfortably out-do in the price, warranty and styling departments.

    For mostly this reason Nissan have long ranked with me as low as Vauxhall as the two most naff car brands to be associated with.

    Another rather sobering new car option for the disinterested would be a Romanian Renault Sandero, (a tinselled version should you be worried about the extra toys) – and then enjoy a nice relaxing holiday with the change…

  26. Test drove a Nissan Wotsit a while back, and the suspension was harder than I expected. Pretty much anything that leaves some of my vertebrae fused is a little too much. It was a family saloon. I made a mental note to make a mental hole.

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