Nissan Pulsar Review

The Nissan Pulsar is a family car that’s easy to drive and has a spacious interior. It does a lot of things well but being fun to drive, sadly, isn’t one of them

5/10
Wowscore

This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Comfortable ride
  • Class-leading interior space
  • Well equipped

What's not so good

  • Plain interior
  • Uninspiring handling
  • Numb steering

Nissan Pulsar: what would you like to read next?

Overall verdict

The diesel is the most economical engine, but the high price means it won't make sense for most people

Above all, the Nissan Pulsar is a good value family car. It shares a lot with the Qashqai SUV – the cabin design is near identical. What is also pretty SUV-like in the Pulsar is the amount of space for passengers which is more than in alternatives such as the VW Golf.

More value for money is added with the fairly generous equipment list – all cars get air-conditioning and cruise control as standard. However, your best bet would be going for the mid-spec N-Connecta that does push prices up a bit but comes with just about everything you need including a touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav and automatic emergency braking.

Speaking of safety,the Pulsar scored the full five-star score when it was tested by independent body Euro Ncap. Acenta models and upwards should be even safer thanks to standard fit emergency city braking while lane-departure warning is an option on high-spec models.

The Nissan Pulsar is a good choice for a family car if you're sick of seeing small SUVs all the time

Mat Watson
carwow expert

The choice of engines for the Pulsar is pretty good even if the options aren’t actually numerous. The 1.5-litre diesel is a great match for the relaxed characteristics of the car, especially on the motorway, and is quite cheap to run too. The 1.2-litre petrol, on the other hand, feels zippy and lively in town so it’s best suited if you’ll use the Pulsar for short trips only – it costs less, too. The 190hp 1.6-litre petrol is a bit of an oxymoron on the Pulsar and doesn’t really make much sense with its middling performance and expensive running costs.

Out on the road, the Pulsar is predictable, easy and fairly relaxing to drive. The focus here is on comfort over handling and the Nissan does a really good job of covering large distances without fuss. However, if you’re a keen driver there are much better alternatives that are just as comfortable over bumps such as the Mazda 3 and Ford Focus.

To see the kind of offers you can get on the Nissan Pulsar, go to our deals page.

What's it like inside?

Some parts are shared with the Qashqai, but the basic design is plain

There is a huge Qashqai SUV influence in here meaning it’s pretty easy to get your head round all the controls but what’s missing is some of the colourful pizazz of alternatives such as the Renault Megane

Read full interior review

How practical is it?

The excellent room for passengers is one of the few highlights in the Pulsar

The Nissan Pulsar is one of the best cars of its type when it comes to ferrying passengers around, but it’s not hard to find rivals that have a bigger boot

There may not be much that's terribly exciting about the Pulsar, but if you just want a compact car with a lot of space inside, it will certainly hit the spot

Mat Watson
carwow expert
Boot (seats up)
385 litres
Boot (seats down)
1,395 litres

Passenger space is one of the few highlights of the Pulsar. It has lots of room in the back and can comfortably accommodate four 6’2″ adults – better than a Volkswagen Golf and most of its competitors for that matter.

There’s a decent amount of storage areas in the Pulsar even if none of them is particularly big or clever. That said, you have a place to store your wallet under the armrest, a place for your phone under the climate controls and big door pockets that can hold a big water bottle.

With a 385-litre capacity, the Nissan’s boot also holds an advantage over the Golf’s, which is down five litres, but the Peugeot 308 (470 litres), Honda Civic (477 litres) and Skoda Octavia (590 litres) all have bigger load bays. All Pulsars come with 60:40 split-folding rear seats, which mean you can extend the boot, while still carrying four passengers. Fold all the rear seats down and maximum capacity swells to 1,395 litres and there’s only a small boot lip to deal with when loading.

What's it like to drive?

The Pulsar is comfy around town, but less good at higher speed

Nissan’s aim with the Pulsar was to focus on refinement and comfort rather than the ability to run rings around a Ford Focus on a twisty road.

The Pulsar stops and goes without fuss but will rarely put a smile on your face

Mat Watson
carwow expert

While potential VW Golf owners get a wide array of engines to choose from, in the Pulsar there are only three – two petrol and one diesel.

The 115hp 1.2-litre petrol is the cheapest model in the Pulsar range and it’s a high-tech turbocharged unit that offers a strong mix of performance and economy. It gets from 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds, giving it enough power in reserve to deal with the cut and thrust of motorway traffic, yet can return fuel economy of 56.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 117g/km. As a result, you would have to cover a high annual mileage to be able to justify choosing the petrol model. It can be fitted with an automatic gearbox, but as it costs another £1,350 we would steer clear unless it’s absolutely necessary.

The other petrol engine has its balance tipped more towards performance. With a 1.6-litre capacity it produces 190hp, enough to get the car from 0-62mph in just 7.7 seconds. However, despite it being the quickest model in the range, it doesn’t feel that fast and comes with no upgrades to aid cornering. Fuel economy of 47.9mpg should be readily affordable for most people, but isn’t that impressive when you consider a Peugeot 308 GTi with 270hp costs about the same to run.

You’ll have to cover a considerable mileage to make the 1.5-litre 110hp diesel model a cost-effective purchase against the cheaper-to-buy basic petrol. It has the cheapest running costs in the range, with fuel economy of 78.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 94g/km. With 0-62mph taking 11.5 seconds it is a little slower than the petrol on paper, although at motorway speeds it makes overtaking less effort.

Road noise is very well isolated, and the ride is smooth, particularly in town. Drive at a more enthusiastic pace, though, and it can’t match many alternatives for fun. The soft suspension never truly settles at higher speeds, which combined with the lifeless steering means you never feel like throwing it around very much.

That perhaps isn’t the point with a car like this, but then some alternatives offer this ability and comparable levels of comfort, so it’s a shame the Pulsar cannot pull off the same trick.

Read about prices & specifications
Nissan Pulsar
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