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