Space is the new frontier for Pulsar
LAST week I outlined details of Nissan's new small-family hatch the Pulsar. Now I'd like to give you a few impressions after driving and sampling it abroad.
The main surprise was the amount of room in the cabin. It's way ahead of anything in the segment. That will be a big plus for families. Rear room is significant.
I set the front seat to suit me and sat in behind expecting it to be okay. Instead I had lashings of room. A longer wheelbase (best in class of 2,700mm, Nissan claim) allows for that extra rear leg and shoulder room.
Yet overall length (4,385mm) is about average for cars in this so-called 'small-family' class.
I also happen to think the car is much bigger, and better looking, than the pictures suggest.
We had top-of-the-range versions so I'll withhold on specific cabin impressions because materials do seriously affect one's judgment.
However, a curved dash, simplified button layout, good driving position and decent seats would appear to set it up well for rivalry with the likes of the Hyundai i30, Kia cee'd, Ford Focus etc.
The two engines we drove, diesel and petrol, are a match for anything. That is saying something because engines in this sector have improved beyond all recognition.
The 1.5dCi diesel is the basis of (claimed) really low urban fuel consumption and the 1.2-litre DIG-T petrol impressed with its torque and smoothness.
To look at, the Pulsar is an obvious relative of the larger, Qashqai crossover, with the front and profile easily identifiable.
But why would you buy this and not a Qashqai or the smaller Note?
If Nissan people are to be believed there is a big demand for small-family hatches in their dealerships. Only they haven't had one.
The Qashqai is bringing people into showrooms, but some find it too large for their needs and are going elsewhere.
In essence that is what justifies the Pulsar's existence. It is the middle ground between the Note and the Qashqai. It makes sense, I guess.
And so does the pricing from a strategic point of view. It starts at just under €20,000 here so it won't overly affect either Note or Qashqai budgets. I reckon the SV trim at €21,395 is the one that will sell most.
We drove the new hatch a fair bit over most kind of roads and my driving partner remarked several times about how smooth it remained.
The boot is a decent size; the rear seats fold for acres of space but I kept coming back to four things: Room at the back for the growing children; Simple, clean-cut dash; Easy-on-the-juice; Easy to drive.
Some of the heavy-hitting technology they talk about will not be on the first two grades. But looking clinically at the package there seems to be a decent amount of kit, certainly on the second-level SV trim.
The engines are competitive too. The 1.2-litre DIG-T petrol (115bhp, 118g/km) and 1.5-litre dCi diesel (110bhp, 94g/km) worked well for us.
Just to recap on prices and spec: Prices kick off at €19,995 for the XE1.2-litre petrol; SV trim costs €21,395 and SVE €24,195 ex-works. CVT (continuously variable transmission) versions start from €21,995.
The 1.5-litre diesel kicks off at €21,595 with SV trim at €22,995 and SVE €25,795.
Standard equipment includes cruise control and speed limiter, stop-start, 6spd manual gearbox, six airbags, steering wheel audio controls, CD, radio and four speakers, USB Port iPhone/Pod connectivity, Bluetooth, spare tyre, Isofix tethers and 16ins steel wheels.
SV trim adds front fogs, Auto Pack (lighting, wipers, dimming mirror, Intelligent Key and push start button), dual zone auto air con, six speakers, rear centre armrest with cupholder, 16ins alloys.
SVE adds LED headlamps, Nissan Safety Shield, forward emergency braking, electric/folding exterior mirrors, privacy glass, 17ins alloys.