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First drive: Nissan Pulsar 1.2 DIG-T. Image by Nissan.

First drive: Nissan Pulsar 1.2 DIG-T
We drive the second launch model of Nissan's underwhelming C-segment hatch, the petrol-fuelled Pulsar 1.2 DIG-T.

   



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Nissan Pulsar 1.2 DIG-T

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Slightly quicker and lighter than the diesel, the petrol-fuelled Nissan Pulsar is probably the more appealing of the two launch models, although that's hardly saying much. The fact is this new hatchback is simply 'an amount of car', rather than anything you can get remotely excited about.

Key Facts

Model tested: Nissan Pulsar 1.2 DIG-T Acenta
Pricing: Pulsar range starts from 15,995; Acenta from 17,645
Engine: 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
Rivals: Hyundai i30, Kia cee'd, Toyota Auris
CO2 emissions: 117g/km
Combined economy: 56.5mpg
Top speed: 115mph
0-62mph: 10.7 seconds
Power: 115hp at 4,500rpm
Torque: 190Nm at 2,000rpm

In the Metal: 3 3 3 3 3

Like many modern cars, there's nothing to easily distinguish the petrol-powered Nissan Pulsar from the diesel version and so it has precisely the same design issues as the 1.5 dCi; namely, it looks too tall and more like a people carrier, which rather belies the claim that the Pulsar is made for people who think the Qashqai is too big. Indeed, the Pulsar is actually a longer car than Nissan's excellent crossover. At the launch event, the petrol cars were blue while the diesels were white, and the blue at least pulled off the visual trick of making the Pulsar look smaller, albeit even more anonymous into the bargain.

The interior is only different by dint of a rev counter with more numbers on it, the rest of the cabin featuring the same floating pod-effect centre console, a sweeping concave trim panel running around the dashboard into the doors and pleasant enough switchgear. The Acenta, unlike the flagship Tekna, comes with cloth rather than leather seats, but no matter how you adjust them, you still end up sitting way too high.

Driving it: 3 3 3 3 3

The 1.2 turbocharged petrol engine is reasonably sweet, although it gets raucous and strained if you attempt to venture anywhere near the 6,500rpm redline, given it's all out at just 4,500rpm. It makes slightly more power than the diesel but naturally a lot less torque, so you need to work the gearbox to ensure adequate forward momentum. Luckily, the throw seems to be a touch slicker and more precise in the DIG-T model, so this is no major hardship.

The 1.2 is also around 50kg lighter than the dCi, which means slightly less weight over the nose and sharper turn-in. It's still no rival to something like a Ford Focus on this score, but it'll resist understeer for longer than you'd expect and feels marginally less staid than the diesel. In other respects, the 1.2 is broadly identical to the dCi - an impressive ride, reasonably quiet motorway manners and respectable fuel economy. All sounds great, doesn't it? Only thing is, pretty much any other C-segment hatch covers all these bases and more besides, but there's nothing else to discover in the Pulsar's repertoire beyond civilised cruising manners. It really is the most conservative and anodyne chassis and drivetrain set-up we've encountered in years.

What you get for your Money: 3 3 3 3 3

As an Acenta, this is the trim that Nissan expects most buyers to plump for in the UK. It adds automatic lights and wipers, Forward Emergency Braking and Nissan's i-Key system to the standard Visia kit of five-inch colour display screen in the instrument cluster, steering-wheel mounted controls, Bluetooth connectivity and air conditioning. Prices for the 1.2 DIG-T Acenta start at 17,645, making it a price rival for the Toyota Auris, Kia cee'd and Hyundai i30, undercutting Volkswagen's Golf by around 10 per cent across the range.

Worth Noting

One option you can only have on the petrol Pulsar from launch is the X-Tronic CVT automatic gearbox, which adds 1,350 to the list price of any trim variant of 1.2 DIG-T. The diesel is 1,600 on top of trim-level prices and the first model to swell the ranks after these two is the 190hp 1.6 DIG-T; you'll know that engine from the Juke and also in a higher state of tune from the Renaultsport Clio 200 Turbo. Whether it can inject any much-needed pizzazz into the Pulsar line-up remains to be seen, but God knows the Nissan needs something to lift it. The Nismo version can't come soon enough.

Summary

While the petrol model is marginally more exciting to drive than the diesel, it's still a long, long way from being either involving or endearing. The problem with the new Nissan Pulsar is that it is unspeakably 'safe' in all areas; its design, its engines, its ride and handling, the haptics and ergonomics - none of them have an ounce of sparkle nor element of 'pushing the boat out' to them. Which makes the Pulsar such a disappointment. Nissan is making some great cars right now, such as the Juke and Qashqai, but this really isn't one of them. The manufacturer could have done so much better than this, even within a constraining design remit to produce a car targeted at older buyers. The end result is miles short of being among the finest C-segment hatches on the market.


Matt Robinson - 24 Sep 2014



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2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.



2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Nissan.
 

2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Nissan.
 

2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Nissan.
 

2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Nissan.
 

2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Nissan.
 

2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Nissan.
 

2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Nissan.
 

2014 Nissan Pulsar. Image by Nissan.
 






 

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