The Pulsar, exclusively photographed here by What Car?, goes on sale in the autumn with prices starting from £15,995. It marks Nissan’s return to a small family hatchback market it has been absent from since it stopped selling the Nissan Almera. It subsequently launched the smash-hit Nissan Qashqai, but is now trying to lure buyers in the conventional hatchback market too.
‘By stepping back from building conventional hatchbacks we were able to see the market from a distance, and make decisions more clearly,’ said Limbert. ‘All the while we’ve learned from the Qashqai and Juke, and the lessons from those cars about what customers want and expect have really informed where we’ve gone with the Pulsar.’
As has become a Nissan hallmark, even entry-level Visia trim is well equipped, and comes with 16-inch alloys, Bluetooth, cruise control, air-con, and steering wheel audio controls. Acenta specification adds dual-zone climate control and a leather steering wheel and gearknob. It also has automatic lights and wipers, forward emergency braking and keyless entry.
N-tec models get upgrades such as 17-inch alloys and LED daytime running lights. A reversing camera and Nissan’s Connect2 infotainment and sat-nav system are also standard. Range-topping Tekna cars have leather upholstery and heated front seats, Nissan’s Around View Monitor camera system, plus safety kit such as lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring.
‘Nissan stands for making technology accessible, and we want to really push that with Pulsar,’ said Limbert. ‘A lot of the technology we are offering is innovative, and a lot of it isn’t available for the kind of low prices we are charging. We like to think we are democratising technology.’
The Pulsar will come with two engines at launch: a 108bhp 1.5-litre diesel, and a 113bhp turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol. As in the Qashqai, the 1.5 diesel will have CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km.
In early 2015 a 187bhp 1.6 petrol will join the range. All the engines will be offered with a choice of six-speed manual or Xtronic CVT automatic gearbox.
The interior space of the Pulsar was also highlighted by Limbert as a stand-out feature. ‘The rear space is the equal of most cars from the class above,’ he said. ‘We’ve achieved that without compromising the front seat space or boot – both of which are good for the class, or making the size of the Pulsar any greater than the likes of the Focus or Golf.'
The car’s styling also draws cues from the Qashqai and Juke, such as the ‘boomerang’ rear headlamps. ‘Just because the small hatchback class is traditionally seen as more conservative, it doesn’t mean the car can’t be exciting or innovative,’ said Limbert. ‘A buyer is investing emotion as well as money in buying the car, and we want to try to do things that can represent that excitement.’
However, Limbert added that the handling balance would err towards comfort over driver engagement. ‘It’s about finding a balance, and we hope to have given the Pulsar the inherent Nissan character of being pleasing to drive, with a slight bias towards comfort over sportiness. We want owners to arrive comfortable after a long journey, so the ride and steering response is linear and predictable as opposed to go-kart-like.’
The Nissan Pulsar goes on sale this autumn. Although we haven’t got firm Target Price data, our experience with other Nissans suggests that initial dealer discounts of around £1500 are likely.