Under the skin, the underpinnings are certainly a lot more sophisticated than those you get from the rival Megane model offered by Nissan’s global partner Renault, being based on the hi-tech CMF2 platform used by the Qashqai crossover. The two main engines are shared with the Qashqai too, a 1. 2-litre DIG-T turbo petrol unit with 115PS and the 110PS 1. 5-litre dCi diesel that I’m trying here.
You don’t get the Focus-style sophisticated multi-link rear suspension that would enable the car to better deal with unsettled surfaces, but the Pulsar’s lower-tech torsion beam set-up still does a reasonable job of dealing with bigger potholes and bumps. Around town, the light steering you could do without at speed through the turns really comes into its own, combining with the great all-round visibility to make this car supremely easy to manoeuvre and park, especially in a top model like this one with its ‘Around View Monitor’ camera system.
How will this Pulsar’s confident yet conservatively smart look be perceived by today’s Focus-class C-segment buyer? It isn’t especially striking – but then very little in this class is and in any case, Nissan doesn’t need to be avant garde with the character of this car, given that its Juke and Qashqai crossover models already deliver exactly that. Let’s start at the front and the hint of Qashqai you get in a nose section that sees the familiar Nissan badge framed by a trademark V-shaped mesh grille, the angles of which sweep upwards across the bonnet.
But of course as usual, the really important things are those you can’t see. This car is based on the CMF ‘Common Module Family’ platform that in the Renault Nissan Alliance product range must support really quite large models like the Renault Espace and the 7-seat Nissan X-Trail. Base a compact Focus-class family hatchback on these same underpinnings and you’re likely to end up with a very spacious car indeed – and so it proves.
The first evidence of this comes when you lift the tailgate and inspect the 385-litre boot. I haven’t got to the best bit yet though. You’ll appreciate the really unique selling point of this design from taking a seat here in the rear. The CMF platform I mentioned earlier gives this car a wheelbase that at 2. 7-metres, is significantly longer than its rivals can offer. To be specific, you get 692mm of legspace, a figure that doesn’t just match models in the next class up but betters many of them.
You continue to notice this car’s emphasis on ease of use as you move up-front. The wide-opening doors and relatively high seating position make it easy to get in and out and it’s easy to get comfortable behind the smart Qashqai-sourced steering wheel.
Turn your attention to the centre console and you’ll find a middle fascia segment that appears to ‘float’ on top of a broad trim panel that stretches from door to door. Framed by glossy piano black trim, this centre section houses heating and ventilation controls below a feature most buyers will want to try and stretch to – the NissanConnect infotainment system.
Here’s another of those cars that in reality, is much better than the sum of its press clippings. Some elements of the media seem bewildered as to why the Pulsar exists in Nissan’s line-up at all, but the two reasons for that seem as obvious me to as they clearly are to the Japanese company’s marketeers. Firstly, that there are some fleet clients who won’t consider the brand unless it offers an ordinary family hatch. And secondly that, despite all the fuss made over the rise in importance of Qashqai-style Crossover contenders, ordinary Focus-class C-segment models still account for over five million annual sales in Europe.
The Pulsar’s pitch for a slice of that market lies in all the attributes we’ve covered in detail here – not only the way it’s well priced, economical, relaxing to drive and quite smart to look at but also its status as the most practical choice in its class.
You can’t criticise it for being the polar opposite to Nissan’s fashionable, extrovert Crossover models because that’s exactly what it sets out to be. There's still a market for something with a less trendy portfolio of virtues, a car that’s simply good value, cheap to run, incredibly reliable and which doesn't draw undue attention to itself. If those are your priorities in looking for a compact family hatch, then here’s a very good place for your search to start.