Nissan Pulsar, motoring review: I'm all for frugality, but stay away from the spare parts bin

It feels like Nissan's accountants spotted a segment they were missing out on

Price: From £15,995
Engine capacity: 1.5-litre diesel
Power output (bpm @ rpm): 109 @ 4,200
Top speed (mph): 118
Fuel economy (mpg): 78.5
CO2 emissions (g/km): 94

You could be forgiven for thinking that the days of family hatchbacks were long gone. Nissan led the way retreating from this segment of the car market eight years ago, when the dreadful Almera was put out of its misery. It was replaced with the dinky Juke soft-road and then the almighty Qashqai.

Most carmakers followed Nissan's lead and dived into the crossover market (a world of hatchbacks jumped up to look like off-roaders but lacking any actual off-road potential). It's something of a surprise then that with the new Pulsar, the Japanese car giant has produced a new family hatchback.

In looking back, though, Nissan has cut a few corners, borrowing the engines from the Qashqai plus a whole host of underpinning, components and electrical systems from the chunky crossover for the more petite Pulsar. This sort of "spare parts bin" design approach isn't unusual for big car firms – underneath its large body the VW Tiguan is actually a dressed up VW Golf. It's not necessarily a bad thing, either, and as someone who loathes inefficient and wallowing crossovers you might think I'd welcome the Pulsar. The problem is that it is distinctly average in every way.

If I were being charitable I would say that the Pulsar is very spacious inside with plenty of leg, elbow and head room, its choice of engine is frugal and the ride is smooth. Sadly the Pulsar is not a car I feel charitable about. That's because I can't help but think that it's an example of car design by numbers: something put together with no real thought given to style, driving pleasure or innovation. The Qashqai might have been a relative gas guzzler on stilts, but at least it was new. The Pulsar feels old.

It's a shame because Nissan has a sub-brand called Nismo which turns out supercharged, superheated versions of its mainstream cars, but not one ounce of this performance, innovation or styling has been unleashed on the Pulsar.

I'm not calling for track-day performance; it's just that Pulsar feels like the accountants at Nissan spotted a segment they were missing out on so went rummaging around the spare parts bin to turn out a car to grab some market share. I'm sure that's sensible accountancy and it will sell as planned. It's just that I hoped for a little more.

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