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Pulsar’s good but not brightest star 

NISSAN entered the highly competitive family hatchback market when its Pulsar arrived in the UK last year.

The main players in this segment are VW Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra with a host of other manufacturers battling for sales.

I’ve just had my first drive in the Barcelona-built Pulsar and reckon it’s not quite got the sparkle to make a huge impact on the top players but IS good enough to take a fair share of sales.

There were two engines available at launch – a 1.2-litre turbo petrol and 1.5-litre turbo diesel – with a choice of four trim levels – Visia, Acenta, n-tec and Tekna.

The test car was an entry-level 1.2 DIG-T Visia in an attractive Azure colour.

My first impression was that the Pulsar was pretty stylish – but not eye-catching.

It is very much Nissan from the front, similar to its Qashqai with the Nissan badge framed by a V-shaped grille, the angles extending up the bonnet.

A crease line extends from the front wheel arches to the boomerang-shaped tail light clusters and a roof spoiler adds to the rear’s looks.

The Pulsar’s shape is deceptive though as the interior is surprisingly spacious.

Designers have managed to create a cabin that is roomy for driver and front passenger and also has stacks of space in the back.

Thanks to its long 2,700mm wheelbase and seats positioning, the Pulsar boasts the best rear legroom in the sector – and better than a lot of cars in the class above.

You also get a fairly large boot at 385 litres and this extends to 1,395 litres with the split rear seats folded flat.

Standard spec is also good and my budget-priced £15,995 test model’s interior equipment included five-inch colour screen, steering wheel mounted controls, Bluetooth, audio CD with four speakers, USB/iPod connectivity, aux socket and air conditioning.

Other standard features included tilt/telescopic adjus-table steering wheel, cruise control with speed limiter, front and rear power windows and a stack of safety features.

Move up to Accenta models, starting at £17,645, and that also brings forward emergency braking, automatic lights and wipers and Nissan’s i-Key system – key-less door locking and unlocking and push-button start.

The n-tec starts at £18,995 and additional features include large 17-inch alloys, privacy glass, signature LED lights, colour reversing camera and Nissan Connect 2 – a state-of-the-art infotainment system.

Range-topping Tekna models, priced from £20,345, add forward emergency braking, moving object detection, lane departure warning and blind spot warning.

The petrol models have an automatic option with a six-speed manual transmission on the car I sampled.

Power from the 113bhp engine was adequate for normal driving – it’s not intended to be a model for sprinting off the blocks.

It is capable of a top speed of 118mph and accelerating to 62mph in 10.7 seconds.

You do need to work the gears in mid-range if you need extra zip for overtaking but it was quiet enough cruising on the motor-way.

And, assisted by stop/start, this model is capable of achieving top fuel economy figures of 65.7mpg extra urban, 44.8mpg urban and 56.5mpg combined.

Ride comfort scores high marks and with its sharp accurate steering I got to like the Pulsar the more I drove it.

It was ideal around town and didn’t lack agility when tackling some winding, country roads.

The Pulsar has plenty of plus points and will appeal to motorists looking for a reasonably priced five-door hatchback with lots of room.

And good news for those looking for a more powerful version is the recent addition of a top-of-the-range sporting model.

Priced from £19,645, the new Pulsar 1.6 DIG-T gets a more sporty look inside and out with its 187bhp petrol turbo engine capable of reaching 62mph in 7.7 seconds and boasting a top speed of 135mph.