ON THE ROAD: I'D driven the Pulsar before, at its European launch, and I must admit to thinking it was nice, if a rather unremarkable.

With that in mind, I wasn't expecting much from our second appraisal.

How wrong I was.

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While I wouldn't go as far as Nissan does in describing it as striking, the Pulsar certainly is more good looking than bad.

Three engines are available - we tested the 1.6 litre DIG-T petrol unit. It's quiet, refined and more than capable of tackling the daily grind. It's also borders on fun. Certainly, more so than a few cars I have driven of this ilk.

There's plenty of punch from the 190bhp on tap, especially at the lower end, and I liked the way it handled the bends. Around town it is very well mannered.

The Northern Echo:

ON THE INSIDE: CLEAN and tidy, the Pulsar's interior perhaps lacks some of the quality of say a VW Golf, but you'd have to be very picky to find much to moan about. The seats are comfortable and seeing out is not an issue thanks to large windows. Our car had Nissan's Around View Monitor which made parking easy.

WHAT DO YOU GET: STANDARD equipment includes alarm with immobiliser, 5ins high definition full colour screen, colour front, rear and side camera Around View Monitor system, touchscreen navigation and entertainment system, DAB digital radio, rear colour reversing camera, Bluetooth, USB/iPod connectivity, 18ins two-tone alloys, LED headlamps, chrome exhaust finisher, rear privacy glass and rain-sensing wipers. In addition, there is a carbon effect rear diffuser, black honeycomb front grille,high level rear spoiler, gear shift indicator, leather seats, heated front seats, graphite leather trim, leather steering wheel and gear knob, electric folding mirrors, dual zone climate control, intelligent key and push button start, steering wheel mounted audio controls, stop/start technology, front and rear electric windows and 60:40 split folding rear seats.

HOW PRACTICAL IS IT: THE Pulsar is designed with the family in mind and even those much taller than me will be able to find comfort within. It's possible for the driver and front seat passenger to stretch out with causing any problems for those in the rear. Headroom isn't an issue either.

The boot has 385 litres of luggage space, more than some of its key rivals, expanding to 1,395 litres with the split-folding seats down.

RUNNING COSTS: NISSAN say it should be possible to get close to 48mpg on the combined cycle - we managed a few mpg less, but it was pretty close to the claimed figures. CO2 emissions on our car were 138g/km.

VERDICT: STYLISH, practical and good to drive. 

ALTERNATIVES: Ford Focus, VW Golf