GRR

First Drive: Nissan Qashqai

21st August 2017
dan_trent_headshot.jpg Dan Trent

In the way of these things, Nissan claims the Qashqai moniker was inspired by a nomadic desert tribe of the same name hailing from the south-west of Iran. That it reads so like ‘cash cow’ has proven prescient – over the 10 years and two generations it’s been on sale the Qashqai has proven an unstoppable sales success.

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In 2016 it sold double its 2007 figure and in the year to date, it’s climbed from fifth best-selling car in 2016 the UK to third, despite the fact Nissan announced a range-wide update at the start of the year, which is what we've been testing. 

For those mystified by the popularity of the Qashqai and the crossover craze it inspired, the simple answer is that it gives people what they seemingly want out of a car. Asked whether the changes are inspired by the growing threat of over 20 rival models Nissan airily says they’re not even in its calculations – it listens to its customers and with 3.3 million Qashqai drivers worldwide it’s got plenty of seemingly enthusiastic feedback to draw upon. 

So, on top of the fundamentals of a car that looks a bit like a 4x4 but drives like the regular hatchbacks people used to buy what was it Qashqai owners asked Nissan for? In short many would seem to want a more upmarket feel, reflected in the fact nearly half opt for the range-topping Tekna trim level. This has inspired a new Tekna+ version, wrapping up all the kit and technology Nissan can throw at it and set apart from the rest of the range by quilted Nappa leather seats, satin chrome exterior trim and a number of other detail refinements. With the line-up starting at £19,295, Tekna models from £26,030 and the Tekna+ from £27,830 to £29,250 the range caters to a broad range of tastes and budgets, the £25,555 1.5 dCi N-Connecta diesel the core product in both price and kit. 

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All new Qashqais benefit from a wide-ranging dedication to improved refinement, be that by cleaning up the air going under the body (a source of nearly half of wind noise according to Nissan) to improving the quality and quantity of sound deadening throughout the car. Even the rear window glass is thicker. The better to enjoy an all-new and custom-designed eight-speaker Bose stereo, standard on Tekna and Tekna+. Nissan also claims improvements to ride quality and responsiveness, the latter through a stiffer steering column and revised power assistance with Active Return Control to improve the self-centring action. You may also notice the new flat-bottomed wheel, complete with larger ‘viewing area’ within and chunkier rim for, it says here, “a more comfortable and safer grip.”

Things like steering feel may fixate road-testers but are likely of lesser importance to actual customers, who’ll be more interested in convenience features like auto-parking, Intelligent Around View cameras and bleepers that alert you if you’re about to reverse out of your parking space into the path of an oncoming car. The irony being this is only necessary because the rearward visibility is so appalling – a common trait in cars of this type. 

Thankfully much of this electronic surveillance is included as part of the Safety Shield Plus package standard from Tekna up, optional on other models in the range. Semi-autonomous driving from Nissan’s ProPILOT system (a combination of Lane Keep Assist, Intelligent Cruise Control and Traffic Jam Pilot) will be coming on stream later next year too, the Qashqai pretty much capable of taking control in most everyday driving situations should you so wish. 

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As before, engines encompass a selection of petrols and diesels, ranging from a diminutive 113bhp 1.2-litre petrol through to 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines with 161bhp and 128bhp respectively. The most important engine remains the 108bhp 1.5-litre diesel, its officially rated 99g/km and 74.3mpg offering clear attractions from both tax and daily running cost perspectives. Most Qashqais are front-wheel drive and the Xtronic CVT automatic is available on the 1.2 petrol and 1.6-litre diesel; four-wheel drive is only available on the 1.6 diesel manual. 

Will Diesel's shift in fortunes see the petrol motors become more popular? Nissan has enough options in both to catch the prevailing winds, should they change. And of the Tekna and Tekna+ models we drove on the launch event, the 1.6 DIG-T petrol’s additional refinement adds to the impressive air of calm on the road, even if the greater torque of the 1.6 dCi diesel means welcome extra mid-range pulling power. No Qashqai is out to set your pants on fire in terms of excitement but the commanding driving position, sense of stability and hushed cruising underline that confidence-inspiring feel owners say they love. Put it this way, you’d be as happy using a Qashqai for a long run as you would nipping about to the shops or on the school run and it has a range of abilities that go beyond its official suburban runabout remit.

Engine: 1.6 L 4-cylinder diesel

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Bhp/lb ft: 128bhp 236 lb/ft

0-62mph: 9.9 seconds

Top speed: 118 mph

Price as tested: £29,030 (Tekna 1.6 dCi 130 diesel 2WD manual)

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