5.12.2017Nissan Qashqai review
There are few models that have the distinction of defining their market segment, but the Nissan Qashqai is certainly one of them. A success story that even Nissan's most optimistic plans couldn't have predicted, the Qashqai has long been the benchmark model in the family crossover sector. However, there are so many models now available to rival the popular Nissan that the Qashqai has undergone a face-lift in an attempt to keep pace with the competition. NGC discovers if it does.
Review by Chris Lilly
The engine line-up for the Qashqai range isn't a large one, but it covers all the bases. Two petrols and two diesel units are the sum total of what's on offer, but all four are proven engines that feature in a number of Nissan and Renault family cars. The 1.2 DIG-T petrol produces 115 hp and is the smallest powerplant in the range, though it offers a reasonable balance of fuel economy and performance. It can be lack-lustre though, so many buyers prefer the 1.5 dCi diesel. This produces a little less power with 110 hp, but the significantly improved torque from the diesel - 260 Nm rather than the petrol's 190 Nm, and from lower revs - mean it's still a favourite in the line-up for those looking for good value family motoring. The 1.6 DIG-T petrol is the most powerful in the range, and the quickest from 0-62mph, but there are sportier crossovers on the market for those looking for a pacy model. Finally, the 130 hp 1.6 dCi is the top of the range diesel option, and offers a good bet for those that often drive their car fully-laden, or need to tow on occasion. The 1.6 dCi is also the only model available with four-wheel drive as an option, the rest of the engine range just puts power to the front wheels. The 1.5 dCi is likely to be the best pick for most, with a 0-62mph time of 11.5 seconds that can certainly be classed as sluggish. In-gear acceleration is good though, and the Qashqai responds to brief spells of acceleration well. It's refined for a car in the mass-market sector, and settles down comfortably at speed, proving more than capable at tackling long distances on the motorway. The six-speed manual gearbox - a CVT is available too - allows for smooth gear-changes, though not of the quickest variety. It's a good match for the engine though, and helps the Qashqai prove adept at driving in its usual environments, tackling family trips with ease.
One of the reasons the Qashqai has been so successful is the quality of its driving dynamics. For a tall hatchback, the Qashqai disguises its height well and largely feels like a conventional family hatch. The suspension is set up just about perfectly for this sector, with little body roll even when cornering enthusiastically, but the suppleness required to tackle urban and rural driving without shaking everyone's teeth out. The Qashqai makes light work of speed bumps or pot holes, only getting agitated if these are hit at pace. The steering is nicely set-up too, with a relatively light action for easier town driving, but it's precise and with plenty of grip. The Qashqai's refresh has included some work on the chassis and handling, with the latest version more assured over bumpy roads. It's better damped than before and, although there are more fun to drive or comfortable rivals on the market, the Qashqai strikes a good balance between the two.
The updated version builds on what was a solid design before, and certainly gives it more presence. I personally prefer the pre-facelifted design in terms of aesthetics, but the styling changes keep the Qashqai in line with the current Nissan design language. It's a decent looking car even if it doesn't have the same style as a Peugeot 3008 or Seat Ateca. The body shape is fairly practical too, with plenty of space for a family and their assorted kit. Interior space available remains the same as the pre-facelifted model, and as such the boot is not class leading in terms of load area, but it's still a good size. The Qashqai's rivals for boot space are all similarly matched, with not much between any of them for outright space. Access can vary a fair amount though and the Qashqai scores well here with a wide hatch, flat floor, sensibly shaped space, and no load lip to get over. This last point is because of a false floor fitted, which can prove very useful. Further forward, and two adults can fit in the rear seats comfortably, though not luxuriously. Head, leg, and shoulder room are all more than good enough for a long road trip. The seats aren't adjustable by reclining or sliding as they are in rival offerings, but the position is nicely set-up so this isn't much of an issue. Further forward still, and there is ample space for the driver and front-seat passenger, and those behind the wheel should easily be able to find a driving position to fit.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The crossover market is a difficult one to succeed in, with many buyers wanting a feeling of quality yet a rebust cabin that will withstand the rigours of ownership that children present. Nissan pitches the Qashqai pretty well, with an uprated interior improving the ambience when compared to the previous version, but it's definitely built from sturdy materials. The Qashqai isn't towards the premium end of the mainstream market though, and as such will feel a little behind rivals from the likes of Mazda, Peugeot, and Seat. The steering wheel is a good one, with plenty of controls but an unfussy design. The instruments too are nicely displayed, but the car's infotainment system isn't up to rivals' efforts, either in size or quality. It's not a bad unit, but competitors set-ups are often better. The controls feel well built though, and there are some soft-touch materials on upper surfaces. Lower surfaces use harder, more knock-resistant plastics, but that's a bonus in a car such as the Qashqai, particularly the back plates on the front seats that have to deal with little ones' feet kicking them.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The Qashqai shouldn't cost too much to run no matter which engine you pick, though the 1.5 dCi diesel is the leader in this regard. The worst of the official fuel economy figures comes from the higher-powered petrol unsurprisingly, but even that's quoted at returning 48.7 MPG, with CO2 emissions of 134 g/km. For the least economical car in the range, those figures aren't too bad. The smaller petrol engine will return 50.4 MPG with emissions of 129 g/km CO2, and the 1.6 dCi diesel will do 60.1 MPG, with 122 g/km CO2 according to official NEDC figures. The 1.5 dCi though leads with figures on 74.3 MPG and 99 g/km CO2, both of which are big parts in the engine being the pick of the range for most. In real-world driving, I was averaging more than 55 MPG without effort, and after a mixture of driving styles. It's difficult to get the Qashqai under 45 MPG even when pushing hard, and a motorway run of reasonable length sees those figures sit above 60 MPG with ease. To tax, I don't think that you can specify the Qashqai to cost more than Â£40,000, even if you go crazy with the options list. As such, the Premium Rate will not apply, with the standard rate of Â£140 payable across the range. The First Year Rates will vary from Â£120 to Â£200 depending on model, though this is included in the car's OTR price.
There's nothing spectacularly green about the Qashqai, but then it's not bad either. The crossover has one of the best aerodynamic shapes in its class, and the refresh added 'vortex generator' technology to the underside of the front bumper. These are small vanes that break up the airflow on the underside of the Qashqai, helping reduce drag. Also in the aerodynamic efficiency section are the alloy wheels, each of which have been designed to improve the Nissan's ability to cut through the air. All engines are downsized and use turbo technology to make up for the lack of cc's, and the diesels have a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF). These help the Qashqai dip under the 100 g/km threshold for CO2 emissions, and improves fuel economy. The CVT transmission also helps with efficiency when compared to a standard automatic. Auto stop/start and the usual trip computer information helps drivers maximise their efficiency performance too, along with the ability to see an eco score to help coach good habits. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 36.
The Qashqai comes in five trim levels, all of which feature the 'basics' and more. However, for best value, you need to be looking roughly in the middle of the range. That said, even entry-level Visia trim includes features such as 16-inch alloys, air-conditioning, 5-inch TFT display between the dials, selectable steering (sport or normal), heated and electric door mirrors, cruise control, and DAB audio with Bluetooth and USB. All models also come with safety features that include emergency brake assist, lane departure warning, front and rear parking sensors, and traffic sign recognition - part of the Smart Vision Pack - and Chassis Control: Intelligent Trace Control and Intelligent Ride Control. Acenta adds 17-inch alloys, more speakers, a leather gear lever, auto-folding door mirrors, front fog lights, and automatic wipers and lights. Likely to prove best value is N-Connecta which adds the Smart Vision Pack, 18-inch alloys, silver styling details, 360-degree colour camera view, rear privacy glass, keyless entry and start, and it is also where the 7-inch sat-nav system enters the list of standard features. Further up to Tekna and Tekna+ add Safety Shield Plus for an even greater suite of safety systems, Intelligent Park Assist, 19-inch alloys, Bose stereo, heated front seats and windscreen, LED headlights, panoramic glass roof, leather trim, and electric front seats - these last three items standard on the top spec model.
The Qashqai is one of the best-selling cars in the UK, let alone the crossover class. What Nissan has achieved with the updates is bring a model that had slipped behind the competition a little back to fighting at the top. There are roomier options, or sporter models you could pick instead, but the Qashqai is still a fierce competitor in what is a hotly contested sector. Anyone in the market for a family crossover should certainly take a look at the Qashqai.
Model tested: Nissan Qashqai
Body-style: Family crossover
Engine / CO2: 1.5 litre dCi diesel / 99 g/km
Trim grades: Visia, Acenta, N-Connecta, Tekna, Tekna+
On-road price: From £19,300. Price as tested: £25,580
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4 Stars