In the highly competitive compact SUV world, style, practicality and value are some of the biggest draw cards. The Nissan Qashqai is aiming to score the hat-trick.
Now employing the badge of its European equivalent – a model sold overseas since 2007 – the all-new second-generation Qashqai differs from its predecessor in being exclusively available with five seats (the Dualis +2’s seven-seat role left to the all-new, third-generation X-Trail).
Looking sharper and more modern than the wide-eyed and smiley Dualis, the UK-built Qashqai takes more than a few styling cues from its larger, Japanese-built mid-sized stablemate. These include sleek LED daytime running light-infused headlights, a revised V-shaped front badge surround, and a sculptured bonnet.
We've previously reviewed the Nissan Qashqai range, so here we're focusing on the range-topping petrol model – the Ti. Starting at $35,390 (before on-road costs), the Ivory Pearl Qashqai Ti you see pictured here teams a 106kW/200Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Opt for the six-speed manual and you’ll save $2500.
Compared with a couple of key rivals, that places the Ti $900 above a mid-spec Subaru XV with all-wheel drive and a 2.0-litre/CVT combination, and makes it $1800 dearer than an equivalent version of the small SUV segment’s top seller, the Hyundai ix35.
However, with the automatic Ti positioned as the penultimate step on the front-wheel-drive-only model’s range ladder – behind only the $38,390 diesel-powered Qashqai TL – equipment is suitably vast.
A 7.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and traffic monitoring, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate, automatic LED headlights with high beam assist, front fog lights, heated front seats, remote keyless entry, panoramic glass roof, 19-inch alloy wheels are some key highlights.
Hill start assist, front and rear parking sensors and intelligent park assist (steering only) are also all there to make daily runs to the shops and school easier, while blind spot monitoring, moving object detection, lane departure warning, a rear-view camera and an around view monitor (a rare feature outside the luxury car segments) tick additional safety/convenience boxes.
In fact, the only option outside the self-shifting gearbox is premium paint at $495. The diesel TL only gains stop-start as extra.
The simple cabin is neat with nice visual touches such as red ambient lighting under the gear stick surround, lashings of gloss black and chrome, and silver accents around the air vents, gear lever base and on the thin-rimmed steering wheel.
Squishy soft-touch dash- and door-tops boost the feel of cabin quality beyond the initial positive impression.
The deep, leather-topped centre console bin, with its two-part, split-lid design, AUX, USB and 12-volt plugs, and coin and business card holders, is brilliant. Featuring a large circular cut-out at the bottom, it can easily swallow taller drink bottles and coffee tumblers.
Storage could be better elsewhere, though. The centre console will take two large bottles, though the segmented compartments aren't large enough to hold a mobile, and a roof-mounted drop-down sunglasses holder would have been useful.
The Nissan Qashqai Ti's practicality, though, does benefit from borrowing the highly flexible ‘Divide-N-Hide’ boot storage system (with split and removable false floor panels) from its X-Trail twin. The Qashqai's version isn't as versatile, however, as it replaces the X-Trail’s hard plastic under-floor storage space – ideal for wet or muddy gear – with an entirely carpeted set-up.
The Nissan Qashqai’s 430-litre boot (measuring around 835mm deep by 1100mm wide) is slightly down on the ix35’s 465L capacity but up significantly on the XV’s 310L. It also includes two elastic-strap holders, two luggage hooks and two small plastic ‘bins’ – the latter flanking the main boot floor.
Dropping the 60/40 split-fold rear seats (almost totally) flat is an easy task but it’s one that can only be completed from the top of the rear seat backs – no trick boot tabs or levers as used in the likes of the Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Golf Wagon.
With the seats up, the rear bench is, like the front seats, amply comfortable, with three kids easily fitting across the back. Three adults sitting shoulder-to-shoulder could prove squishy but there is still loads of leg and headroom for anyone sub-six-foot. Foot/toe room is a little more snug.
When travelling two-up in the back, occupants can enjoy a fold-down centre-seat armrest with two cup holders, though the twin unit’s shallow design makes drink spillages highly possible. A lack of rear air vents means rear passengers have to rely on the front vents for keeping cool/warm.
And that in-car fan seems louder than necessary, even on its lowest setting, while wind and tyre roar can also penetrate the cabin to hold the Nissan back from feeling more premium.
On the road, this reviewer found the design of the lower dash interfered with left knee space, though the front seats are at least comfortable enough for long trips despite slightly stubby bases providing little under-thigh support.
Vision out of the 4.38-metre-long SUV is good, assisted by big side mirrors and pseudo-helpful C-pillar cut-outs (again similar to those seen on the X-Trail).
Splicing between Melbourne’s freeways and smoother urban streets, the Nissan rides well. Sitting on 45-aspect Continental tyres, the Qashqai deals well with most poor-quality roads, never feeling crashy over sharper bumps, ruts and sequential bumps. Only the roughest surfaces are felt through the seat and steering wheel.
Larger undulations can get the Qashqai feeling a little light-footed and bouncy, despite Nissan’s Active Ride Control – which aims to smooth out bumps and improve body control over undulating and bumpy surfaces – but generally things remain comfortable and compliant. The steering is consistently weighted while the handling is impressive enough for us to put the Qashqai in the lead group of fun-to-drive mainstream SUVs that is headed currently by the Mazda CX-5.
The 2.0-litre petrol engine is at its best with plenty of revs on board, though the CVT helps to disguise the shortage of torque and provide decent-enough performance around town. Cleverly, when coasting off-throttle down hills, the CVT will essentially ‘gear down’ to a lower ‘ratio’ in order to provide some engine braking or compression. The gear lever may not be used much but when it is, you're likely to notice that it's a bit clicky and cheap-feeling.
Matching the Qashqai's official fuel economy of 6.9L/100km will depend on where and how you use it. We recorded an on-test fuel consumption average of 8.8 litres per 100km, with a best of 7.0L/100km achieved on a freeway run. Chances of consistently hitting the official mark would have been helped if the petrol Qahsqai didn’t miss out on its turbo-diesel kin’s fuel-saving stop-start technology.
And for a piece of tech is does include, this reviewer found the infotainment system somewhat simplistic. The sat-nav display is too basic and light on detail to be anything more than just a helpful guide, the radio screen is a step down in presentation again and while pairing phones is quick and easy enough, the process is predominantly done via the external device. All minor foibles, none are deal breakers.
Combining legitimate style and huge practicality, overall, the Nissan Qashqai is a more formidable package than its Dualis-named predecessor. We also hope the interior is a sign of things to come for future Nissans.
Factor in the Nissan Qashqai Ti’s extensive equipment, three-year/100,000km warranty with 24-hour roadside assist and coverage under the myNissan capped-price servicing program – the latter keeping costs to between $207 and $503 every 10,000km (up to 130,000km) – and you’re presented with incredible value for between $32,890 and $35,390.
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