The Nissan Qashqai is one of the best-selling small SUVs in the United Kingdom, popular right across Europe in fact, and a solid though quiet achiever here in Australia.
Year-to-date the Nissan Qashqai is the third-highest seller in the segment, behind the Mazda CX-3 and Mitsubishi ASX, while the Honda HR-V is nipping its heels. It also competes against its sibling, the Nissan Juke, in the small SUV segment.
This small crossover is arguably the most attractive of the Nissan SUV range that includes not only the Juke, but the X-Trail, Patrol and Pathfinder. At any rate, the title of 'best-looking' would certainly not fall to the Juke.
The Qashqai isn't one that you see front-and-centre of a Nissan advertising push either, though it seems to draw in buyers despite a lack of promotion. And there's a good reason for it. The UK-made Qashqai makes a strong case at this end of the SUV market despite not having changed much in the past two or three years. It's nice to drive, has a good level of standard inclusions and is competitively priced.
Our test variant is the entry-level ST, priced at $25,990 (before on-road costs). The petrol line-up is completed with the Ti at $34,490 and there are also two diesel versions, the TS for $33,990 and the TL for $39,990. All are two-wheel drive and only the petrols are offered with a six-speed manual transmission. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) on our ST petrol test car is therefore optional.
Despite being the base model, you're not starved for standard equipment. Among the highlights, the Qashqai ST comes with a five-inch infotainment display, cruise control, leather-accented steering wheel, rear-view camera, LED daytime-running lights and a rear spoiler.
The Qashqai has a nice wide stance on the road and sits on 17-inch alloy wheels. Rather than the chrome door handles found on higher specs, this has body coloured handles and the only shiny-silver adornments feature on the grille and around the windows. It looks a little bare with black plastic in place of the fog lights, again only on offer on the higher specification. There are halogen headlights and LED daytime-running lights.
The front seat of the Qashqai is delightfully snug. Not cramped by any means, but it feels cozy and welcoming. The materials used and the finish is lovely with the exception of the inside door handles; though they're solid and don't feel weak, the plastic just feels a little cheap and nasty.
Storage-wise there are water bottle holders in the doors, a storage nook behind the gear shift with a 12V outlet, a huge centre console bin with 12V, USB and AUX points and another little storage area between the cup holders and centre console bin.
The seats feel nice and wide, not a lot of shape but enough to not feel flatter than a pancake, and the cloth used isn't hard or scratchy. From a comfortable driving position it does seem to be a bit of a stretch to reach the controls on the centre stack. Not an exaggerated lean kind of stretch, but enough to be noticeably annoying if you're a radio channel surfer.
There is a 5.0-inch central display, with radio, CD, media and access to NissanConnect apps and the screen is centred on the nicely shaped dash and centre console with contrasting trim. Not a lot of whizz-bang about the system but it's simple enough to connect your phone to and use.
While the X-Trail makes do with a foot brake, the Qashqai scores an electric park brake. There's no push-button start and no lights behind the visors but you do get cruise control and a rear-view camera.
The steering wheel feels slim in the hand could use a little more contouring to give it a nicer feel, but it's light and a good size for the car. It's mounted with buttons for cruise control, volume, radio, and phone and they light up with a soft orange glow when the headlights are on.
The second row is like an arid desert, you can almost see the tumbleweeds blowing through. There are no map pockets, no centre armrest, no cup holders, no air vents and no USB, 12V or USB outlets. A single small storage nook behind the centre console bin will have to be fought over by your passengers.
That being said, you only need to duck your head slightly to get in, the seats are comfortable, headroom is generous and knee-room is pretty good. The back seat can easily accommodate two adults or three children in relative comfort. They just can't bring any drinks or too many things that would likely just end up rolling around the floor. When you put it that way, it actually sounds attractive for parents who are sick of mopping up spilled drinks and fishing Lego pieces from under seats.
Boot space in the Qashqai is impressive, there's 430-litres with the rear seats in play, compared to the CX-3 with just 264L, the amount of cargo volume is a big tick for the Nissan. It's only slightly less space than the 437L figure of the Honda HR-V.
The Qashqai boot has a completely flat floor, under which lies a space-saver spare wheel. The loading lip is around mid-thigh level and there's a small drop from there to the boot floor, making it practically practical when it comes to loading luggage or other paraphernalia in and out.
Under the bonnet lies a 2.0-litre petrol engine that produces 106kW and 200Nm, that's teamed with the Xtronic continuously-variable transmission. Having recently spent time in a petrol X-Trail, the Qashqai is a markedly better car to drive and if you didn't know better, you'd never know they bear the same badge when it comes to performance and ride quality.
The CVT is intuitive and doesn't 'flare' or scream when asked to work a little harder as some others tend to do, is smooth and responds well to even a light touch on the pedals, without discontent. It's front-wheel drive and not available in AWD so it needs to perform well around town and on the highway, where it's going to spend all of its time.
The ride is smooth and sophisticated, smoothing over coarse and bumpy road surfaces and absorbing the potentially jolty impact over speed bumps and larger imperfections. Road noise can be mildly intrusive over particularly rough surfaces but engine and wind noise have been largely banished from the cabin.
Around corners (like roundabouts, at normal speeds) the Qashqai feels stable and composed, barely batting an eyelid. The electronic-mechanical steering is light and direct, making inner-city manoeuvring and parking a breeze while retaining that dexterity on the open road.
Claimed combined fuel consumption is 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres and over the course of our time with the car, over a mix of city and country driving, we recorded a fuel economy figure of 8.4L/100km which we were impressed with. Some figures can fluctuate well over 2.0-litres more than claimed, so 1.5-litres is a notably low variance.
Nissan offers a three-year/100,000km warranty with a six-year or 120,000km capped-price servicing plan and roadside assist. If you cover 20,000km a year that will cost you an average of $520 a year over the first three-years, or if you clock up half that amount of kays, you can expect to pay around $230 a year over the same time.
It's no wonder the Nissan Qashqai continues to attract buyers, it's self-assured on the road, laden with enough standard features to offer sound value-for-money, has an impressive amount of cargo space and has a well-appointed interior. It is, however, lacking in backseat amenities and this could well be a turn-off for those who continually rely on the second row.
Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Nissan Qashqai ST images by Christian Barbeitos.