There are many theories as to the best time for buying a car to garner the most positive deal.
Do you wait until the end of any given month? Hold out for a known retail sales period? Or, as in the case of our pair of compact SUVs, wait for a successor to be announced and score the benefit of runout pricing?
Both the current generation Honda HR-V and Nissan Qashqai have been on sale for about eight years, and both have recently had their global replacements revealed. That means buyers of the familiar and proven compact SUVs can hold a strong negotiation position as dealers seek to clear any stock before the new car arrives.
In terms of sales, these two have been closely aligned for their entire market lives, so much so that for their first six full-years of sales, less than 2000 cars separate the pair (67,205 HR-V against 68,970 Qashqai).
So, on the eve of their replacement, which one is a better option for you?
Price and spec
Our little SUVs are both priced in the $30-thousand range, with our chosen pair near the top of their respective specification trees.
The 2021 Nissan Qashqai Midnight Edition is priced from $35,900 before on-road costs, in a lineup that starts at $28,290 and rises to $38,790. The only option on the table is your selection of five paint colours, with metallics (ours is Gun Metallic) attracting a $595 premium.
You want for precious little else though, with the QQ-ME (a much snappier title, if I do say) featuring black trim elements, including the grille and headlamp frames, 19-inch alloy wheels in gloss black, LED lamps front and rear, illuminated kick plates, Alcantara trimmed seats and a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system with integrated satellite navigation and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
There’s also an impressive range of driver assistance and safety equipment fitted as standard, but more on that shortly.
Here, any choice of the seven paints is a no-cost option, but you can spring for a $400 crimson interior, that ah, I’m not sure would go well with our Phoenix Orange Pearl exterior.
Unlike the QQ-ME, I’m not going to shorten the Honda’s name to HR-V RS for obvious reasons, but it too is a well-equipped little runner that includes 18-inch alloy wheels, black trim elements, leather-appointed heated seats, and a 7-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support.
There’s a five-year warranty on both too.
Bottom line, there’s plenty to like and solid value to be had in both cars, but the Honda’s sharper entry point ($2805 as tested) gives it the edge here.
|2021 Honda HR-V RS||2021 Nissan Qashqai Midnight Edition|
|Premium paint cost||-||$595|
|Warranty||5 years / unlimited km||5 years / unlimited km|
|Servicing cost (3-years / 5-years)||$929 / $1559||$771 / $1451|
|ANCAP Safety Rating||5-star (2015)||5-star (2017)|
Style and design
Given our two cars launched to market in 2013, and had their requisite facelifts in 2018, it’s almost surprising that they both still look good.
There's just 34mm in length and 16mm in width separating the cars, but somehow the slightly larger Nissan feels like a bigger car.
The Qashqai has always been an attractive car. A little conservative, sure, but it certainly carries its age well. The LED lamps improve the look, as does the black trim which even extends to the roof rails.
Perhaps more of a funky option, the HR-V manages to still look sharp and modern, and visually feels smaller than the Nissan, despite taking up much the same amount of street.
There’s more black trim here, and some very slick multi-beam LED headlamps, which do make the Honda come off as the sportier of the two.
Even considering both cars are about to be replaced, it’s fair to say they have both aged well, and while each may appeal to a different buyer, there’s nothing to split them here.
|.||2021 Honda HR-V RS||2021 Nissan Qashqai Midnight Edition|
|Boot space||437L / 1462L||430L / 1598L|
|Wheels||225/50 R18 - Dunlop||225/45 R19 - Michelin|
The Honda’s funky exterior styling extends to the interior design.
There are some nice elements on the dash, particularly the wide vent placement on the passenger side. You’ll find good storage, with a handy multi-layered cup holder in the central console, that can adjust to fit a cup or taller bottle.
More storage is under the centre armrest, and there is a handy shelf below the console as well as a pair of USB ports.
In the back of the HR-V are Honda’s always impressive ‘magic seats’. This flexible system enables the rear seats to be configured in up to 18-different ways, in a flat, tall or long load setting. They fold in a 60:40 configuration.
It’s very clever and makes the HR-V incredible versatile when transporting basically anything. Transporting people works too, with plenty of head and legroom in the back.
You sit reasonably upright, but there’s no armrest between the seats or air vents. You do get a pair of ISOFIX points, two map pockets, and a storage cubby with a 12-volt outlet though.
As with the outside of the Qashqai, the front cabin layout is perhaps a bit more conservative than the Honda, but it’s also a bit more traditionally practical.
Between the seats is a large storage cubby, containing a 12-volt and USB outlet. There’s also a phone holder, two easy to reach cup holders, and another tray in front of the console with another 12-volt outlet.
The rear of the Nissan is quite roomy too.
There’s great knee and headroom for taller passengers (ie: me) and the bench, particularly with the Alcantara inserts, is very comfortable. It is quite short though, and I found my thighs ‘airborne’ with my feet on the ground. Mine is a reasonably tall case, so if you have kids or even adults under 6-foot, they’ll be very comfortable.
Both front seats have map pockets fitted, there’s a central armrest with cup holders, ISOFIX points on both outboard seats and a little storage cubby in the back of the centre console. No vents or USB ports though.
But despite the Qashqai’s size and practicality, the flexibility of Honda’s Magic Seats, combined with the usable layout, gives the HR-V another section win.
While neither of these cars features such mod-cons as a power tailgate, the cargo area is usable and practical in both.
The Honda is packing a 437-litre boot which expands to 1462-litres when using the ‘magic seats’ flat mode. The flexible cargo blind is easy to store when not in use, and works well enough when in place. You get a 12-volt outlet and a temporary spare wheel under the floor too.
While a bit smaller in regular configuration at 430-litres, the Qashqai’s expanded volume is actually a bit bigger, at 1598-litres. The seats fold 60:40 and there is also a temporary spare tyre under the floor.
As the clever second row was considered in our assessment of the cabin, there are no runaway differences here to split our pair.
As noted earlier, the Nissan is well equipped in terms of driver assistance and safety equipment across the range. Our Midnight Edition scores Autonomous Emergency Braking (that works at city and inter-urban speeds), a forward-collision warning system, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and a driver attention monitor, plus six airbags (dual front, side and full-length curtain).
There’s even a top-down surround-view camera with object detection.
The Qashqai was tested by ANCAP in 2017 and was awarded a five-star rating.
Tested in 2015, the Honda also achieved a five-star rating, but it doesn’t have the breadth of equipment as found in the Nissan.
There are city-speed AEB and the same six-airbags as in the Qashqai, but in order to get the rest of the Honda ADAS (Advanced Driver Assist System) equipment, you need to plump up an extra $2550 for the range-topping HR-V VTi-LX.
You do get the left-side lane watch camera, which shows you a view of what is next to the car when you put the left blinker on, but the regular parking camera is a rear-view unit only.
To that end, it’s the extra equipment and more recent test result that gives the Qashqai a solid win in the safety stakes.
Perhaps the part of our cars that betrays their age the most is the 7-inch touch screen display fitted to both.
While they both support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the screens are still quite small compared to other cars on the market, and the feature set of both infotainment systems is reasonably limited.
This gap extends to the instrument cluster in the Honda where the multi-function display is quite small, basic and doesn’t include a digital speed readout.
The Nissan, however, includes integrated navigation and DAB digital radio, as well as a digital speedometer. It’s not much, but its enough to give the Qashqai the upper hand.
Engine and driveline
Under the Nissan’s bonnet is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 106kW and 200Nm available. This sends power through a Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT) to the front wheels.
It has a power-to-weight ratio of 78.5kW/tonne and Nissan claims it will return a combined fuel consumption cycle of 6.9L/100km. Our result on test was a little higher, at 7.4L/100km.
Beneath the orange hood of the Honda lies a similar 1.8-litre four-cylinder with 105kW and 172Nm up its sleeve. This too heads to the front wheels through a CVT.
With a lower mass, the HR-V has a power-to-weight ratio of 80.5kW/tonne and a claimed fuel consumption cycle of 6.7L/100km. Again, ours was a smidge higher at 7.2L/100km.
Basically, though, neither car is an outright dynamic hero. Both work well enough, offering an easy drive experience, with the engines needing to be worked hard (peak torque is at 4400rpm in the Nissan and 4300rpm in the Honda) to get the world moving particularly swiftly.
The new generation of both cars are proposed to include a hybrid drive option, but here and now, your only choice is petrol. They aren’t overly expensive to run, with the HR-V coming in at $929 for three years of Honda capped-price servicing and $1559 for five, and the Nissan at $771 for three and $1451 for five-years of Nissan capped services.
So, considering these are urban-centric runabouts, where an ability to ease off the line and return favourable fuel consumption is paramount, we again have a tie.
|.||2021 Honda HR-V RS||2021 Nissan Qashqai Midnight Edition|
|Engine format||1.8L 4-cylinder petrol||2.0L 4-cylinder petrol|
|Power||105kW @ 6500rpm||106kW @ 6000rpm|
|Torque||172Nm @ 4300rpm||200Nm @ 4400rpm|
|Power-to-weight||80.5 kW/t||78.5 kW/t|
|Fuel consumption (claimed)||6.7L/100km||6.9L/100km|
|Fuel consumption (on test)||7.2L/100km||7.4L/100km|
|CO2 emissions||152 g/km||159 g/km|
On the road
The Nissan’s 2.0-litre pulls well off the line but starts to run out of urgency as the CVT runs through the rev range.
Maintaining speed is easy, and the car carries well at both urban and highway speeds, but performance in the Qashqai is very much secondary to ride comfort. Very simply, this is a very comfortable car.
Arguably even better on smaller wheels, the Qashqai takes sharp edges and surface changes in its stride and provides a very pleasant cabin experience for all occupants.
It's light and nimble enough in traffic and is a wholly easy car to just jump in and drive.
The Honda isn't in any way uncomfortable, and in reality, by way of its slightly firmer suspension tune, comes off feeling a bit 'sportier' than the Nissan.
Not that it's a hotrod in any sense, the small four-cylinder also does the job admirably, but without much theatre, but does feel a bit more sprightly than the QQ.
The CVT includes paddle shifters, to jump to a number of preset ratios, which sounds fancy but is a little bit naff. However, it's worth calling out that the transmission implementation in the HR-V is one of the better CVTs on the road, and the car doesn't exhibit the same level of elasticity and droning as others do.
Again, the little Honda is light on its feet and there is good visibility all around. It's almost, dare I say, fun!
But not everyone is here for chuckles, and the Nissan's excellent ride is an even counter to the Honda's sportier side. Even again!
These two popular machines have been neck-and-neck for Australian buyers for the duration of their tenure, which can only mean one thing, they are both good cars.
There’s plenty of space, practicality and value regardless of which badge you choose, but the cars do answer slightly separate briefs.
The 2021 Nissan Qashqai Midnight Edition offers good size, a very comfortable ride, plenty of equipment and smart styling in a proven platform, where the 2021 Honda HR-V RS serves up a bit of funky design, a clever interior, a sporty drive and sharper entry point.
Benefits on both sides, that are sure to be made even more pronounced when both brands roll out official runout pricing.