Nissan Qashqai – the car that created the crossover segment, as its makers never fail to tell us. And today, as each manufacturer unveils yet another new crossover model in what is the UK’s fastest-growing sector, we always compare it first to the Qashqai.
A decade after its launch (we celebrated its birthday with a special feature), the Nissan Qashqai has at least 21 direct competitors, with more arriving all the time. And several of those have been launched since the current, second-generation version of the Nissan appeared in 2013.
So in order to keep adding to the 2.3 million sold so far, 4,500 in the UK claiming 10% of the entire segment, a facelift is necessary. The revamp follows the usual menu – styling changes, more equipment and better quality.
All this rates alongside one other factor that might sway some customers towards the Qashqai – it’s a British car, designed at Nissan’s studio in Paddington, engineered at Cranfield in Berkshire, and built, at a rate of around half a million a year, in the massive plant in Sunderland.
Exterior and interior
Visually, Qashqai connoisseurs will immediately notice one major difference in the new model – the front end. The latest Nissan ‘V-motion’ design style is applied, resulting in a much bolder, deeply plunging bumper arrangement, framed by slimmer LED headlamps.
The rear is not so bold, but notable elements include the more prominent diffuser and the silver-finish sump guard look on upper trim levels. Together with more body-coloured components, and wider use of gloss instead of matt black finishes, the result is a more distinctive overall profile for the car.
Inside has undergone lots of changes in a bid to appear more upmarket. The monoform seats look like one-piece units, and the steering wheel is now larger in diameter, thicker and D-shaped, which according to Nissan both offers improved steering and a better view of the instrument panel beyond.
Spend out on the new range-topping Tekna+ model, and the seats certainly look premium, finished in nappa leather in a 3D quilted design. The driver’s seat includes pneumatic lumbar support, and memory settings.
Also new is an eight-speaker Bose premium sound system and smartphone compatibility through a unit called Nissan Connect EVO, while all models also get DAB digital radio. This is all controlled through the central screen, which is said to have more intuitive graphics but which also retains the layout and buttons of the previous version. The result is a bit cluttered compared to rivals, even including a CD slot – almost unknown on today’s new cars.
Powertrains and chassis
One aspect that has not changed on the new Qashqai is the powertrain choice – between two petrol engines of 1.2 and 1.6 litres, and diesels of 1.5 and 1.6 litres. It’s a sign of the times that only the 1.6 130hp diesel is available with an all-wheel-drive transmission.
The smaller 1.5-litre diesel is expected to remain the most popular option – primarily because it has a CO2 emissions figure of only 99g/km. Aiding this is an underside smoothed out in the search for more efficient airflow.
Nissan has worked on the chassis. The dampers are softer, the roll bars stiffer. A new damper on the steering wheel improves response, while the electronic driver aids are refined too. Meanwhile, lots of extra insulation improves the interior ambience.
On the road
On the launch event we only had the chance to try out one engine option, but at least it was the most popular, the dCi 110, matched to a 2WD transmission and in N-Connecta trim.
The Qashqai is certainly refined on the road – riding within it is a calm experience even under heavy acceleration. The torquey engine dials in the power effectively without being exciting, and the on-the-road performance is similar. The car smothers bumps, rides in comfort, and corners effectively without being that invigorating.
Four trim levels of the previous Qashqai have become five. As in the previous car, Nissan expects by far the majority of customers to go for the upper-specification N-Connecta, Tekna and the new Tekna+ luxury grade. This includes such desirables as the Bose sound system, the quilted leather and a panoramic sunroof.
Standard equipment is good, with all models including LED daytime running lights, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, heated mirrors and Bluetooth connectivity. You have to go up to N-Connecta before you gain the Nissan Connect seven-inch touchscreen satnav, with smartphone apps and a reversing camera, while choose Tekna and the leather seats are heated, and the neat ‘around-view monitor’ parking aid with self-parking included.
More is to come – from Spring 2018, the Qashqai will be available with the brand’s latest autonomous technology ProPilot, which offers an adaptive cruise control, lane keeping and traffic jam assistance.
The package of updates to the Nissan Qashqai improve what is already a highly effective package. The interior upgrades have added an extra level of quality, though the layout feels slightly dated when compared to some rivals. But the Qashqai remains an accomplished all-round package and will no doubt continue to find many buyers.