The Nissan Qashqai has become a British institution over the last 15 years. Now in its third generation, the Qashqai is the UK’s best-selling British-built new car and one of the best-selling cars in the country.
All three generations of Qashqai (2007 to 2014, 2014 to 2021 and 2021 to present) have been designed in London, developed in the Midlands and built in Sunderland. So although Nissan is a Japanese company, this is about the most British car you can buy right now. It’s also a major export success for Nissan GB and for the UK in general, with thousands of Qashqais heading overseas every month.
The original Qashqai popularised the type of car we know today as a crossover – looks like an SUV but offers the sort of comfort and fuel economy you’d expect from a family hatch, and with a bit more boot space that compares to an estate car. It has spawned imitators from almost every other car company, so the latest model has many more competitors to deal with than the original version did 15 years ago.
The Qashqai has received plenty of praise from the UK motoring media as a competent all-round family car. According to our award-winning Expert Rating Index, it holds an Expert Rating of 73% as of August 2022, based on 26 different UK reviews. So where do we stand on it?
What is it?
The Nissan Qashqai is a mid-sized family SUV/crossover car. It seats five people with a decent amount of luggage space.
The current model you see here has been on the roads for about a year now and is a major improvement over the previous model. It’s available with a choice of a 1.3-litre petrol engine with mild hybrid assistance – which is the car we’re testing here – or Nissan’s clever new e-Power petrol/electric version, which is technically a hybrid but very different to a conventional hybrid. We’ll have a separate review of this version in coming weeks.
Customers get a choice of five different trim levels, although not all trims are available with all engine/gearbox combinations. These are (from bottom to top of the range): Visia, Acenta Premium, N-Connecta, Tekna and Tekna+
Here’s the current run-down as of August 2022:
- 1.3-litre petrol manual, in either 140hp or 158hp. Both are front-wheel drive
- 1.3-litre petrol automatic, 158hp, in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive
- 1.5-litre petrol/electric e-Power automatic, 190hp, front-wheel drive
The car we’re driving here is the 1.3-litre petrol manual with 158hp in N-Connecta trim. It’s priced at £31.5K, although our car had a few extras that brought the price up to just under £34K.
It’s also worth pointing out that due to global supply chain shortages, not all specifications and options may be available – it’s a problem for all car manufacturers at the moment and the situation can change from week to week. Check with the Nissan website or your local dealer for current availability and ordering times.
Pretty much every car company on the planet now makes a mid-size crossover model, and they all tend to follow a very similar shape.
The Qashqai is no different, with the main visual interest being some dramatically styled headlights and diagonal lines at the front. The rest of the car is pretty generic family wagon in its looks.
What really lifted our test model was its bright pearlescent blue paintwork (Magnetic Blue in Nissan-speak) as shown in the images on these pages, which is a £745 extra. Given all the boring black and grey cars that dominate most car parks these days, the bright blue Nissan was a breath of fresh air.
Step inside and it’s again all very conventional family car stuff. As is the trend across the industry, it’s all depressingly black everywhere inside, while the dashboard layout has the usual high-mounted infotainment touchscreen for controlling most things.
The car we reviewed benefitted from a panoramic glass roof (standard on higher trim levels, optional on lower models), which brightened things up considerably. With the shade closed, or without the glass roof, it’s quite dark inside.
We like: Front-end styling looks distinctive, (optional) bright blue colour looks fantastic
We don’t like: All-black interior is depressing and dark
What do you get for your money?
With first impressions out of the way, it’s time to look a bit harder at exactly what you’re getting for your money with the Nissan Qashqai.
The first piece of good news is that all versions of the Qashqai get a complete set of safety systems and a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP. Nissan should be applauded for this, because many manufacturers will skimp on certain features for entry-level models, forcing you to either pay extra or upgrade to higher trim levels to get extra accident prevention equipment.
The range kicks off with the entry-level Visia trim, which is only available with the entry-level petrol engine (140hp) and only with a manual gearbox. As of August 2022, pricing starts at just over £26K. While you get all the safety kit – including adaptive cruise control – you do miss out on most of the comfort and convenience features that pricier models get. And that’s the way it should be, although it does mean that the Visia is probably not the best value pick of the range.
As you go up the range, you get a steadily increasing number of niceties. Acenta Premium adds about £2.5K, but you do get a decent uplift on kit for that. This includes alloy wheels instead of steel, a proper touchscreen display which allows for a reversing camera as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections, and other nice-to-have extras.
Next up is the mid-spec N-Connecta, which is the model we’re reviewing here and starts at just under £31K. This gets bigger alloy wheels (18-inch instead of 17-inch), a larger central touchscreen (12-inch instead of 8-inch) as well as a full digital instrument display for the driver, and various other trinkets. In our opinion, this is probably the sweet spot in value-for-money terms, as you get plenty of essentially family-friendly features that are missing from lower trim levels, like privacy glass for the rear windows, parking sensors both front and rear, extra USB points (both Type A and Type C) for charging gadgets, lots of luggage hooks and a bigger central screen.
Beyond that are the Teka and Teka+ models, which add luxuries rather than essentials. Great if your budget will comfortably stretch that far, but you’re starting to push up into a price point that then compares to some other premium-brand alternatives. You’re probably also not going to get much benefit on resale value, so you’d have to really want those extras to make it worthwhile.
Tekna (starting at just over £33K) gets a head-up display, Nissan’s ProPilot semi-autonomous driving assistant, electric driver’s seat, heated front seats/steering wheel/windscreen, wireless charging pad, even bigger (19-inch) alloy wheels and so on.
Finally, the top-spec Tekna+ (starting at just under £37K, although not available with the base-level engine) gets even bigger 20-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a Bose stereo upgrade and a partridge in a pear tree.
If you want an automatic transmission with your petrol engine, Nissan calls it Xtronic, which is jargon for a continuously variable transmission. That means no gears like a conventional gearbox, so it’s quite efficient but tends to produce a drone-like sound rather than the usual rise and fall that corresponds with your road speed like a normal gearbox.
The e-Power version is only available as an automatic as it’s driven by an electric motor so it has no gearbox.
We like: All the safety is standard on every model, rather than costing extra
We don’t like: More trim choices than really necessary, no plug-in hybrid or EV choices
What’s the Nissan Qashqai like inside?
Having been somewhat underwhelmed by the Qashqai cabin at first glance, it’s time to explore things in more detail. We drove the mid-spec N-Connecta model, but the exact spec varies quite a bit depending on how much you’re spending.
The layout inside is very similar to most new family cars, with a high-mounted central touchscreen to control the stereo, satnav and several other things. Thankfully, Nissan has retained separate physical controls for the heating and cooling, which makes them easy to adjust on the go.
The cabin materials tend to be ‘hard-wearing’ rather than ‘sumptuous’. Everything feels solid enough but some of the plastics feel a bit cheap, so the perceived quality falls below what you might experience in (for example) a Volkswagen Tiguan.
Cabin space up front is pretty good in all directions, and the seats and steering wheel have a decent amount of range so drivers of any size should be able to get comfortable. In the back, space is also completely sufficient for kids and adults of normal height. A tall adult sitting in the back behind another tall adult in the front will struggle for kneeroom and legroom, but that’s pretty much the same on any similarly sized car.
The boot is also a good size – some other cars might be slightly bigger, but most households will find the Qashqai offers more than enough space for all the usual family requirements. If you want roof rails for mounting roof racks, they’re standard on Tekna and Tekna+ models, and optional on lower trim levels. Alternatively, Nissan dealers should be able to fit the rails afterwards if your car doesn’t have them.
The touchscreen works well enough for all your usual music and navigation activities – it’s never going to be as good as proper buttons and knobs for easy controlling on the move, but that ship appears to have well and truly sailed in the car industry (touchscreens are cheaper, you see, so car companies are busy trying to convince us all that we really do want them, despite them being universally rubbish to operate in a moving vehicle).
Every model Qashqai except the base Visia gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you’ll probably never need to use the factory nav system. There are sockets for both USB-A (older) and USB-C (newer) cables, so you can charge pretty much any device. A wireless charging pad is standard on Tekna/Tekna+ models, and optional on the N-Connecta. For base models, you’ll have to be plugged in to charge.
We like: Space should be adequate for most families in all seats and boot
We don’t like: Touchscreen controls are never as good as physical switches
What’s the Nissan Qashqai like to drive?
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. The manual gearbox and clutch on the Qashqai may not be the worst I’ve ever experienced in a new car, but they’re pretty close to it.
The gearbox has almost no feeling, so you tend to guess where you’re supposed to be moving the lever to change up or down a gear. Meanwhile, the clutch bite point is very high, so just as you think it’s not engaging, suddenly it locks into gear and you jerk away.
I honestly thought I’d somehow forgotten how to drive in my first ten minutes with the Qashqai, it was so bad. I had to jump back into my own car (also a manual) just to check that I hadn’t suffered a mystery head injury. So, if you’re thinking about a new Qashqai, get the automatic rather than the manual.
Moving on (in a jerky, kangaroo-hopping fashion), once you settle into a gear and don’t need to change, the Qashqai is a perfectly reasonable family car to drive. It’s certainly not exciting, but that’s not a criticism. It’s predictable, easily directed via light but direct steering, and has decent visibility for a modern car.
Most prospective customers in this market segment are unlikely to be expecting sports car performance, and the Qashqai does everything you’d expect of a solid family car. Performance from the 158hp petrol engine is adequate rather than impressive, although it’s better than you might expect. That’s thanks to the mild hybrid aspect of the engine, which assists with performance and economy.
A small electric motor supports the petrol engine for a bit of extra boost when it’s needed, giving you additional performance over and above the 158hp produced from petrol power. It also runs some of the on-board electrics when you don’t need the additional performance, which reduces the load on the engine to improve your fuel economy.
Official fuel consumption from the petrol engine with the manual gearbox is about 44mpg, and in our experience over a week, mid-high 30s was certainly achievable in real-world driving conditions. Compared to impressive-sounding lab figures from most car companies, that might not sound particularly impressive, but most cars don’t get near their official figures anyway.
You don’t feel anything to alert you to the fact the engine is a mild hybrid unit, which is normal. The Qashqai can’t run on electrical power like in a regular or plug-in hybrid, so the engine will always be needed to drive the wheels while the electric motor provides some support in the background.
It’s still not going to feel particularly fast, especially if you have three or four people and some luggage on board, but it’s perfectly reasonable for a family car. Noise levels are average and ride quality is reasonable. In other words, the Qashqai does everything well enough without standing out in any significant way.
We like: Mild hybrid system works seamlessly to give better performance than you might expect
We don’t like: Manual gearbox and clutch are awful
A lot of this review does sound like we’re damning the Nissan Qashqai with faint praise, but actually it’s an indication of how competent it is for pretty much every aspect of family life. It’s a great all-round performer that will serve most households in a most satisfactory manner. It’s absolutely fit for purpose as a family car.
The mid-sized SUV class is a part of the market where you’re certainly spoilt for choice. Several of these rivals are outstanding in a particular area, but few are as complete a package as the Nissan Qashqai.
The mid-spec N-Connecta version is a good choice if your budget allows for it. The Tekna above is an extra £2,500 and adds some nice luxury features and is also good value, while the Acenta Premium is £2,000 cheaper but you do lose quite a few nice-to-have features. Tekna+ is more than £7,000 dearer and probably not worth the extra money, especially since it won’t add much in the way of resale value.
That said, we’d absolutely avoid the manual version and stick to an automatic if you’re looking at the petrol engine. The e-Power version of the Qashqai is a significantly better car altogether, which we’ll be covering in a separate review. It is more expensive, however, so you’d be weighing up driving experience against luxuries.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that the Qashqai is designed and built here in the UK, so every vehicle sold is good for jobs, exports and the economy. That will be of more importance to some buyers than others, but you can be certain that you don’t have to compromise by buying a British-built car.
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Model tested: Nissan Qashqai 1.3-litre petrol manual (158hp) N-Connecta
Price (as tested): £33,745
Engine: 1.3-litre petrol with mild hybrid support
Gearbox: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power: 158 hp
Torque: 260 Nm
Top speed: 128 mph
0-62 mph: 9.5 seconds