Depending on your point of view, Nissan is either the villain or the saviour of driving. For it was in 2007 that Nissan invented a new type of car with the launch of the first Qashqai.
This was the first true ‘crossover’, not really the first true SUV but widely regarded as such. Buyers loved it, sales went through the roof and very soon every manufacturer wanted a crossover in its range.
Today you can buy crossovers wearing every badge from Dacia to Rolls-Royce. The Qashqai that once set the trend is now battling in a very crowded pool, and while it’s still the most popular crossover in the new-car sales top ten, there’s no room for complacency.
So now we have an all-new third-generation Qashqai, not only a vital car for Nissan but also for UK manufacturing. The Qashqai is a British car – designed in London, engineered in Cranfield, Bedfordshire and built at a vast plant in Sunderland. Since 2007, five million have been sold worldwide.
What’s new about the Nissan Qashqai?
Most of the new Qashqai is really new, but also evolved. According to its makers the car retains all the good bits that have made it so popular and enhances the bits where consultation with customers has highlighted room for improvement. We are told it is bolder and better equipped, and crucially safer thanks to additional active technologies.
The Qashqai sits on an all-new platform and Nissan has of course made use of the latest build technology available. Extensive amounts of high-strength steels, aluminium and composites produces a stiffer yet lighter shell, saving around 60 kilos which aids both efficiency and handling. And this despite the car being bigger – 3cm longer with a 2cm wheelbase stretch for more interior room, 3cm wider and 2cm higher too.
The existing petrol engine has been turned into a mild hybrid while there’s a much more clever ‘E-Power’ drivetrain on the way. There are improvements to steering and handling, and a h0st of new technology across the car.
How does it look?
The Qashqai looks like a typical crossover, and as it was the first you could say most crossovers look like a Qashqai… Nissan’s efforts at individuality on the latest version include a larger iteration of the ‘V-Motion’ grille, pencil-slim headlamps with boomerang-shape daytime running lights and a strong ‘fast line’ running along the sides.
As crossovers go, the visuals are reasonably attractive, though in this reviewer’s opinion the start of that ‘fast line’ at the front corner could be confused for a poor panel gap. One major visual highlight comes on top-spec Tekna+ models (as seen in the images below), the 20-inch alloy wheels, bigger than anything we’ve previously seen on a Qashqai. Cars with these wheels fitted also get a multi-link rear suspension setup replacing the usual torsion beam on other models.
What’s the spec like?
Qashqai trim levels number five, from the Visia starting at £23,535 to the Tekna+ costing from £34,175. Entry-level specification is impressive, particularly in terms of safety – all versions come with an extensive active safety package including intelligent cruise control, autonomous braking in both forwards and reverse and blind-spot intervention.
However to enjoy most of the desirable new technology on offer – particularly digital additions to the cabin, you really need to go at least mid-spec N-Connecta versions, costing from £28,305.
Top-spec Tekna models get a new safety feature, Adaptive Beam Assist, which can split the headlamp high beam into 12 individually controlled segments to give the driver the best view ahead while not dazzling oncoming vehicles. And Nissan’s ProPilot driver aid (available with auto-gearbox Tekna models) has been improved, both keeping the car in the centre of its lane and anticipating curves, junctions and the likes. It even reads road signs and adjusts speed to match.
What’s the Nissan Qashqai like inside?
The Qashqai interior has undergone an extensive makeover, lifting it well above the previous model (not before time) though not quite to the attractive, stylish design of some of the car’s rivals. On N-Connecta versions upwards the dash is dominated by a nine-inch NissanConnect display screen, mounted atop the centre console and working in conjunction with the driver’s digital instrument panel, now some 12 inches wide. Go for the top Tekna and Tekna+ specs and you also get an 11-inch head-up display projected onto the screen.
The Qashqai has always been a reasonably spacious SUV and the more generous dimensions of the new one adds to this, with in the back 2cm more knee room, 3cm more shoulder room and a tiny increase above one’s head. At 504 litres, boot space is very much at the bigger end of the segment.
Fit and finish is generally good – the seats are comfortable and, if you are prepared to pay, you can enjoy such technology as massaging your back while on the move, once upon a time the kind of niceties you only found in the premium market.
What’s under the bonnet?
Initial versions of the third-generation Qashqai come with a 1.3-litre petrol engine in 140hp and 158hp varieties but it’s very different to its predecessor. It’s now a mild hybrid, making use of braking energy to both reduce emissions and smooth out the stop-start function. The 0-62mph times range from 9.2 seconds to 10.2 seconds depending on model while full mpg and CO2 figures are yet to be released – our less than scientific test route around traffic-choked Watford was producing fuel economy close to 40mpg.
More interesting is the engine to come – Nissan has a goal of 50% of its European sales by 2024 being “electrified” and joining the Qashqai range later will be ‘e-Power’ series hybrid units. The sole function of the 1.5-litre petrol engine is to generate the electricity for the electric motor that drives the wheels. Nissan says you get many of the benefits of EVs but without any need to recharge batteries.
The Qashqai is available in both front and all-wheel-drive form and instead of the six-speed manual transmission the 158hp engine can be specified with Nissan’s latest Xtronic auto ‘box, upgraded over its predecessor and notably now a CVT.
What’s the Nissan Qashqai like to drive?
At the launch event we ere able to try cars with 158hp power output, with both manual and automatic transmissions. In manual form, the Qashqai is not exactly the most enthusiastic accelerator from a standstill with plentiful right-foot required, but once on the move it settles down to refined progress.
The auto is much better in first getaway, accelerating in very unobtrusive fashion and again proving refined at motorway speeds. Our only slight gripe was with its restarting from stop-start mode which is slightly more shuddery than with the manual.
Nissan says the steering of the Qashqai has undergone a total revamp, with a tighter ratio for more response. Certainly the car is very assured in bends, with confident, precise handling and a lack of body roll. Ride quality is good too, all but the very worst of the south-east’s less than smooth surfaces properly damped before reaching the car’s occupants.
The Qashqai feels larger to drive than it is, and the view through the rear screen appears quite small. But thanks to the technology available it is easy to thread one’s way through tight situations – the ‘around-view’ camera was particularly useful when meeting oncoming traffic during an unplanned excursion down a very single-track road!
Our test car included the windscreen head-up display, which may be “the largest around” but does not intrude on one’s view of the road ahead, in fact working rather seamlessly, especially when providing navigation directions.
An all-new Nissan Qashqai is timely – any manufacturer building an SUV knew it had to try and beat the Nissan first, and several rival brands were beginning to do so. The new model is not particularly revolutionary but it does what Nissan claims it wanted to do – keep all the good bits and add some new and better bits.
The car still drives well, offers lots of space and a quality of fit and finish that compares with most of the competition. The technology additions are generally useful and the safety package top-notch. As a result, don’t expect to see the Qashqai falling out of that new car top ten any time soon.
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