The Nissan Qashqai brings more of you to carwow than virtually any other car. As one of the UK’s top sellers in its previous iteration, that’s no real surprise – it simply covers most of the bases that family car buyers look for these days.
We’ve driven the Qashqai before, but we were eager to test it out for a week to see what it’s like to live with – and to see how it copes with the sort of normal, everyday driving it’s destined to end up doing in the hands of customers. Will it achieve top marks, as it did on first acquaintance? Read on to find out.
As we noted in our first test, the Qashqai’s styling is a departure from the previous model’s understated looks, but not truly distinctive in its own right. The LED daytime running lights give the Qashqai a neat signature – and it’s easy to spot others on the road via this method – but Nissan has played it safe with the styling.
There’s a hint of Mazda CX-5 to the rear, and the side profile reminds us a little of Hyundai’s ix35. The front is all-Nissan, and it’s sure to become a familiar face, as the updated Juke goes with something similar, as does the all-new X-Trail, and Nissan’s upcoming Pulsar will also carry the Qasqhai’s visage.
However, the styling does hit the right notes. It’s chunkier than before, and black sill and arch extensions and bumper details contrast strongly with this car’s Storm White pearlescent paint. We’re not keen on the colour, actually – 725 is a bit much for something that looks quite plain.
The other thing you might notice about the Qashqai is that it seems much larger than before. It isn’t, particularly, but the styling (and the high bonnet line) both give it much more visual presence than the meek old model.
Like the exterior, the Qashqai’s innards aren’t ground-breaking. They do work well, however, and should serve the average family quite happily.
There’s plenty of space front and rear, though the rear seats can get a little tight if the driver or front passenger is particularly tall. The pews are definitely comfortable though – supportive and soft for the driver, while a friend had no complaints to report over a longer journey. Finding the right driving position is a doddle – both seat and wheel adjust in a multitude of directions.
Dashboard plastics are a step above the old model, and while hard surfaces do permeate the lower levels of the dash, they should be hardy. And you probably won’t be prodding them that often anyway. More importantly, switches on the wheel and dash feel chunky, and should stand up to use.
Controls are clear and the car’s touchscreen display works well – though some of the functions are a little small, so need a couple of glances while you drive. No complaints about the boot – it’s easy to load, has a respectable 430 litres of space, and a split-level floor to accommodate smaller items or separate cargo. The rear seats also flip forward with little effort.
Perhaps the best thing about the Qasqhai’s on-road manners is its ride quality. Some of the roads on our Yorkshire test route are truly terrible – pot-holed streets, uneven tarmac and bumpy country roads – and the Qashqai dealt with them all.
It doesn’t have the true wafting abilities of a luxury car – a symptom of the car’s taller body, necessitating slightly stiffer springs and dampers to counteract a natural tendency to roll in corners – but it deals with poor surfaces about as well as any family car on sale. A generous tyre profile has to be partly responsible – we’d resist the temptation to fit bigger, blingier wheels with a lower profile tyre just to maintain the cossetting ride.
In terms of handling, its abilities are only average – but we mean that in a positive way. The Qasqhai won’t get you out of bed at 5am for a traffic-free blast, but it’s not designed for that – instead, it has enough grip, enough steering response and enough balance to ease away a commute, or the school run, or a trip abroad.
It’s particularly adept on the motorway, in fact, where it feels stable and refinement is above average for the class. Wind and tyre noise is low and as we’ll find out, the engine is hardly noisy either. Visibility is restricted out the back thanks to the large rear pillars and rising beltline though, so one or two extra checks in both city driving and on the motorway would be advised.
Under that chunky bonnet line is quite a modest engine – a 108-horsepower 1.5-litre dCi diesel engine, shared with Nissan’s partner Renault.
On paper, as you might expect, things are unimpressive. Aim for 60 mph and you’ll take 11.9 seconds to get there, and top speed is 113 mph. Frankly, doing either seems like hard work for the engine, which strains above about 3,500 rpm and begins to get a bit noisy.
But how often does this scenario actually occur in day-to-day driving? Much more useful is the Qashqai’s urge between 1,500 and 3,000 rpm, where its 191 lb-ft of torque comes into play. Remain between these limits and the dCi is both smooth and quiet, and moves down the road quite purposefully.
It doesn’t like driving below 1,500 rpm, unlike some diesels, taking on a lethargic gait and often suggesting you pick a lower gear. But the slick gearbox and light clutch make changing easy work anyway. At a cruise, or rolling around town, the engine is as quiet as any in the class. The brakes are good too – a little grabby at lower speeds, but you soon adapt.
Value for money
Our test car arrived in Acenta Premium trim, three-quarters through a range that starts with Visia trim, rises through Acenta and Acenta Premium, and stops with the top-end Tekna models.
The spec sheet reveals a price of 23,415 for the car you see here. You can immediately cut that to 22,690 by skipping the white pearlescent paintwork, though regular metallics will add 525 again.
You do get a NissanConnect 7 touchscreen with navigation, digital radio, and CD, USB, AUX and Bluetooth connectivity options for your dosh though, along with auto lights and wipers, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, heated mirrors, a reversing camera, 17 alloys, rear privacy glass, a full glass sunroof and a raft of other goodies.
You also get a car with an official 74 mpg rating and zero-rate VED – something few rivals can offer. Some get close though, making them worth a look if the Qasqhai doesn’t immediately appeal – the Skoda Yeti, Peugeot 3008 and Mazda CX-5 all handle deftly, offer frugal engine options and are also packed with useful kit for similar prices.
The number above says it all – the Qashqai is an excellent car. Our opinion from the car’s launch hasn’t changed after longer exposure – if anything, it’s reinforced it. We knew it rode well, but British roads are a much sterner test than those in Spain. We knew it was comfortable, but four-hour trips are more relevant than a quick hour or two between coffee stops on a launch. And we knew it was frugal, but our eventual mid-50s economy figure still seems impressive for a car of the Qashqai’s bulk.
It is not, and never will be, a car to excite petrolheads. Those who want a bit of sparkle in the drive (or in the styling) will be better served by a Yeti or a CX-5. But we can’t really mark the Qashqai down for that – as a family car, or a commuter, or a long-distance tourer, it just works really, really well. Highly recommended.
For more detail on our Qashqai test car, check out our first impressions and running report reviews. Head over to our full Nissan Qashqai review page for reviews, photos, stats and videos, or why not get quotes from dealers and see how much you could save on a new Qashqai?