The Qashqai’s dead easy to drive thanks to its raised driving position and comfortable suspension but the optional automatic gearbox blunts performance
You can get the Nissan Qashqai with two petrol and two diesel engines, and with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a CVT automatic. You can also get the most powerful 1.6-litre diesel version with four-wheel drive – handy if you live somewhere prone to slippery winter conditions.
If, however, you live in the heart of suburbia and consequently do lots of town driving pick the 1.2-litre petrol model. It’s both quieter and smoother than the diesels and will return around 40mpg (compared with Nissan’s claimed 50.4mpg).
If you do lots of miles you’ll want to consider one of the Qashqai’s diesel engines. The 110hp 1.5-litre model is just about nippy enough to keep up with fast-moving motorway traffic and will return approximately 55mpg in the real world.
Unlike some SUVs, the Nissan Qashqai doesn’t pretend to be capable of tackling tricky off-road trails – instead its efforts are focused on being one of the comfiest family cars on-road
The more powerful 130hp 1.6-litre diesel is a better bet if you regularly tow trailers. It’s a little noisier than the smaller 1.5-litre model, doesn’t feel that much quicker and will struggle to return more than 50mpg but it’ll make lighter work of carrying five adults and a boot full of heavy luggage.
The Nissan Qashqai comes with a smooth six-speed manual gearbox as standard but you can get a CVT automatic on 1.6-litre diesel and 1.2-litre petrol models. It’ll help take some of the stress out of long journeys and very heavy traffic but it makes the engine drone loudly when you accelerate hard and makes the Nissan Qashqai feel particularly sluggish.
The Qashqai’s larger than most conventional family cars but it’s still a breeze to drive around town, once you get used to the snatchy brakes. Its raised driving position gives you a good view out over the road ahead and the door pillars beside the windscreen don’t cause any particularly large blind spots at junctions.
It’s pretty easy to manoeuvre too, but you can get a wide range of extra tech to help make parking as stress-free as possible. Pick the Smart Vision pack if you want front and rear parking sensors or go for an N-Connecta car to get a 360-degree surround-view camera that shows a bird’s eye view of your car and its surroundings. For those dying to show off, Tekna and Tekna+ models get an automatic parking feature that’ll steer for you into parallel and bay spaces.
The Nissan Qashqai is one of the most comfortable family SUVs to drive, both around town and on the motorway. Its suspension does a great job of ironing out small imperfections in poorly maintained roads and it’s especially good at softening the jarring thud of large potholes. This is helped be a system (fitted to Acenta models and above) that dabs the brakes to cushion the suspension’s rebound over bumps.
Another clever bit of kit is the ProPilot semi-autonomous driving assistant, which is a combination of safety assists that, at the push of a button on the steering wheel, take over steering and braking, essentially driving the Nissan Qashqai for you. All you need to do is keep your hands on the steering wheel. It’s a great comfort feature that needs to be experienced for the best effect.
On top of that, you’ll hear barely any wind noise at speed, so it’s easy to travel long distances without feeling particularly fatigued – especially if you avoid the larger 18-inch wheels fitted to N-Connecta models. They make the Nissan Qashqai feel slightly more bumpy around town and produce a noticeable roar at motorway speeds.
On the upside, Euro NCAP awarded the Nissan Qashqai a five-star safety rating when it was tested in 2014. The evaluations have been made significantly stricter since then, however, but you can get Acenta cars and above with a few optional safety features for greater peace of mind. Nissan’s Smart Vision pack comes with automatic emergency braking (that’ll apply the brakes if it detects an obstacle in the road ahead), traffic sign recognition and lane departure warning as standard.