What is it?
Nissan’s oddly named Qashqai started life in 2008 wearing the Dualis moniker.
The small SUV competes in one of the hottest segments of the Australian market where it goes up against no fewer than 25 brands and dozens of variants, all trying to tempt the buying public.
Fortunately for Nissan, the Qashqai well-and-truly holds its own.
Sales figures for November show only Mitsubishi’s somewhat elderly ASX and Mazda’s CX-3 outsold the Nissan.
Almost a decade after its launch the wagon has just entered a third generation.
The diesel has been dropped and the only power plant is now a naturally aspirated, direct-injection 2.0-litre petrol engine that’s good for 106kW of power and 200Nm of torque, the latter from 4400 revs.
While Nissan claims a fuel consumption figure of 6.9L/100km, we achieved 8.2L during the national media drive program.
The name by the way is taken from a largely nomadic group of pastoralists in Iran that comprises a conglomeration of clans.
Now you (and I) know.
What’s it cost?
The new front-wheel-drive-only Qashqai range opens with the $26,490 six-speed manual ST (CVT auto adds $2500).
Next up the pecking order is the CVT-only ST-L, with its $32,990 price tag, followed by the N-TEC (CVT) at $36,490.
The N-TECH will be replaced in the middle of next year by the Ti and will tip the scales at $37,990.
For this test, we selected the ST-L, which given its impressive inventory of standard kit, looks to be the pick.
ST-L’s list of goodies includes: 18-inch alloys, LED daytime runners, an electric parking brake with auto-hold function, cruise control, six-speaker audio with digital radio, rear-view camera, intelligent engine braking, heated electric folding mirrors, satellite navigation, heated front seats, and an intelligent around-view monitor with moving-object detection.
Also standard are fog lights, roof rails, a shark-fin antenna, Bluetooth audio streaming, a rear roof spoiler and a combination of leather and graphite-cloth seat trim, and of course, air conditioning.
With all of this – and more – it’s hard to see anything at the price that can match it.
The latest model features styling tweaks, handsome new alloys, classier interior trim, intelligent emergency braking with forward-collision warning, revised suspension settings, enhanced safety credentials and a reduction in noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).
Climb behind the wheel of the ST-L and you’re immediately struck by how classy the interior looks.
There is a blend of mostly soft plastic with with just enough highlights to enhance things visually.
The front seats are beautifully shaped with sports-car-like bolstering that really supports the driver and passenger, even during the tightest, most enthusiastic cornering.
Even the rear bench seat has some subtle bolstering for added comfort and support.
With a height-and-reach-adjustable, sporty-looking, leather-wrapped wheel and plenty of power adjustment for the driver’s seat, dialling up the perfect driving position is a cinch.
Getting behind the wheel for the first time you immediately become aware of the excellent driver ergonomics, with just about all controls for air and the 7.0-inch touch screen perfectly positioned.
Families will find plenty of storage options for bits and pieces.
These cubby holes include a good, deep glove box, an equally deep two-level bin beneath the centre-console armrest, four bottle-friendly door pockets, front-and-rear cup holders, two open bins in the centre console and a small one at the back for the rear-seat passengers.
There are also map pockets behind the front-seat backs but no roof-mounted holder for sunglasses.
With the rear seats occupied, there’s 430 litres of cargo space – fold down the rear seats and this rises to 1598 litres.
For added cabin practicality, the rear-seat backs split 60:40.
What’s it go like?
Out on the road the improvements in NVH are immediately noticeable.
Like pretty-well all four-pot engines, under aggressive acceleration, Qashqai’s “four” screams a bit – but most of the time you’re hardly aware of its presence.
Road and wind noise are also kept to a minimum at cruising speeds.
There is improved noise sealing for the front doors and thicker rear-door glass and the car’s drag co-efficient has been reduced from 0.33 to 0.32.
On a drive program that started and finished at Melbourne airport and was based out of Daylesford, we got to test the Qashqai on a variety of good and bad bitumen roads, as well as a stretch of rough bush gravel.
The car rides on a MacPherson strut front suspension with an equally independent multi-link rear arrangement.
Engineers at the company’s European technical centre have stiffened the anti-roll bar, locked in new spring rates and updated the dampers.
The result is a firmer, almost-sporty ride and as a result the car sits flatter during spirited cornering with hardly a hint of body roll.
The stiffer suspension makes the car a bit jittery on rough gravel and it certainly didn’t enjoy a couple of big potholes that my co-driver and I were unable to avoid.
One of the stand-out improvements is in the steering department.
The car is now fitted with what Nissan calls “active return control” that makes the wheel return more naturally to “top dead centre.”
Also on the ride-and-handling menu is intelligent trace control, a system that improves cornering control by applying the brakes to individual wheels.
Intelligent ride control also uses braking to enhance torque delivery after a bump, with adjustable steering that allows the driver to select his or her favourite feel – that is, sport or normal.
Qashqai’s CVT transmission has seven pre-programed ratios for use in manual mode . . . but that means using the stick because there are no paddles.
Most drivers will probably just leave it in “drive” and they’ll find it perfectly adequate.
It does however “flare” noticeably under hard acceleration.
Because of this, and the car’s modest 200 Nm of torque, don’t expect too much when it comes to overtaking.
That said, in manual mode, down-shifts are especially slick and seamless.
Safety-wise, the ST-L scores a five-star ANCAP rating .
What we like?
- Classy interior
- Handsome body styling
- Top-line safety credentials with autonomous emergency braking now standard
- More overall refinement
What we don’t?
- CVT not one of the best
- No rear-seat air vents
- Stingy 3-year warranty
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Space-saver spare
The bottom Line?
It’s hard not to like the Qashqai. It’s very much an around-town vehicle with plenty of family practicality. Size-wise it sits between a small and medium SUV.
While the new Nissan cruises quite happily on the open road, but when it comes to overtaking something like a B-double – you need to make sure you’ve got plenty of clear road ahead to get the job done.
Nissan Qashqai, priced from $24,690