Vehicle Style: Small SUV
Price: $25,850 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 106kW/200Nm 2.0 petrol 4cyl | 6 spd manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.7 l/100km | tested: 8.9 l/100km
Nissan is no stranger to SUVs. It's got seven separate models currently on offer in Australia, more available overseas and the potential for additions (like the Navara-based wagon) to arrive on these shores.
But now, the Qashqai is ready to take its turn - stepping in for the Dualis (it's the new generation of the same product).
This time the Qashqai takes the strengths of the Dualis, and adds a healthy dose of refinement and style.
The Qashqai also takes some of the product confusion out of the wider range by offering only five seats and front wheel drive, leaving the bigger X-trail as the AWD or seven-seat option.
Is there room in the range for the Qashqai? We think so, and after a week in the entry-level Qashqai ST we discovered some very affable qualities.
- Cloth seat trim, leather steering wheel and gear knob.
- Infotainment: 4-speaker AM/FM/CD audio with 5-inch colour display, USB audio input, iPod compatibility, Bluetooth and NissanConnect smartphone interface with Pandora, Facebook and Google search apps.
- Standard features: reverse camera, manual air conditioning, cruise control, multi-function trip computer.
- Boot capacity - 430 litres seats up, 1585 litres seats down.
There’s a few silver highlights to dress things up a bit, but the ST goes without the treats of the higher-grade models. In other words, plenty of matte black here; you won't find the chrome, gloss black, and ambient-lit highlights of other models.
Space is impressive, despite relatively squat styling the Qashqai feels broad inside.
There’s ample room up front and plenty of adjustment from seat and steering wheel to get set up comfortably.
The back seat is set low, it’s also fairly flat and the sweeping window line of the rear doors blocks visibility.
Kids might not like the view out (so they’d better be busy on their iPhones), adults will perhaps only enjoy short hops and driver’s will have a chore checking their blind spots.
Moving to the rear and the boot, while not huge, is generous enough with 430 litres available seats-up, growing to 1585 litres with the 60/40 seatback folded.
Again, the ST does without the clever dividable cargo area of higher spec models, but still scores four cargo hooks.
There’s also a bottle holder in each door, four cupholders, small front map pockets and properly thought out spaces for your phone, wallet and keys in the centre console.
ON THE ROAD
- 106kW/200Nm 1.6 litre naturally aspirated petrol inline four.
- Six-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive.
- MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear suspension.
- Disc brakes all around. Electronic parking brake.
- 17-inch alloy wheels.
On paper, the Qashqai petrol models don’t offer breathtaking figures, with 106kW at 6000rpm and 200Nm at 4400 from 2.0 litres capacity.
Not exactly over-stressed, but nonetheless up to the task (not to mention the potential benefit to engine longevity suggested by those relaxed figures).
The six-speed manual is easy enough to row through the gate, but the clutch feel lacks definition though it is light to operate.
You’ll adjust to it, but you may find yourself riding the clutch a little without realising while you get used to the feel.
We have to point a finger at the aggressive hill-hold function too - it hangs on just a fraction too long, holding the Qashqai stationary while you pile on revs, before letting go with a healthy dose of bunny-hop.
It’s not switchable either, and, really, should operate less intrusively.
On a country jaunt there is little to complain about. The Qashqai loves the open road, is quiet and comfortable and shows good fuel figures during level cruising.
For overtaking it pays to give it plenty of beans, but there’s enough urge underfoot to glide past slower moving traffic.
Ride comfort is fine for taking the edge off some of the worst tarmac we could find. There’s a firmer feel to the rear than the front, giving a slightly ‘off’ characteristic to the ride in some conditions.
At the wheel the Qashqai turns in sharply, but the high-riding stance limits cornering capability. There’s also two-mode electric steering hidden in the trip computer functions.
Normal mode felt a touch too jittery at freeway speeds but was handy in car parks, while Sport was the preferred option, firming things up just so.
This setting could really do with an easy-to-access dash button though.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 36.56 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, active ride control, active trace control, ABS, EBD, brake assist, hill start assist and six airbags are standard on every Qashqai variant.
Each seat has a three-point seatbelt and adjustable head restraints, up front there’s load limiting pretensioners, plus height adjustable seatbelts while the rear features 2x ISOFIX anchorages and 3x top-tether child-seat points.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Jostling for showroom attention alongside the Qashqai is a broad range of competitive products.
If something smaller is in order try the Holden Trax, Cavernous interior? Skoda Yeti. Prefer to keep it more car-like? Try a Suzuki S-cross or Subaru XV.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
But also if refinement, roadholding, space or comfort matter more, because, frankly, the Qashqai is the car the Pulsar deserves to be.
With sharp looks, a well-presented interior and reasonable list of equipment the Qashqai is thoroughly good enough to challenge the small SUV class.
If ever there was a Goldilocks story in the new car market, the Qashqai would be the star - it’s not too small inside, not too thirsty, not to big for the city and not too anonymous to look at.
For many shoppers in the category the Qashqai might be ‘just right’ amongst the rising tide of small SUVs.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- ST 2.0L six-speed manual - $25,850
- ST 2.0L Xtronic - $28,490
- Ti 2.0L six-speed manual - $32,490
- Ti 2.0L Xtronic - $34,990
- TS 1.6L turbo diesel Xtronic - $33,200
- TL 1.6L turbo diesel Xtronic - $37,990