Nissan has put its popular Qashqai through the barber shop for a light refresh before a renewed assault on the compact SUV segment. Gracefully ageing, some work below the surface promises better ride and handling as well as the latest safety and driver assistance systems.
The N-Tec here tops the line-up for now and gets nearly all of the best tech Nissan can currently put into its consistent selling SUV before the range topping Ti arrives.
Nissan has refreshed its popular compact SUV for 2018 and while some things stay the same, such as the 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine and CVT transmission, some things are gone, like the grunty 1.6-litre diesel.
The N-Tec on test currently tops the Qashqai model line-up before the Ti, which had a production hiccup, arrives in July.
Until then, buyers can either pony up a comparatively pricey $36,490 for the launch edition N-Tec or wait until the $1500 more expensive Ti arrives with additional adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and Nappa leather interior.
Otherwise, the gear shared between the two models are similar, and the revised front and rear styling is joined by new 19-inch alloy wheels, restyled LED headlights, panoramic sunroof, partial leather and fabric trim seats, dual-zone climate control and front and rear parking sensors.
Additional safety and driver assistance systems include a 360-degree birdseye camera, 7.0-inch infotainment with reversing camera and guidelines, parking assistant, blind-spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning.
Exported from the UK, the 2018 update is equipped with better technology and nicer materials inside. It’s also inside that helps differentiate the Qashqai from rivals such as the Toyota C-HR and Mazda CX-3 that struggle to offer the same spaciousness available here.
- Standard Equipment: Partial leather seats with electric adjustment and heating function, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights, leather steering wheel, cruise control, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, USB input and 360-degree camera.
- Cargo Volume: 430 litres to seats, 1598 litres to front row
A new flat-bottom leather-bound steering wheel greets the driver and is a noticeable upgrade over the previous model. It adds to the improved fit and finish elsewhere with hard plastics replaced by soft touch surfaces and an overall increase in attention to detail.
While the Qashqai isn’t shy about packing in features for dollars it’s the interior dimensions that really set it apart, and there’s workable space for a fledgling family, a dog and carting gear.
Rear seat appointments are minimal – there are no vents or USB ports – but leg room is acceptable for adults and good for kids. Up front the footwells are deep and enough seat adjustment provides a comfortable position for tall and short drivers. The vision out the front is good and the high seat provides the expected in-command SUV driving position.
New for the N-Tec are hidden interior red LEDs that provide a subtle ambience and match this the vehicle’s cost-option Magnetic Red metallic paint. The infotainment system isn’t new though and its comparatively small 7.0-inch size and low-resolution graphics aren’t up to the latest displays that are crisp and easy to navigate. The lack of Apple CarPlay exacerbates the fact and connectivity is restricted to Bluetooth and basic iPod USB connection.
The instrument cluster adds a small TFT screen between the two traditional binnacles and there’s no heads-up display but the boot bests all but the Honda HR-V for space with 430 litres on offer – 7 litres less than the Honda– and has a class-leading 1598 litres with the seats down.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder, 106kW @6000rpm, 200Nm @4400rpm
- Transmission: CVT, front wheel drive
- Suspension: McPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension
- Brakes: 296mm front discs, 290mm rear discs
- Steering: Electric power steering
The carryover 2.0-litre petrol engine produces the same 106kW at 6000rpm and 200Nm at 4400rpm as before and is mated to a CVT driving the front-wheels only. The drivetrain isn’t particularly inspiring but the CVT does a good job of using the motor’s sweet spot, not flaring unless a hill or overtaking manoeuvre requires more grunt.
It doesn’t have the torque pull of the defunct 320Nm diesel and suffers for any sort of athletic ability, feeling sluggish when worked hard, but the thin rubber 19-inch alloys only confirm the Qashqai’s status as a suburban hauler and not a part-time rugged weekend warrior.
And those smart-looking big wheels also compromise some compliance and don’t provide the plusher comfort of high profile tyres, but a revised chassis tune and retuned dampers has improved ride and handling beyond the previous model.
Additional sound deadening insulation and new cabin glass are said to dumb down outside noise, and they do, but there’s some muffled roar on coarse chip surfaces from the 225mm wide tyres that isn't uncommon in this segment.
However, there’s enough poise on corners and stability on the highway that the Qashqai feels confident if not quick, and it’s revised but still light steering feel will please leisurely drivers.
Driving through traffic is no different than most rivals – relatively effortless but requiring a firm prod for overtaking - and it’s only when pushing on that the engine feels underpowered.
5 Stars - the Nissan Qashqai scored 36.56 out of 37 points when it was tested in 2017.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side and curtain airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, lane-departure warning and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: Every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first. Nissan offers capped-price servicing for the first six years or 120,000km.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Mazda CX-3 is a sharper more contemporary looking machine but it feels much tighter inside and doesn’t offer the spacious practicality of the Qashqai.
The Honda HR-V pips the Nissan for room in the boot, just, but is stripped of some creature comforts and technology the Qashqai gets, as well as having a more conservative look.
The Toyota C-HR is a new comer that brings exciting but polarising style and a competent but uninspiring driveline into the compact segment but again, it has a tighter feeling interior.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Nissan’s Qashqai has been a consistent seller and while this refresh is a light nip and tuck some of the interior changes elevate the spacious interior into one of the better available in its segment.
While not the best in class it is one of the most suitable for small families and owners who need a bit more space than the average compact SUV.
But the Ti model with its adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and Nappa leather interior is close around the corner, and the N-Tec, at only a slight discount, makes less sense unless the deal is good.
- Interested in buying Nissan Qashqai? Visit our Nissan Qashqai showroom for more information.