July 18, 2014
Vehicle style: Small 2WD SUV
Engine/trans: 1.6 litre turbo-diesel: 96kW/320Nm | xtronic CVT auto
Fuel consumption listed: 4.9 l/100km | tested: 7.4 l/100km.
Nissan now has the crossover/SUV market neatly blanketed. With the edgy and individual Juke beginning the range, the new Qashqai slots in just above it (replacing the Dualis), and just below the look-alike new X-Trail.
With the Murano, Pathfinder and Patrol, the Japanese brand has a vehicle for every sub-segment of the booming category.
After six years and more than 50,000 Dualis sales in this country, this nameplate has been dropped in favour of the global moniker, Qashqai (pronounced “Cash-Kai” (video), a name taken from a nomadic Middle Eastern tribe).
It’s the top-selling compact SUV in Europe, so Nissan will be hoping that the Qashqai name will also catch on here. (Nissan, remember, has ‘form’ in the silly names game, the Tiida replacing the Pulsar badge among the silliest.)
Nissan Australia boss Richard Emery is confident that it will.
“We really do believe the car can carry off the name change,” he said at the Qashqai’s recent national media launch.
We think he might be right. The new Qashqai is a very well-rounded car.
Quality: This is a quality interior. Everywhere you look in the range-topping TL (the subject of this review) you’ll find appealing surfaces and trims, even in the out-of-the-way places, and a solid tight fit.
Throughout, the plastics have a premium look and feel, the leather trim is soft and evenly grained, and there’s the right balance of chrome, brushed chrome or aluminium-look trim highlights.
A neat touch is the piano-black, flecked to sparkle, on the centre-stack and door trims.
The finish throughout the car is excellent and you really do feel you are getting value from the Qashqai TL’s $37,990 price-tag.
Comfort: The front seats are generously padded with adequate bolstering and plenty of adjustment.
They’re also heated with adjustable lumbar support for the driver.
A good touch is the padded knee rests mounted on each side of the centre console.
While the back seat is bench-like and lacking bolstering for the outer two passengers, there is plenty of head room and a reasonable amount of leg room, even for taller passengers.
Dual-zone climate-control air-con ensures that all are kept nice and cool … or warm.
Equipment: The Qashqai TL is ‘the one with the lot’. In fact, it is one of the most extensively equipped cars I’ve driven at this price-point.
In addition to a suite of driver aids, other standard features include a huge glass panoramic roof, roof rails, a roof-spoiler, LED daytime running lights and automatic high/low headlights.
You’ll also find smart-phone connectivity, rear camera, a seven-inch colour touch-screen, satellite navigation with traffic monitoring, a six-speaker audio system (with all the clever features) and cruise control.
Down below are handsome 19-inch alloy wheels shod with 225/45R19 Continental ContiSport boots.
Then add electric folding mirrors, privacy glass, fog lights, rain-sensing wipers and push-button stop/start with an intelligent key are also on the menu.
Storage: With the rear seats occupied, Qashqai passengers have 430 litres of luggage space at their disposal.
If the 60/40 split rear seats are unoccupied, allowing them to be folded flat, this rises to a handy 1585litres.
There is also a clever two-panel dual-floor system that can be raised or lowered to provide 16 possible storage configurations.
There are front-and-rear cup holders and door pockets, a deep centre-console bin housed beneath the centre armrest, a good-sized glove box, a couple of small console-mounted open trays in the front and another in the back and map pockets behind the front-seat backs.
Unusually these days - and disappointingly - there is no roof-mounted sunglasses holder.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Not many SUVs - especially not small ones - are seen as drivers’ cars.
While there are some dynamic shortcomings in the Qashqai’s softer ‘normal’ mode, switch it into ‘sport’ to sharpen up the steering sensitivity and feedback, and it becomes much more ‘the drivers’ car’.
With height-and-reach adjustment for the handsome leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel, dialling up a comfortable driving position is a breeze.
With its 320Nm of torque, the TL diesel makes light work of hills and overtaking.
It’s a very good unit, sourced through Nissan’s Renault alliance, and transforms the performance of the Qashqai.
The CVT transmission - Nissan calls it the xtronic - is also one of the good ones. It marries very well with the small but torquey diesel, and, like most of the newer CVTs, doesn’t flare uncomfortably when you put the foot down.
Just front-wheel-drive only, it is quite an impressive drivetrain, and really, just right for the kind of driving the Qashqai is designed for - enough zest for a younger buyer, but comfort for a young family.
Ergonomically for the driver, the various knobs and controls are pretty sensibly positioned although the information screen sits too low on the dash. (You have to drop your eyes from the road ahead to read it.)
And, another debit because it is so difficult to fathom, is the automatic park-assist. It works, but not as well as other simpler systems, and it will take you nine months to master it.
Refinement: Despite a noticeable amount of diesel-engine ‘rattle’ at idle and step-off, the new Qashqai is surprisingly refined.
Once up and running, the sound of the engine does not intrude and Nissan engineers have succeeded in minimising wind and road noise.
The top-spec TL that we tested rides on standard 19-inch alloy wheels and tyres and they seemed a bit noisier and more jittery than the lower-spec models with 17-inch wheels.
Ride and handling: With its suite of electronic driver aids, strong brakes and nice ride (even in tight corners), the Qashqai ticks a heap of driveability boxes.
There is a degree of body roll, more noticeable in ‘normal’ mode, and quite a bit of suspension travel. Keen drivers will find the wheel is also a little vague in normal mode, allowing quite a degree of left/right movement before things happen below.
But, despite its front-wheel-drive layout, the new Nissan turns in quite well, particularly in 'sport' mode, and handling is predictable and secure.
Braking: Stopping power comes from ventilated discs at the front and solid discs at the rear. There is an electronic parking brake and the CVT transmission is fitted with an active engine-brake system.
ANCAP RATING: 5-Stars
Safety features: Six airbags (dual-front, dual-side and dual-curtain bags that extend to the second-row seats), stability control, ABS brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist and front seatbelts with load-limiters and pretensioners.
There are ISOFIX child-restraint anchorages and rear-door child-proof locks.
Nissan has taken a bit of criticism for not featuring autonomous emergency braking, when it’s available in European models.
But there is certainly no shortage of driver safety aids like an ‘around view’ monitor that gives a bird’s eye view of the car, rear camera, front-and-rear moving-object detection, park assist, driver-attention support, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning and hill-start assist.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Service costs: Nissan has a six years/120,000 capped-price servicing regime under which the Qashqai is serviced every 10,000km. Depending on how extensive individual services are, prices range from $240 to $705.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Among the diesels, you may wish to also consider:
- Skoda Yeti Outdoor 103 TDI (with AWD) - $33,590
- VW Tiguan Pacific 103TDI 4Motion - $38,890
- Hyundai ix35 Elite AWD diesel - $38,590
Note: all prices are Manufacturers’ List Price and do not include dealer-delivery and on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Believe it or not, you’ve got around 70 different models and variants to choose from in the small SUV segment.
Competitive? It’s gladiatorial.
In fact, back in 2008, the under-$40,000 small SUV segment accounted for some 12,000 sales - last year that figure had ballooned to nearly 70,000.
But the new Nissan Qashqai will put them all on their game.
It looks set to repeat here its success in the European market. For build quality, standard features, technology and family practicality, it is right up there.
And add to that its appealing up-to-the-minute style.
Nissan and its dealers will be hoping that the Qashqai becomes a “cash cow”. My bet is that it will.
It’s good enough and spirited enough to bring a lot of new younger buyers back to Nissan showrooms.
PRICING (drive-away pricing in brackets)
- ST 2.0L six-speed manual - $25,850 ($28,949)
- ST 2.0L Xtronic - $28,490 ($31,667)
- Ti 2.0L six-speed manual - $32,490 ($35,787)
- Ti 2.0L Xtronic - $34,990 ($38,365)
- TS 1.6L turbo diesel Xtronic - $33,200 ($36,521)
- TL 1.6L turbo diesel Xtronic - $37,990 ($41,455)
(Nissan notes: maximum recommended drive-away price for vehicle in Victoria including 12 months’ registration, 12 months’ CTP and applicable statutory charges, dealer delivery and administration charges. Price is based on a private owner aged 40 with a good driving record and the vehicle being garaged in Victoria. Prices may differ depending on State vehicle purchased in and individual’s personal circumstances, and may also vary from dealer to dealer. Premium paint available at additional cost.)