August 29, 2014.
Vehicle Style: Small SUV
Engine/trans: 96kW/320Nm 1.6 turbo diesel 4cyl | CVT automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.9 l/100km | tested: 6.6 l/100km
Don’t recognise the name? That’s because the Dualis moniker has been dropped in favour of the European-market Qashqai badge.
But that’s not all that’s changed. Equipment levels are up, the interior has been modernised and the diesel now gets an automatic CVT gearbox as standard.
Across the board, this is a car that’s greatly improved over the model that preceded it.
We liked it during the local launch, and after spending a week at the wheel of the Qashqai TS diesel, we like it even more.
- Standard features: Leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, keyless entry and ignition, reversing camera, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlamps
- Infotainmet: 6-speaker AM/FM/CD audio with 5-inch colour display, USB audio input, iPod compatibility, NissanConnect smartphone interface with Pandora, Facebook and Google search apps.
- Cloth upholstery, leather steering wheel
- Boot capacity - 430 litres seats up, 1585 litres seats down.
There’s a leather-bound steering wheel, padded centre-console sides, upholstered armrests in the doors and atop the console box.
There's a level of fit and finish that’s generally hard to fault.
The adoption of an electronic parking brake also frees up a lot of space on the centre console, which is appreciated in a car of this size.
However, its placement right under the centre stack can make it a little hard to reach.
The manually-adjusted front seats are well-bolstered and comfortable, and the driving position gives a good view of what’s ahead.
The back seat, however, has little under-thigh support for adults and there’s no face-level ventilation for backseaters.
Equipment levels are healthy, however, with standard dual-zone climate control, proximity key, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a USB audio input, cruise control, power windows, a reversing camera and trip computer all standard.
There’s also Nissan’s NissanConnect smartphone integration system (however we were only able to get the Facebook app to work).
The Pandora and Google Search apps - the latter of which brings a cut-down sat-nav functionality - refused to activate.
Though it’s smaller than the X-Trail, the Qashqai still boasts a sizable 430 litre boot capacity, expandable to 1585 litres by dropping the 60/40 split rear seats.
A false floor also boosts cargo carrying options, and can provide under-floor storage for small/flat items, act as a cargo divider for shopping bags, or both at the same time.
ON THE ROAD
- 96kW/320Nm 1.6 litre turbo diesel inline four
- Continuously Variable Transmission, front-wheel drive
- MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear suspension
- Disc brakes all around. Electronic parking brake
We know this 1.6 litre diesel from the outgoing Dualis, and outputs haven’t changed from that model’s 96kW and 320Nm.
However, while that model was strictly a manual-only offering, the situation is reversed for the Qashqai diesel.
A CVT automatic is now the sole transmission offering, which should see the Qashqai’s diesel models account for a greater proportion of sales.
The new car is front-wheel-drive only (there are no AWD models in the Qashqai range), but the new CVT works a treat with the 1.6 litre diesel.
All 320Nm of torque is available from just 1750rpm, which makes the Qashqai TS an effortless performer. Few revs are needed for it to step along smartly, and it barely breaks a sweat up hills.
The petrol, by contrast, needs plenty of revs on board if you want to get moving quickly, and, though it's on-par for the segment, performance is relaxed rather than zesty.
The CVT does exhibit some strange quirks though.
Firewall the accelerator from a standing start and it will peg the tachometer around 4400rpm (where peak power is generated), but do the same while the vehicle is rolling and it will “step” through pre-set ratios like a regular automatic.
That aside, it’s a decent transmission. Kick-down performance is acceptable, and the economy it delivers is also good.
We averaged 6.6 l/100km over the course of a week, and while that’s quite above Nissan’s claim of 4.9 l/100km, our driving was largely urban.
Engine stop-start is standard on diesel Qashqais, and helps save fuel in traffic by shutting down the motor when the car is stationary.
It turns in quite well when shown a corner, though with some body roll, but the damping seems a little out of tune with itself.
There is perhaps too much initial 'give' at the front end, not matched at the rear (the result, on poor surfaces, is some jiggle and a slightly unsettled feel from the front ).
It is absolutely no deal-breaker; Nissan has got things pretty right for the target market with the all-round performance of this car.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 36.56 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist, hill start assist and six airbags are standard on every Qashqai variant
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Competitors are many and varied, with the Hyundai ix35 currently the sales leader in the segment (despite being one of the most expensive diesel options around).
Other diesel-powered competitors include the ageing Mitsubishi ASX (which is the most value-packed), through to the Volkswagen Tiguan 103TDI (which, amazingly, is cheaper than the ix35 Highlander diesel).
The Skoda Yeti is also an attractive option at $33,590, and is perhaps the closest to the Qashqai TS in terms of price, spec, space and performance.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The diesel may cost more than the petrol models in the Qashqai range but, offering an automatic as standard has greatly improved driveability.
Add significant fuel economy gains and the diesel - with torque to spare - mated to the CVT is the powertrain of choice for us.
The TS model also hits the sweet spot between specification and price.
The high-grade TL has a fair whack more equipment, but at $37,990 is rather pricey for a small SUV. After all, $800 less will get you into a seven-seat X-Trail ST-L.
Line them up and the Qashqai TS makes good buying, especially if you’re after a small Nissan SUV with a fuel-efficient diesel.
There’s no diesel option for the X-Trail right now (it’s coming towards the end of the year), and let’s face it, the Qashqai is not all that much smaller.
Unless you really need the extra space or the option of AWD, the smart-looking, well-featured Qashqai TS is worth a very close look.
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