Nissan’s apparent gamble to rather focus on a compact crossover than a traditional C-segment hatchback (Golf class) has seemingly paid off already. The Nissan Qashqai crossover has been an immediate success for the brand, both in Europe and in South Africa. This means that, undoubtedly, other brands will soon start copying the Nissan Qashqai recipe of rugged visual appeal, raised ground clearance and a practical, comfortable interior. But until then, the Qashqai has the market largely to itself, and the depth of the model line-up plays an important role in its success – front-wheel drive or 4x4, manual or automatic, petrol or diesel… there’s seemingly a Nissan Qashqai to fit every need and pocket. The model tested here is the rather pricey 2,0 dCi Tekna 4x4 – does it represent the best of the Nissan Qashqai?
Upmarket Looks for Nissan QashqaiThe standard Nissan Qashqai is already quite an appealing product, with particularly the short overhangs, “ribbed” bonnet, bluff front end and raised ground clearance giving it the chunky, substantial look of a compact urban warrior. In Tekna trim it looks even better, primarily because the standard 17-inch alloy wheels add some extra muscle to its stance and seem to accentuate the SUV-rivalling 200 mm ground clearance. Front and rear fog lamps are standard on this model. Although the Nissan Qashqai is a relatively compact vehicle measuring only 4 315 mm in length, the interior packaging makes it feel like a bigger vehicle from inside. The wheelbase is 2 630 mm, which is about the same as most C-segment hatchbacks, but ultimately the Qashqai feels more spacious in the cabin. The boot, too, is big, and able to accommodate 410 L-worth of luggage, which immediately makes it a very viable family hold-hall.
The only negatives in terms of packaging are limited rear headroom, and the comparatively high loading sill, largely a consequence of the raised ground clearance and standard full-size spare wheel under the boot board. Nissan has tried hard to give the Qashqai the feel of a sporty hatchback from behind the steering wheel. The transmission tunnel is quite high, similar to what you’ll find in sports cars, and this puts the gearlever very close to hand. The round ventilation outlets and deep-set instrumentation further accentuate the dynamic approach, as do the pronounced side bolstering of the seats.
The quality all-round is excellent, certainly superior to most vehicles it competes with on price, and there’s a simplicity and coherency to the design that is hugely appealing. The driver sits on a height-adjustable seat, and the steering wheel boasts rake/reach adjustment, too, ensuring a very good driving position that remains comfortable over long distances. At this price level perhaps leather upholstery would have been a good addition for the Nissan Qashqai, but on the other hand many consumers actually prefer cloth. Besides the lack of leather, the standard features list is very comprehensive and includes very effective dual-zone climate control, auto lights/wipers, radio/CD player with remote audio and telephone controls and Bluetooth functionality. On the safety side the Nissan Qashqai comes with six airbags, rear Isofix child seat mounts, ABS with EBD and even Nissan’s VDC electronic stability control system.
Powerful and RefinedBesides displaying some turbo-lag low-down, the 110 kW 2,0-litre turbodiesel engine is a beauty. Once the engine’s 320 Nm of torque comes on song at 2 000 rpm, the Nissan Qashqai feels really lively, more so than its relatively lazy 0-100 km/h time of 10,9 seconds suggests. Perhaps more important than sheer power, is the engine’s refinement and frugality. It remains a smooth engine throughout its rev range, endowing the Qashqai with the type of silent cruising character that further strengthens its family car appeal. And then it is also very economical, consuming as little as 7,0 L/100 km when driven gently. The engine is paired with a six-speed manual transmission that, in typical Nissan fashion, feels slightly too mechanical at first. It does, however, feel very robust and when it has warmed up, the shifts are slick.
Seeing as the Nissan Qashqai shares much of its underpinnings with the X-Trail, it also inherits some of that vehicle’s rough-road ability. In fact, it may just be more off-road capable than most owners will expect. The ground clearance and approach/departure angles are all good, and the all-wheel drive system features a “Lock” mode that makes the little Nissan quite confident off the beaten path. On the road, where the Nissan Qashqai will undoubtedly spend most of its time, the positive impression continues. The suspension set-up is very well judged, endowing the Nissan with enviable roll stability and good bump-suppression qualities. It may not display the ultimate cornering sharpness of a hatchback, but is not nearly as roly-poly in the corners as a traditional SUV either. Overall, the Nissan Qashqai feels solid and safe on the road, and very, very comfortable.
Nissan Quashqai - VerdictThe Nissan Qashqai 2,0 dCi Tekna 4x4 is a rather pricey product, but in almost every way it appears to be able to justify the cost. The reality, however, is that most owners will not need four-wheel drive, so a front-wheel drive version equipped with this engine will be more than good enough for most, and also cheaper. As it stands, however, the Nissan Qashqai is a very tempting alternative to not only bigger, clumsier SUVs, but also top-end C-segment hatchbacks.
• Comfortable, practical interior • Cabin quality • Refined, powerful engine • Fuel economy • Ride
We don’t like:
• Quite pricey • Rear headroom
Engine: 2,0-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel Power: 110 kW @ 4 000 rpm Torque: 320 N.m @ 2 000 rpm Transmission: six-speed manual Wheels: 17-inch alloy Top speed: 191 km/h 0-100 km/h: 10,9 seconds Fuel economy: 7,0 litres/100 km
• Toyota RAV4 2,2 D-4D GX 4x4: A bit more expensive than the Nissan Qashqai, but also slightly larger and therefore more spacious. The RAV4 is also competitive in terms of specification and power, and is impressively refined. Surprisingly capable off-road, too.
• Kia Sportage 2,0 CRDI 4x4: An often underrated product that offers quite a lot of specification and a decent cabin for significantly less money. But unfortunately the engine isn’t as good as the Nissan Qashqai and the overall quality (as well as safety spec) falls well short, too.
• Chevrolet Captiva 2,D LTZ: The Captiva is a bigger vehicle that also offers two extra seats, making it more of a real SUV than a crossover. But it is similarly priced and powerful, as well as highly specced. Not as refined and as well finished as the Nissan Qashqai.