Nissan Qashqai (2014) Driven

114307 1 5

The original Nissan Qashqai was an undoubted success for Nissan, selling 2-million worldwide and over 20 000 locally since 2007. Now, the original compact crossover vehicle is modernising itself in a market flooded with compact crossovers and SUVs. Has Nissan done enough to continue its top selling trend? Well here’s my first impression after the vehicle was launched to the SA press on 1 July 2014.

Edgier Styling

Whilst the styling of the previous generation Nissan Qashqai wasn’t outstanding or sexy, it was inoffensive, and that meant people were willing to look under the skin to meet the well specced and practical vehicle that lay beneath.  This new Nissan Qashqai has upped the ante on the styling, integrating bits of other good-looking SUVs into its Nissan distinctive style.

At the front I see a bit of Kia Sportage, at the back a bit of Ford Kuga, but it’s definitely still Nissan. It looks good, from the first pictures released last year I expected the Qashqai to be a lot bigger but seeing it in the flesh it still looks compact yet grown up from the original.

Nissan Qashqai Engine Lineup

Underneath the bonnet, Nissan’s initial lineup consists of three engines and two transmissions. The only petrol version is a 1.2-turbo that starts the range off with 82 kW and 190 Nm. The petrol wasn’t available to drive at the launch but it will be interesting to see how well it does at shifting the Qashqai around. Even though this Qashqai is 40 kg lighter than before the small turbo engine may struggle with the weight of a family and luggage.

Then comes two diesels: a 1.5-litre turbodiesel with 81 kW and 260 Nm and a six-speed manual transmission followed by the top of the range 1.6-turbodiesel that puts out 96 kW with 320 Nm. The 1.6 has the choice of a CVT gearbox with front-wheel drive or the six-speed manual with all-wheel drive. The 1.5 is a super little worker bee of an engine, a little turbo lag at the very bottom of the rev range, but then once it’s going it pulls cleanly the whole way through to red line without any of the usual high-rev diesel vibration you normally get. It gets up to 120 kph easily and the manual gearbox is a swift shifter that helps keep the forward momentum up as you accelerate through the gears.

The 1.6-turbodiesel we drove had the CVT equipped and does a decent job. There’s a little sluggishness when you want to pull away quickly or get into a gap in traffic but other than that it’s definitely an easy CVT to live with. That said I’d still prefer a manual, especially one as good as the new Qashqai has, so if you want that you’ll have to opt for the all-wheel drive variant or downsize to the 1.5-turbodiesel.

Excellent Ride

Probably the best feature on this new Nissan Qashqai is the ride comfort. Nissan has developed a new chassis control system that has two facets that help it remain tremendously comfortable over bumps and undulating surfaces as well as making it corner better. The first chassis technology is Active Ride control which, enhances the comfort of the ride by controlling the body of the Qashqai with subtle braking of individual wheels when the surface underneath undulates.

The second is Active Trace Control that works with the car’s traction control system to correct the vehicle’s direction when cornering. It helps the Qashqai feel quite agile in the corners whilst keeping the comfort over bumps and holes unobtrusive. The steering feel is nicely weighted with the option of a Sport or Normal adjustment depending on if you want a slightly heavier (Sport) or slightly lighter (Normal) feel to the turn.

Upgraded Inside

Once inside the new Nissan Qashqai you instantly notice that the cabin has been given a big upgrade from the previous generation. Where there was hard plastic before and block buttons and dials there’s now cosseting soft touch rubber and rounder knobs and switches.

It’s been given the luxury touch where the old one felt basic but robust. The new seats are very comfortable, even in the basic cloth trim on the 1.5 Acenta. One thing we did notice in both models we drove was the wind noise deflected off the large wing mirrors at higher speeds which is a bit annoying.

Interior Gadgets

The interior spec on the Qashqai varies depending on what add-on pack you opt for but standard with all models are a 5-inch full-colour HD display, remote central locking, a fully-compatible audio system with four speakers, a multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth, cruise control, two cup holders, four bottle holders and manual air conditioning. Click here for more details on the specification levels.

Summary

Things look promising for the Qashqai as it heads into a market full of competitors. The Koreans have done well with the Kia Sportage and the Hyundai IX35, the Audi Q3, Ford Kuga and BMW X1 are there or thereabouts at the upper end of the price range. You also can’t count out fringe rivals like the Renault Duster and Suzuki SX4 but Nissan still hopes to shift 350 to 400 units a month which is what they were doing at the peak of previous Qashqai sales.

The new Nissan Qashqai comes with a 5yr/90 000km service plan and a 6yr/150 000km warranty. Click here for the pricing of the 2014 Nissan Qashqai.

Comments