Having already achieved success in Europe, Nissan’s C-segment crossover, the oddly named Nissan Qashqai, is now available in South Africa. Its development came as a direct result of this brand’s continuing failure in the “Golf-segment” for traditional hatchbacks with vehicles such as the Sunny and Almera, as well as the rising popularity of compacts SUVs. The Qashqai’s arrival and immediate success, then, appears to indicate that Nissan’s design team has hit the nail on the head. But how will it fare in South Africa?
Quasi-SUV looks for Nissan QashqaiJudging by the on-going success of vehicles such as Hyundai’s Tucson, the Toyota RAV4 and Nissan’s own X-Trail, South Africans love their compact SUVs. Where does the Nissan Qashqai fit in design-wise? Well, it’s based on the same underpinnings as the brand’s X-Trail, but unlike that rather boxy, typically SUV-themed offering, the Qashqai straddles a fine line between being a traditional hatchback and a compact SUV. It is a crossover in the purest meaning of the word. Perhaps more importantly, it boasts a more appealing exterior design than its one very direct rival, the Dodge Caliber. There are some very neat touches, including a ribbed bonnet, rising rear window line and particularly neat rear lights. Riding 200 mm high on smart 16-inch alloy wheels and featuring black lower body cladding and wheelarch linings, the Nissan Qashqai looks both elegant and butch, and should therefore appeal to both sexes.
High-quality interiorIt is inside where this Nissan Qashqai knocks the opposition for a six. Featuring soft-touch materials and fit and finish one would normally expect from a near-premium product, the Qashqai makes an immediately good first impression – it is vastly superior to not only the Caliber, but also the Korean twins from Hyundai and Kia. Slide in behind the upmarket-looking steering wheel (with remote audio controls), and you’ll find it is both rake and reach adjustable. The superb driver’s seat, too, is adjustable for height, meaning a good driving position is easy to find. A stand-out feature of the Nissan Qashqai is that, unlike most compact SUVs, the sensation of sitting on top of the car is diminished by the low default position of the seat, a narrow window line and high transmission tunnel. It feels like a normal C-segment hatchback from behind the wheel, which will appeal to some, but not those who actually crave the commanding view offered by others. Also impressing is the vehicle’s spaciousness on a class-average wheelbase (2 630 mm). There’s plenty of rear legroom, as well as a spacious boot which still boasts a full-size spare wheel. Perhaps standard roof rails would’ve been a nice touch, too.
Power and economyAlthough this Nissan Qashqai is powered by a 2,0-litre petrol engine that delivers a decent 102 kW and 198 Nm of torque, it is worth mentioning that the Nissan tips the scales at a not-inconsiderable near-1,4 tonnes. As a result, performance isn’t exactly sparkling. Nissan claims a somewhat ambitious 10,1 second 0-100 km/h time, but in reality the Qashqai doesn’t feel that fast. That said, the target market is unlikely to care about sprinting ability. Of more concern is the overtaking performance. While the six gear ratios and good torque deliver acceptable punch, you have to go “find” the power, as the grunt really comes on tap at fairly high revs. Frequent usage of the gearbox is therefore required when overtaking at or beyond the national speed limit, which is admittedly not much of hardship, as the gearshifts are slick. An upshot of the gearing is good cruising economy. Nissan claims a consumption figure of 8,2 litres/100 km, but a more realistic consumption during mixed driving (highway, town, B-roads) is between 9 and 9,5 litres/100 km.
Good road mannersWith its higher ground clearance the Nissan Qashqai obviously suffers more body roll in the corners than, say, a Golf or Focus, but it’s also not as pronounced as with its direct crossover rivals. And although the low-speed ride is somewhat firmer than expected, it smoothes out as the speeds rise and exhibits excellent bump suppression qualities. The steering, too, impresses, being appreciably light around town, but gaining some feel at higher speeds. The big surprise is the standard fitment of Nissan’s electronic stability system that includes traction control. It forms part of a comprehensive safety package that also includes six airbags and rear Isofix child seat mounts. Given the overall refinement of the vehicle, including its engine and transmission and the lack of wind noise, the relatively high levels of road noise represent perhaps the only real black mark against the Qashqai’s name.
Nissan Qashqai - VerdictThe Nissan Qashqai looks set for big success in South Africa, too. More spacious and practical than a typical C-segment hatch, boasting superb perceived quality and a long standard features list that includes Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control and auto lights and wipers, at a very competitive price, the Nissan Qashqai 2,0 Acenta makes a lot of sense. A powerful and frugal turbodiesel engine would make it an almost perfect compact family car. Just such a model is coming, of course, but will be significantly more expensive. As it stands, the Nissan Qashqai 2,0 Acenta is a great buy.
- Car-like seating position
- SUV-like ground clearance
- High standard spec, including Bluetooth
- Road noise
Engine: 2,0-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 102 kW @ 6 000 rpm
Torque: 198 Nm @ 4 800 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Wheels: 16-inch alloy
Top speed: 192 km/h
0-100 km/h: 10,1 seconds
Fuel economy: 8,2 litres/100 km
- Hyundai Tucson 2,0 4x2: A very popular choice in South Africa but its bested by the Nissan Qashqai in most areas, including cabin quality, fuel economy and space. Boasts a more typical SUV-like design, if that is what you want.
- Kia Sportage 2,0 4x2: Very much a Tucson with a different hat and therefore can’t match the Nissan Qashqai for the same reasons as above. Resale value not particularly good, so can be picked up used for a steal.
- Dodge Caliber 2,4 R/T: A slightly more powerful, more macho-looking rival, but the extra oomph doesn’t necessarily translate into better performance. The Caliber lacks the refinement and quality of the Nissan, as well as its boot space.