REVIEW DATE: 01 Feb 2008
Is the crossover Qashqai quite as novel as Nissan claims? Andy Enright isn't sure
Immerse yourself in the launch hype that surrounded Nissan's Qashqai crossover vehicle and you could easily become convinced that this was the next big thing, Nissan plunging headlong into a brand new motoring niche. "There's change in the air. Thanks to the Nissan Qashqai, something different has arrived. You need never drive a boring car again." That was the big build up from one of Nissan's senior product planners and it was driven home with claims that the Qashqai is "a catalyst for change, a totally new vehicle in a totally new sector of the market", and a car which should be seen as an "urban nomad." Nissan was either embarking on an enormous bluff or convinced that it was on to a winner. With the benefit of hindsight, you'd have to say that the hyperbole went too far, but only a little.
The Qashqai, in reality, is somewhere between an all-wheel drive-orientated Family Hatchback (like a Fiat Sedici or a Suzuki SX4) and a road-orientated compact 4x4 (like Toyota's RAV4 or Honda's CR-V). And, like all of the current versions of these cars, it incorporates MPV-style practicalities on board. Like many rivals of this kind, the Qashqai offers the choice of a two or four-wheel drive platform, the front-wheel drive model being perfectly adequate for 95% of customer's requirements. In case you were wondering where the wacky name came from, it's pronounced 'kash-kai' and is named after a desert-dwelling nomadic tribe from South Western Iran. A little frisson of the Axis of Evil adds an exotic feel to the Nissan and although it's easy to be a little cynical about the window dressing, there can be little doubt that the product on display is rock solid.
There's one of the widest choices of engines in the sector available to Qashqai customers with two diesels and two petrol powerplants. Things start off with a 1.6-litre 115bhp petrol unit and move up through 106bhp 1.5dCi diesel and 140bhp 2.0-litre petrol units before topping-out with the 150bhp 2.0-litre dCi diesel. Nissan hasn't skimped when it comes to transmission options either, the Qashqai being supplied with five and six-speed manual boxes, a six-speed auto option and even an advanced Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT). The Qashqai drives in an assured manner on the road and feels more like a conventional family hatchback that a 4x4 with its supple suspension and absence of body roll.
"You wouldn't bet against it continuing to worm its way into our hearts"
The ALL-MODE 4x4 system is available on the 2.0-litre vehicles. This is an electronic system which automatically engages four-wheel drive the moment a loss of traction is detected. It offers more safety and security in extreme weather on-road. Nissan makes no bones of the fact that the Qashqai is anything but an off-roader, citing its lack of ground clearance. What precludes it from tackling rutted tracks makes it a better car on the blacktop, the hunkered down centre of gravity giving the Nissan the driving dynamics of a typical family hatch.
There are two bodystyle choices, the standard model now joined by a Qashqai+2 seven-seater variant. Here, everything behind the windscreen pillars has been modified. The wheelbase has been extended by 135mm and the overall length has grown by 211mm to 4,526mm. To make sure that rear seat occupants don't feel too hemmed in, the roof line has been reprofiled as well, adding 38mm to the car's height. The middle row of seats splits 40/40/40 and the backrest reclines to no fewer than nine adjustment positions. When the seats are folded down, there's a massive 500 litres of stowage space, and the rear hatch is both wider and has a lower loading sill than the standard Qashqai model.
Built at Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK in Sunderland, the Qashqai is undoubtedly a good-looking design. The rising hipline gives it a wedgy, athletic look and the canted C-pillar is a design cue nicked from the bigger Murano. The Qashqai's front end is a good deal less extreme than the Murano, a vehicle that looks like an alien lander, the smaller vehicle favouring a more conventional front grille and lights arrangement. A large panoramic sunroof gives the cabin an airy feel. The dashboard is cleanly styled with a neat centre stack and uses better materials than Nissans of late.
The trim level range kicks off with the entry-level Visia before extending through the Acenta and N-Tec derivatives to the plush Tekna. The N-Tec models are likely to prove particularly popular with their focus on technology built around the Nissan Connect system. Nissan Connect is a control system for the Qashqai's advanced technology features which brings Bluetooth connectivity, touch screen satellite navigation, a colour reversing camera, an MP3 compatible CD stereo and a USB interface for connecting MP3 players together in a single control interface. The N-Tec models also get 18" alloy wheels, a panoramic glass sunroof, privacy glass, roof rails and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. The Nissan Connect system also comes as standard with the Tekna models.
Nissan has built an enviable reputation for safety and the Qashqai incorporates a number of noteworthy features. Accurate electrically-assisted power steering, multi-link rear suspension and beefy anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution should well be enough to keep you out of a prang in the first instance and there's also the additional safety net of Bosch's eighth-generation ESP stability control.
The 1.5-litre diesel is the Qashqai's more efficient engine with a 52mpg combined economy and emissions of 145g/km. Further up the engine range, the kind of returns owners can expect will depend on their choice of 2WD of 4WD transmissions. With the heavier 4x4 cars, economy is one or two mpg worse while the automatic gearbox offered with the 2.0-litre diesel blunts returns by another couple of miles in the gallon. The 2.0-litre petrol engine is slightly more efficient if specified with its CVT automatic 'box.
When the Nissan Qashqai was launched, the BBC ran news piece that featured puzzled members of the public trying to pronounce its name. Thankfully for Nissan, the concept has proven far easier for people to get their heads around than its title and the Qashqai has enjoyed considerable success. It's well deserved success too. Where exactly the car sits in the marketplace between the family hatch and compact 4x4 sectors is less important than the way it melds qualities from a number of different kinds of vehicle into a package that's so sweetly in tune with modern life.
The reality of the Qashqai is a welcome addition to the ranks of road-biased compact 4x4s and family hatches. It has some serious competition to face down but Nissan's recent track record is near faultless. You wouldn't bet against it continuing to worm its way into our hearts.
The results below show the top QASHQAI deals on buyacar
|Nissan Qashqai 1.6 dCi Tekna 5dr [Start Stop] diesel hatchback|
|Price £20,669||Save £4,221|
|Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi  Acenta 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £14,355||Save £4,785|
|Nissan Qashqai 1.6 N-Tec 5dr hatchback|
|Nissan Qashqai 1.6  Acenta 5dr hatchback|
|Price £14,818||Save £3,622|
|Nissan Qashqai 1.6  Tekna 5dr [Start Stop] hatchback|
|Price £17,998||Save £3,942|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT QASHQAI DEALS|
|For QASHQAI RANGE|
|OVERALL||7.2 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||6|
Let our car quote assistant help you configure your ideal new Qashqai - it's 100% free and easy to use...
Click below for more information: