REVIEW DATE: 07 Nov 2008
Thinking of buying a plush compact 4x4 but want a luxurious interior experience, budget running costs and an affordable up-front price? Then Nissan's Qashqai 'Sound & Style' could be just up your street. Jonathan Crouch reports
Celebrity pop promoter Simon Cowell was recently asked in BBC 'Top Gear' how on earth he could have spent a fortune on a car as ugly and dull as a Maybach. He sensibly replied that he didn't care what his choice of car looked like on the outside: he never looked at it on the pavement. He cared only about the inner driving experience.
What determines that is the same whether you're spending a quarter of a million or £20,000: essentially two things: sound and style. You need to feel that you're in something luxurious - something special. And you need a sound system that's a cut above the average.
Meeting that need was uppermost in the minds of Nissan marketers when they came to develop a special top-of-the-line version of their successful Qashqai. For those who don't know, the Qashqai is a family-sized model that offers 4x4 styling cues, plus the actual option of four wheel drive. In its first year or so on the UK market, it's been a big hit amongst buyers bored with Mondeo-sized mundanity. To keep sales buoyant, Nissan has lately introduced a seven-seater '+2' version, but that may well distract buyers from the existing five-seater version. Hence the importance of the 'Sound & Style' special edition that we're looking at here.
This version is based on the top-of-the-range Tekna model, so the specification already includes such items as dual zone climate control, full length panoramic glass roof, Intelligent Key and xenon headlamps. Sporting unique 18 inch alloy wheels, the 'Sound & Style' version also adds an exclusive Nightshade paint - a purple-black colour - intended to set off the satin silver finish to the roof rails, door handles and front grille. For those who fancy something different, paint choice extends to Blade Silver, Pearl Black and Arctic White.
"It certainly makes more financial sense than a comparable compact 4x4. Much 'greener' too. ."
But it's inside where this car really sets itself apart. The upholstery is trimmed in Graphite half leather with red stitching, alloy pedals providing a finishing touch. Given the name, it comes as little surprise to learn that the Qashqai Sound & Style has a pretty special sound system, too. As well as a standard six disc CD autochanger, Nissan's collaboration with audio specialists Bose has delivered a hi-fi designed specifically to suit the acoustic qualities of Qashqai. To ensure valuable cabin space remains uncompromised, Bose has developed a range of small, slim loudspeakers that use compact and lightweight neodymium iron boron magnets able to do 10 times the work of a similarly sized ferrite magnet without sacrificing acoustic performance.
Two 1.5 inch tweeters, four 6.5 inch wide range speakers - one in each door - and a 5.25 inch woofer housed in a custom-built 7-litre enclosure mounted in the spare wheel deliver what Nissan promise is a 'sublime' aural experience. Bose calls its woofer design 'Richbass' and it lives up to the name thanks to its high degree of cone 'excursion' or movement which enables it to produce the low-frequency output of a much larger, heavier speaker. The finishing touch is a multi-channel digital amplifier with custom equalisation and digital signal processing - in other words it can deliver a full and detailed sound that approaches live performance levels without distortion.
This model comes with either 2.0-litre petrol or diesel power, six-speed manual transmission and two-wheel drive (there's no 4x4 or seven-seater '+2' option). Otherwise, it's the usual Qashqai recipe. 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.
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.
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.
If you've £20,000 to spend on a family car of this type, then there are of course no shortage of takers for your cash. You might not come across many, however, that make you feel as good about yourself out on the move as this Qashqai 'Sound & Style' model. It certainly makes more financial sense (in terms of up-front price and lower running costs) than a comparable compact 4x4. Much 'greener' too. In this case, a little bit of what you fancy might indeed do you a lot of good.
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  Acenta 5dr hatchback|
|Price £14,818||Save £3,622|
|Nissan Qashqai 1.6  Tekna 5dr [Start Stop] hatchback|
|Price £17,998||Save £3,942|
|Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi  Tekna 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £19,306||Save £4,084|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT QASHQAI DEALS|
|For QASHQAI SOUND & STYLE|
|OVERALL||7.2 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||6|
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