2018 Nissan Qashqai N-Tec
(4 / 5)
There are two sides to every story, or so goes the old adage. But when you think about it, there are three sides – your version, their version and the truth. Car companies each have their own version of history, especially when it comes to SUVs.
When car companies start claiming to have kickstarted the small SUV trend, it’s going to be an interesting argument. Honda says it was with the original HR-V. Jeep says the Cherokee was the first. And Nissan claims it was the Qashqai.
Regardless of which car started it – that’s a story for another day – the Qashqai undoubtedly has some history behind it. It started life as an ugly, ungainly crossover, and in some countries the name was deemed too hard to pronounce, so they ran with “Dualis” instead. Now, the name is universal, and so is its popularity. One of the reasons is its design.
The 2018 model is actually one of the most attractive SUVs Nissan has designed, and arguably its best looking car on sale currently. The proportions are just right, and with the huge wheels included as standard on the N-Tec model it sets the side profile off nicely.
There wasn’t anything really wrong with the previous model, but when put side by side, the differences are stark. The headlights are longer and narrower (LED daytime running lights are fitted as standard) and the grille is set lower, eliminating the mouthy look of the 2017 model.
The bumpers have been redesigned, and it’s far more contemporary. There’s also a shark fin aerial, which will make things easier when heading into an automatic car wash.
Inside, you’ll find a flat-bottomed wheel with new control buttons, a new centre console armrest stitching design and better materials for the air vents and door handles. The power windows are all one-touch open and close, and can be controlled from the remote button by holding down the unlock or lock buttons respectively.
There’s also better sound deadining and thicker rear glass to keep the road noise down, which is very helpful on the 19-inch wheels found on the N-Tec.
You also get Bluetooth streaming and telephony and there’s also DAB+ digital radio, and the infotainment screen has come in for an upgrade to its graphics. Despite this, there’s an issue.
While the graphics may be better, the screen res isn’t super clear. Couple that with a super low resolution camera for both reversing and 360 degree views and the view is almost unintelligible. Then, if the sun is shining on the screen, you can’t make out a thing and it’s better to turn your neck and physically look out the back window.
With safety being a big drawcard for SUVs these days, Nissan has to get this sorted. Thankfully, the rest of its safety package is far better. The Qashqai now gets autonomous braking with forward collision warning as standard, as well as front and rear parking sensors (which do work well), lane departure warning, hill start assist and an auto hold electric park brake.
Blind spot warning, auto high beam, and semi autonomous parking are fitted, along with rear cross traffic alert, and adaptive front lighting. Radar based cruise and lane departure assist can’t be had until the Qashqai Ti model arrives later in the year.
The build is quite good for this price range, and the seats are superb. The bolstering is deep and the padding is excellent. Even things like padded knee rests on each side of the centre console make it more comfortable and feel more premium. The red ambient lighting won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it does make things look expensive at night.
While rear seat space is fine for this segment, getting three adults across isn’t recommended. However, four people up will be quite happy. And there’s enough room to chuck their luggage in the back. The boot space is 430 litres, increasing to 1,598 litres with the rear seats down.
Press the start button and the 2.0-litre, naturally-aspirated, petrol four-cylinder cranks into life smoothly. Slot the CVT transmission into drive and it keeps the revs nice and low, until you ask it to accelerate briskly, and that’s where the rubber-band style of drive comes into play. But it’s not as bad as you think – there’s a slight stepped nature which tones down the slipping clutch sound.
The engine isn’t the most powerful out there – 106kW and 200Nm isn’t anything to write home about – but it’s quite economical. It’s a petrol, so it’s never going to match a diesel’s fuel use, but at 6.9L/100km (official figures) it’s going to get you through each week without visiting the bowser. We recorded 7.6L/100km, so not too far above the ADR usage, which is commendable for a real world result.
The steering may be an electric setup, but “Active Return Control” helps it self-centre quicker, and makes it feel much more like a hydraulic system. A bit more feedback would be good, though.
The suspension has also been revised with firmer spring rates, stiffer stabiliser bars front and rear, and the dampers have also been revised to give a better control, and it has paid off. The Qashqai handles quite well – again the 19-inch wheels help here – but it’s definitely a happy cruiser.
The body control is good over long dips, but with short sharp ridges the ride gets a bit busy. And on the larger wheels, the road noise isn’t the best – that’s the price you pay for it looking good.
Compared with rivals like the Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-3 and Toyota C-HR, the Qashqai acquits itself well, mostly because it’s a decent size and it looks great. But compared even with more expensive offerings like the Audi Q2, BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA, the Qashqai looks like excellent value.