THE QUIRKY sounding Qashqai is Nissan’s replacement for the Almera hatchback, Almera Tino compact MPV and the Primera family car.
Designed to merge the styling cues of an SUV with the dynamic abilities of a family hatch, the Qashqai has to tackle two distinct market sectors – one that’s in decline (family hatches) and one that’s booming (SUVs).
If the regular crop of Ford/Vauxhall hatchmobiles appear unexciting and compact 4x4s like the Toyota RAV4 and Land Rover Freelander seem a trifle butch, Nissan hope to tempt punters with something in between that is quite different.
Not much larger than a Ford Focus or a Renault Megane, the Qashqai offers high-riding comfort for five passengers, although the central rear seat is very narrow and I wouldn’t like to spend too long sitting there.
The car’s raised ground clearance and overall height adds to its SUV look but while it is, like the flagship test car, available with Nissan‘s own 4×4 system, it is the cheaper front-wheel drive only versions that are expected to make up 95 per cent of UK sales.
The 2.0-litre diesel engine in the top-of-the-range Tekna version is a punchy, responsive and refined unit. Its 320Nm of torque peaks at only 2,000rpm but it doesn’t run out of steam further up the rev range.
The Qashqai is an all-new model so it shares very few components with existing products from either Nissan or sister company Renault. The platform will form the basis of Renault’s next generation Megane and upcoming Koleos compact 4×4.
The interior is well put together, with high-quality materials. Exterior fit and finish is also very good.
It might not quite match the high standards of the Focus or Golf, but the Quashqai offers a more car-like driving experience than some rival high-riding cars. This is thanks to its low centre of gravity and independent suspension which strikes a good balance between ride comfort and reduced body-roll. The SUV’s electric power steering provides decent feedback.
The Quashqai Tekna’s four-wheel drive mode is standard – as it is on the two-litre petrol version – and it can be switched, via a chunky dial, to a full 50:50 lock between axles, or an automatic mode which adjusts torque distribution, as needed. Most owners are likely to keep it in auto mode.
Styling of the Nissan’s SUV is refreshingly different and this alone will pull the punters in.
The ‘Urban Nomad’ provides flexible and generous accommodation and the uncluttered dashboard and controls are neatly set out.
Priced around £21,000 for this top model, give or take a couple of extras, it was disappointing the Electronic Stability Programme wasn’t included as standard across the board.
- Alistair Coull
Nissan’S Qashqai is one of the most interesting vehicle concepts on the road in a long time and has already scooped a number of awards since it went on sale in March.
Its crossover concept is unique – there just isn’t anything else like it in the popular, lucrative C-segment which is where it is pitched to capture new customers.
Named after a desert-dwelling nomadic tribe living in mountains in south western Iran, potential rivals like the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and even the VW Golf seem mundane compared to Nissan’s adventurous-looking SUV.
First impressions are good. The Sunderland-built car has a muscular presence, yet it looks smooth and compact which, in total, gives the car bags of gravitas. It needs it – in order to compete in the urban jungle, crowded with models of all shapes and sizes.
Nissan views the SUV as an ‘Urban Nomad’, and despite the tough persona, complete with 4×4 mode option, the busy metropolis is where it is likely to spend a good chunk of its time. The company also estimate that 70 per cent of customers will go for the two-wheel drive models and hence owners are likely to be city or town dwellers.
Nevertheless, as a Sports Utility Vehicle, it performs well in most environments. It drives and handles adroitly on the open roads, with just a little lurching around sharp corners, and will fulfil most customer’s requirements as a family runabout – while looking impressive enough in the office car park.
It is taller than a typical hatch yet, according to Nissan, takes up no more space than a Ford Focus, which is hard to believe. The Qashqai certainly looks and feels bigger, but sculpturing and cosmetics probably create the larger than reality perception.
The test car was the top-of-the-range two-litre diesel Tekna, complete with Nissan’s highly praised All-Mode four-wheel drive – pioneered in the X-Trail, This is also an option on the two-litre petrol version.
I took an instant liking to the paintwork. Liveried in metallic paint (a £425 option), called Sandblast, it is vaguely reminiscent of pale khaki, while the interior was clad in luxury leather the shade of hot pinky chocolate – different, practical and classy.
Seats are generous, well-supported and easily adjustable and the cockpit oozes modernity, again with easy-to-access and use switchgear. The interior sports tough, robust fixtures and fittings with a touch of sophistication – ideal for those looking for a lifestyle vehicle with flair. The crowning glory is the panoramic glass roof which is easily screened by an electric blind.
Priced around the £21,000 mark, depending on what ‘extras’ you select, the top-notch Tekna seems fairly good value, though I add criticism to that already registered by others that the Electronic Stability Programme isn’t part of the extensive standard list, which is a pity, because Nissan appears to have included everything else. Even the entry Visia version gets air con and onboard information computer.
The 1,994cc diesel unit works well, though it is not going to win any accolades for sprinting with a 0-62mph time of 11 seconds. But it wins praise for a relaxed rather than a spirited driving experience and the fact that its average fuel consumption is around the 40mpg mark.
It is expected that 17,000 Qashqais will sell by the end of the year, 20,000 in a full year. With its distinctive styling, it will doubtless win conquest sales from rivals and the company reckon 80 per cent of buyers will purchase a Nissan for the first time.
- Val Jessop
Nissan Qashqai 2.0 dCi Tekna (4×4)
Mechanical: 150ps, 1,994cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving all wheels via 6spd manual gearbox
Max speed: 118mph
0-62mph: 10.9 secs
Combined mpg: 40.9
Insurance group: 10
CO2 emissions: 184g/km
BiK rating: 26%
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles, 3yrs paint, 12yrs anti-rust