Qashqai looks to win back its crown in small SUV segment
First Drive: Nissan Qashqai
The Nissan Qashqai instigated the mainstream family SUV trend when the first model wearing the badge launched in 2006. It pretty much had the segment all to itself, for a while, until more and more manufacturers started challenging its reign.
With the ever-growing popularity of compact crossover SUVs, particularly in South Africa, packaging Nissan's excellent prestige into a consumer-friendly contender may just be a recipe for showroom triumph. Good build quality, spacious interiors, and frugal engines have changed the game locally, with crossovers offering the ideal proposition for families who want a car that can double as a family carrier and weekend warrior.
Enter the third-generation Nissan Qashqai, which packs an array of amazing features, a nicely matched CVT transmission and a sweet 1.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo engine. It brings with it an added amount of value in a segment where the likes of the Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and Peugeot 3008 compete. Sold in three variants; Visia, Acenta and top-of-the-range Acenta Plus, we slotted behind the wheel of the latter at its launch in the Mother City.
We like the look of the new Qashqai…
As a handsome SUV of note, I challenge you to park it and then walk to your front door without turning your head for one last gaze before walking away. It does have presence, thanks to more refined designed elements, a sharp headlight layout as well as a tweaked V-Motion grille, and sexy 19″ alloys in the case of our launch weapon.
Regarding the Visia and Acenta, they ride on a set of 18″ and 17″ alloy wheels respectively. Depending on your colour preference; the Acenta can be had in a two-tone exterior shade for an added fee.
While the new Qashqai looks a tad more compact than its predecessor, on paper at least, its proportions have grown significantly. We're talking about an overall length of 4,425 mm, a width of 1,838 mm, and a height of 1,635 mm versus the old car's 4,394 mm, 1,806 mm and 1,595 mm, respectively.
The Acenta Plus' interior features a substantial upgrade in terms of quality courtesy of soft-touch materials on the dashboard and door panels, with our test unit, further boasting leather upholstery, and electronically-adjustable front seats with heating, massage and memory functions.
The Acenta and Acenta Plus boast an intuitive 12.3″ display with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto smartphone pairing, a 10-speaker BOSE Premium sound system, electric speed sensing power steering, and a built-in sat-nav. There are a reasonable amount of physical buttons for various functions, and we laud Nissan for its consistency with the volume knob.
Everything looks to be where it should be…
It's worth noting, though, that the Visia variant is still generously equipped with an 8″ display audio system, cruise control, a 4-speaker sound system, multifunction steering wheel with tilt and telescopic adjustment, manual climate control, front and rear armrests with cup holders, cloth seat upholstery, electric windows and manual slide and lift seats.
The mid-range Acenta adds a 7″ driver display screen, leather steering wheel and gear selector, paddle shifters, electronic parking brake, drive mode selector, remote key and push-start button. Other features include Intelligent Cruise Control, a navigation system, six speakers, and full auto-climate control.
The Qashqai has decent amounts of space for adults of all sizes to sit in decent comfort and for those road trips, there are two cupholders in the front centre console as well as in the door bins for sizeable water bottles and cans. Then there's the boot space, which has now grown by a notable 74 litres to 504 litres. It can also be expanded to 1,593 litres by tucking down the 60:40 rear seats.
The matter of power
Powering the new Qashqai range is a sole 1.3-litre, 4-cyl turbocharged petrol engine that pumps out 110 kW and 250 Nm. Here's the thing; the Visia is the only variant in the range that is available with a 6-speed manual transmission, while the rest of the range can only be had with the XTronic CVT gearbox that propels the front wheels.
I sampled the Qashqai over Cape Town's scenic mountain passes and it delivers impressive shove in a reasonably classy manner, even though the CVT transmission is, expectedly, a little whiny under hard acceleration. Not to a point where it warrants serious complaining, though. It delivers a natural automatic transmission-like experience, thanks to a rubber-band effect that's been greatly reduced. If I am honest, this has to be one of the best CVT transmissions I've ever tested.
Handling? Well, the Qashqai is pretty comfortable, thanks to a compliant suspension that takes care of deteriorated road conditions in great comfort. Add to that an exceptionally light steering feel, making town driving especially easy. No complaints from me… Nissan quotes 6.1 l/100 km in the combined fuel consumption cycle, but our launch drive saw the numbers wafting around 6.8l/100 km. Still, it's not bad.
The Qashqai with e-Power is earmarked to join the range in March 2022, and if this tech delivers on its promise, it should be even more frugal.
Peace of Mind
You can rest assured on the safety front since the new Qashqai Acenta Plus rolls out with six airbags, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Hill-Start Assist, an Intelligent Around-View monitor with moving object detection, Blind Spot Intervention, Cross-Traffic Alert, Forward Emergency Braking, Predictive Front-Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning and ProPilot which includes Autonomous Driving Level 1.
There is plenty of safety tech on the entry-level Visia that comes standard with six airbags, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Hill-Start Assist, a tyre pressure monitor, a rear-view camera with parking sensors, as well as an electric parking brake with Auto Hold.
There's a camera tucked away somewhere…
In summary, the new Nissan Qashqai continues to be a sensible small family SUV. There's more space, technology and useful touches that still allow it to be a formidable competitor in the increasingly competitive segment of family SUVs. At a price of R670,600 for the Acenta Plus two-tone, it's not exactly easy on the pocket and I reckon the mid-range Acenta priced at R639,300 is where the best value resides.
- Qashqai Visia: R568,200
- Qashqai Acenta: R639,300
- Qashqai Acenta two-tone: R644,800
- Qashqai Acenta Plus: R670,800
Pricing includes a 3-year/90,000 km service plan, a 6-year/150,000 km warranty, and 6-year/150,000 km roadside assistance.
Keyword: First Drive: Nissan Qashqai