Paula Sward test drives the new Nissan Qashqai and finds it stands with quiet confidence in the crowded small-size SUV market.
crowded market, it can sometimes be difficult to make yourself heard. This is
particularly true in the small-size SUV market, one of the most crowded
segments in Australia. Some manufacturers have used bright ‘look at me’ tactics
to get noticed, others have added many bells and whistles to attract a second
look. And some, like the new Nissan Qashqai, are just quietly, confidently
standing in the background, waiting to be discovered.
three spec levels and few variants, the new Qashqai is a more refined version
of the original, which was first brought to Australia in 2008 as the Dualis
before being rebadged as the Qashqai in 2014.Having
driven several of its competitors in this segment, I was curious to see what
would set it apart from the others.
thing that struck me was space. The Qashqai boasts a roomy interior cabin and 430L
rear boot (increasing to 1598L with the rear seats folded down), making it one
of the largest in its class. This results in a 4394mm overall length, slightly
larger than most competitors, but not noticeable enough to turn off city drivers
looking for something easy to maneouvre and park. In fact, having missed one of
our scheduled turn-offs during our launch drive, I was easily able to spin the
car around in a tight circle to retrace our steps and return to our path.
destination for this launch was the picturesque township of Daylesford in
country Victoria. This had long been on my bucket list, along with the famed
Lake House, where we were privileged to stay. The land was first bought by
Alain and Alla Wolf-Tasker three decades ago, where they set about transforming
what was a disused mine site filled with gorse, blackberries and dumped car
bodies into a stunningly beautiful lakeside retreat. I am definitely planning
to return to explore further, but my first look (and taste!) certainly lived up
back to the road. The Qashqai is targeted mainly at young couples living in the
city, who may or may not be planning to fill the back seat with baby capsules,
nappy bags, soft toys, squished teething rusks, spilled drinks and all manner
of ‘essential baby stuff’ in the near future. As an experienced (read: slightly
jaded) parent I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of space this small-size
SUV affords. The rear seat could easily cater for a couple of car seats or
capsules, and the rear boot had plenty of room for prams, portacots, portable
high chairs and the like. Could the Qashqai knock off Nissan’s flagship X-Trail
SUV as the family car of choice in the future? Well, only if you’re planning to
stop your children growing after about age three… As with any growing family,
you may need to upgrade to a larger option in the future, but if you’re just
starting out in the couples/cohabiting/babymaking space the Qashqai will most
certainly meet your needs.
interior isn’t flashy, it is comfortable and serviceable (and wipeable – a
definite advantage with little ones), with leather accented ‘D’ shape steering
wheel, gear shift knob and boot; one-touch and remote open/close windows; and
5” Advanced Driver-Assist Display in the base spec ST, moving up to 7” colour
touch screen in the higher variants. The higher variants also benefit from Sat
Nav, Around View Monitor with moving object detection, six-way power driver’s
seat adjustment and heated front seats. The top spec Ti, which won’t be
available in Australia until mid-2018, will also have Nappa leather interior,
driver’s seat memory, power front passenger seat and intelligent cruise
styling is also smooth and understated, with the introduction of a vibrant Vivid
Blue a definite attraction for those wanting a little more flash.
variants get the new Nissan Intelligent Mobility technology, which features
intelligent emergency braking with forward collision warning as standard across
the range. Moving up to the higher variant N-Tec (a special launch edition) and
Ti you also get blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and intelligent
park assist and driver alert, with the Ti also coming with ‘intelligent lane
intervention’, which essentially keeps you within your selected lane and
prevents you from veering off-course.
entertainment department Nissan hasn’t gone overboard, but iPod compatible USB
port and Bluetooth audio streaming are included across the range, along with
digital radio in the ST-L variants and above.
variants are powered by a 2.0L four-cylinder engine, delivering 106kW @ 6000
rpm and 200Nm of torque @ 4400 rpm. Fuel economy is quoted as 7.7L/100km for
the manual (only offered in the base variant ST) and 6.9L/100km for the
Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT). I found the CVT engine a little slow to
respond when accelerating, which was surprising given the starting price tag of
more than $29K and the target demographic. I would want a little more oomph for
surprise was the suspension, or lack thereof, considering the focus it Nissan
says it was given during development. Interestingly, it was very springy over
the sealed sections of the drive, but when off-road it was more than
comfortable. And considering there is no AWD option, the steering handled very
well in the looser gravel sections. Actually the steering all-round was
on-point, with the improvements resulting in better precision and a feeling of
overall control. Adjustable steering also allows the driver to select between
sport and normal modes, dependent on your preference.
impressive improvement is less road noise – a common complaint in the SUV
market. The new Qashqai has more sound insulation material inside the front
doors and behind the rear wheel arches, along with additional sealing around the
front doors and increasing the thickness of the rear-door glass by 0.5mm to
from $29,490 drive away for the manual ST variant, it will be interesting to
see how these improvements stack up against its competitors.