MOTORS REVIEW: Nissan Qashqai

IT feels very much like the designers at Nissan have taken a leaf out of the German book of “evolution rather than revolution” on first contact with the new Qashqai.

In truth, however, the latest iteration of the once pioneering crossover (it was the first of the breed when launched back in 2007) is something of a mid-life refresh serving to hone what is the brand’s most successful ever car in Europe, with over two million sales.

Central to the drive to improve the Nissan Qashqai is an array of new systems which make semiautonomous driving possible.

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ProPilot brings together Lane Keep Assist (LKA), Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) and Traffic Jam Pilot (TJP) systems to take control on motorways, steering, accelerating and braking on behalf of the driver.

Rear cross-traffic alert and automated emergency braking have also been added and the Qashqai continues to be offered with Traffic Sign Recognition, Intelligent Driver Alert, Intelligent Park Assist, Intelligent Around View Monitor and Lane Departure Warning.

When a man approached me in the car park at Rawmarsh’s Tesco Express during my recent Qashqai test drive and asked me what I thought of the car, I was relieved to be driving the fairly standard N-Connecta spec car, though.

Days from collecting his own Qashqai I feared insight into the complexities of all the new technology available in range-topping models might have left him feeling a little uneasy about his new purchase.

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In N-Connecta trim, with the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s 108bhp, 1.5-litre dci turbodiesel engine, the Qashqai still feels like a straightforward and hugely accomplished animal.

At £26,130 — excluding a £595 panoramic sunroof and £295 for heated front seats and windscreen — it sits mid-way through a range which spans Visia, Acenta, N-Connecta, Tekna and Tekna+ and a price range of £19,295 to £27,830.

The new styling features are evidenced in the new grille and front bumper design, a gloss black “V” plunging below the Nissan badge on the nose to add drama, along with new “boomerang” LED daytime running lights.

Roof rails, 18-inch alloy wheels and a matt black rear diffuser are among the other styling highlights.

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Overall the look of the Qashqai has evolved into something more aggressive and more rugged over time and I like its new style.

Inside new taller but narrower seats help accentuate a sense of space which defies the Qashqai’s hatchback-rivalling reputation.

It really does offer good-sized family accommodation.

But a 430-litre boot is well behind rivals like the Peugeot 3008 and Volkswagen Tiguan.

Nissan’s eight-inch touchscreen Nissan-Connect infotainment system serves up satnav, DAB radio, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity in straightforward and intuitive style and is neatly integrated into a gloss black dashboard trim.

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It also brings a hugely useful 360-degree birds-eye view reversing camera system.

Build quality feels good in the interior and other styling perks like the new three-spoke multi-function steering wheel and chrome brightwork of the door pulls lift things nicely.

Also standard on the N-Connecta is cruise control and Nissan’s Smart Vision Pack.

This delivers traffic sign recognition — via a colour TFT screen within the instrument cluster — automated emergency braking, front and rear parking sensors and high beam assist, dipping the main beam to ensure oncoming drivers aren’t dazzled at night.

In short, all the technology most people will ever need.

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When the Qashqai arrived on UK roads a decade ago a key selling point was that it was a 4x4-type vehicle that drove like a hatchback.

I’m not sure how accurate that description was at the time, but it’s fair to say that it continues to be a predictable and secure-feeling steer.

Nissan has introduced “Trace Control”, a system which meters out power and braking to maintain the best course through a corner, and the effect is improved agility.

While the Qashqai never feels truly dynamic, it is capable and comfortable, delivering a smooth ride and just enough accuracy on narrow lanes.

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Diesel might be on the decline right now but in terms of pure frugality the 1.5-litre unit used across a range of Renault and Nissan products is a winner.

With 108bhp and a useful 192lb.ft. of torque it can require an extra downshift within the fairly long ratios of the six-speed manual gearbox on a steep climb, but once up to speed it will easily maintain motorway speeds and never feels unduly short of power.

Nissan claims a fairly conservative 11.9 second dash to 62mph and 113mph top speed, which reflects what is felt from behind the wheel.

But the trip indicator recorded that I had achieved over 60mpg on many trips — against a claimed average of 74.3mpg — and for a vehicle the size of the Qashqai that felt impressive.

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Nissan’s official CO2 emissions claim for the engine is 99g/km.

That little turbodiesel engine summed up what I liked about the Qashqai.

For all its clever technology and innovation, it never feels anything less than a very capable and worthy family SUV.

The Japanese brand has integrated systems and tools which make life easier as standard without over-complicating the core strengths of what remains one of the sector’s strongest contenders.

Since 2007 the sector has boomed on the back of the Qashqai’s success, however, and the style of a Peugeot 3008, quality of a Tiguan or added space of a Renault Kadjar now all pose a threat.

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