Nissan Qashqai review
The Nissan Qashqai is British-built and comfortably the country’s favourite crossover SUV - what’s not to like?
The Nissan Qashqai leapt to the top of the crossover class when it launched in the UK back in 2006. It was a gamble by Nissan to replace its Almera family hatchback with a pumped-up crossover, but there’s no denying it’s worked as it was crowned Best Crossover at our New Car Awards 2015.
The added styling of the SUV-like Qashqai attracted lots of buyers, and for this second-generation car Nissan followed the same successful recipe. This model has been on sale since 2014 and features even sharper styling and an efficient range of petrol and diesel engines, with two- and four-wheel drive available also for extra flexibility.
Many rival manufacturers have followed the Qashqai formula, so the mid-sized crossover sector is crowded with models such as the Skoda Yeti, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V – but the Qashqai is regularly one of the best-selling cars in the UK, which shows it’s a strong performer.
This second-generation model took over where the old one left off but added even more efficiency, improved interior tech and extra safety features. It’s also much better built, being screwed together at Nissan’s UK factory in Sunderland.
There are five trim levels on offer: Visia, Acenta, n-tec, n-tec+ and Tekna, with even the entry-level model featuring some attractive equipment highlights. These include Bluetooth and steering wheel audio controls, air conditioning, electric windows all round and cruise control.
Upgrading to the Acenta model adds USB connectivity, dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights and wipers, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Opting for the n-tec trim level brings with it Nissan’s Smart Vision pack, including traffic sign recognition, high beam assist, lane departure warning, as well as front and rear parking sensors. This model also gets a seven-inch touchscreen sat-nav system. If you want a panoramic glass roof this comes as part of the n-tec+ model.
Go for the top of the range Tekna version and you’ll get Nissan’s Safety Shield Technology, which includes blind spot warning and a system that detects moving objects when you’re pulling out of a parking space. This model also gets 19-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats and LED headlights.
Our choice: Nissan Qashqai n-tec DIG-T 115 6-speed manual
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One thing is for certain: the second-generation Nissan Qashqai looks far more upmarket than the original model. The overall shape is typical crossover, with a raised ride height, roof rails and black plastic trim giving a familiar rugged off-roader look.
Up front, there are bright daytime running lights, plus the angular headlamp clusters and grille are neatly styled. The bumper features a large black cut-out below the number plate, while the clamshell bonnet and the lines cut into the bodywork are more subtle than the slashes found on the Honda HR-V.
At the back, the wraparound tail-lights are more attractive than its rival’s clusters, while the larger back window looks neater and gives a better view out, too.
On top-of-the-range Nissan Qashqai Tekna models, those 19-inch alloys add some extra visual muscle, while mid-range n-tec cars get 18-inch versions and Acenta cars sport 17-inch wheels, which still look fairly good if a bit small next to the halo model.
Inside, the Nissan looks sharp and feels well built. There are sporty cowled dials and a full-colour trip computer display, while coloured ambient lighting on the centre console and gloss black trim on the dashboard give an upmarket feel.
The rest of the cabin is pretty smart, and while the standard panoramic glass roof (Tekna only) doesn’t open fully, it lets in plenty of light. Choosing Acenta trim over the Tekna means you have to forego leather for cloth.
Material quality is much improved over the old Qashqai, although there are still some harder plastics lower down in the cabin. However, it’s a good compromise between quality and robustness, as the interior feels like it will cope well with anything lifestyle buyers of this type of car will throw at it.
There are four engines available in the Qashqai range, including two petrols and two diesels.
The diesel engines available on the Nissan Qashqai come from sister company Renault. While the 109bhp 1.5-litre diesel dCi has been around for a while, constant development means it revs smoothly and is subdued at idle, all while returning excellent economy.
It delivers decent performance, too, and feels lively on the road, thanks to the combination of prompt throttle response and the precise six-speed gearbox’s well-chosen ratios. There’s a more powerful 128bhp 1.6-litre unit, but this is only available on the top-spec trim level – if you want four-wheel drive, you’ll have to go for this engine, too.
The fastest Qashqai in the range is the DIG-T 163 1.6-litre petrol turbo, introduced in January 2015. It'll do 0-62mph in 9.1 seconds and, so long as you stay on top of the gears, feels pretty quick on the move. However, if you change up too early you'll hit a nasty flat spot – forcing you to wait for the turbo to spool back up.
If you want a petrol version, however, we’d recommend the 1.2-litre DIG-T – it sprints from 0-62mph in 10.9, so is still quick enough, but the willing motor should return even better efficiency. It’s only this unit and the higher-power dCi 130 that get the option of an automatic gearbox, which is actually a CVT but shifts between its ‘ratios’ smoothly.
The old Nissan Qashqai was surprisingly fun to drive, but the latest model takes a more mature approach. Refinement has been vastly improved, with much less road and engine noise, particularly on the motorway.
In a series of corners, the Qashqai feels composed and the electrically assisted steering is direct and surprisingly weighty, while grip is strong. Active Trace Control torque vectoring helps boost agility, braking individual wheels in order to reduce understeer and deliver more positive turn-in.
Also included is Nissan’s Active Engine Brake function, which reduces jerkiness in the transmission when you lift off the throttle. Plus, the Body Motion Control constantly dabs the brakes to smooth out body movement over bumps. It works well, particularly at low speed, but hit a series of imperfections and the ride gets fidgety as the brakes and dampers fight to keep control.
This is rarely a problem around town, where the high driving position, light controls and decent visibility make the Nissan easy to navigate through crowded streets. Unfortunately, only the range-topping Tekna gets park assist (which steers the car into parking spaces) and a 360-degree camera system.
The new Nissan Qashqai was marked down for reliability in our Driver Power 2015 customer satisfaction survey, and ranked 46th out of 200 cars – although it slipped 21 places compared to its 2014 result.
However, things are better when it comes to safety, as experts at Euro NCAP awarded the new Qashqai the full five stars, with the car scoring well in the adult and child occupant categories.
Nissan has improved things with its Safety Shield technology, which features heavily in the new Qashqai. It comprises clever features like front collision avoidance (autonomous braking), lane departure warning, drowsiness detection, blind spot warning, traffic sign recognition and cameras to help you park and detect moving objects behind when you’re reversing – the Qashqai will park itself, too.
The seven-seater Nissan Qashqai +2 is no more – the new Qashqai offers more space for passengers and luggage than before in response to owner feedback. Anyone wanting seven seats will have to opt for the new Nissan X-Trail instead.
Overall, though, there’s still decent legroom in the rear, and the transmission tunnel doesn’t intrude on the middle-seat passenger’s foot space.
However, the Acenta Premium grades and above come with a panoramic glass roof, which cuts into headroom. There’s more space in models without this addition, but the combination of small side windows and black trim makes the Qashqai’s cabin quite dark.
As you’d expect of a car aimed at families, the interior is packed full of useful storage. There’s a large glovebox and several cubbies that are perfect for odds and ends. An electric handbrake also frees up the centre console for extra stowage and cup-holders, which have been mounted lower down so as to not impinge when changing gear.
The Qashqai’s 430-litre luggage area is impressive, and also features a flat loading lip and base, plus it benefits from a clever false floor that doubles as a boot divider.
Fold the rear bench seat flat and the capacity increases to 1,585 litres. Better still, there’s a compartment under the boot floor for storing the parcel shelf.
The new Nissan Qashqai is impressively economical, especially the 1.5 dCi diesel, which claims 74.3mpg and is road tax free with excellent CO2 figures of 99g/km. That means it’ll be a good company car, too.
The 1.6-litre diesel is similarly frugal claiming 64.2mpg and 115g/km of CO2, while opting for the excellent Xtronic CVT auto on this model only penalises things slightly with 61.4mpg and 119g/km. The impact of four-wheel drive is much greater though, as the 1.6 dCi all-wheel drive returns a claimed 57.6mpg with 129g/km CO2.
If you must have a petrol Qashqai, the 1.2-litre turbo offers the same performance as the old 1.6 but will do an impressive 50.4mpg (129g/km), while the new 1.6-litre DIG-T will return 47.1mpg (138g/km) and is the fastest model in the range.
Qashqai prices are on par with rivals but equipment levels tend to be slightly higher, especially in terms of safety kit. The best value trim is the n-tec – offering a simply staggering amount of equipment for the cash.