Nissan Qashqai review
The best-selling Nissan Qashqai started the crossover craze - we review Britain's favourite SUV
The Nissan Qashqai is the family hatchback that thinks it's an SUV. That could have been a recipe for disaster but Nissan's engineers managed to blend the qualities of both vehicle types to produce a brilliantly well-rounded product.
The Qashqai serves up a high quality driving experience with low noise levels and ride comfort emerging as clear strengths. The handling isn’t the sharpest in the class but most owners won’t be too put out by that. Economy is good with the 74mpg 1.5-litre dCi rivalling the greenest family-sized cars around.
Inside it’s spacious and the build quality is good but those who remember the old Qashqai+2 seven-seater will be disappointed with the new Qashqai as it is only available with five-seats. For two more seats, buyers should look towards the larger Nissan X-Trail instead.
Britain's love affair with the crossover can be traced back to 2006 when Nissan took the bold decision to replace its family hatchback - the Almera - with the Qashqai. The faux-4x4 Qashqai spawned a whole new class of cars which combine the rugged looks and high driving position of an SUV with the size, economy and driving dynamics of a classic family hatch.
While Nissan's somewhat gone back on this by introducing the Pulsar, it hasn't neglected the best-selling Qashqai and the latest model is as desirable as ever. It sits in the middle of a three-strong SUV lineup - flanked by the more compact Juke and the larger, seven-seat X-Trail.
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The Qashqai range includes front-wheel-drive and 4x4 versions (though no models are true 'off-roaders') and there's a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes. Prices are competitive next to hatchback rivals like the Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf, while crossover rivals like the Skoda Yeti or Kia Sportage are comparable too. Yet it's worth noting that Renault offers the Kadjar crossover - based on the same platform, with a lot of shared technology, yet a lower price tag.
Launched earlier this year, the second-generation Nissan Qashqai takes over from where the old one left off but has moved the game on a bit too. While it may not be as game-changing as the model it replaces, there are significant improvements to the safety and multimedia technology available, not to mention the build quality.
There are five trim levels available on the new Qashqai: Visia, Acenta, n-tec, n-tec+ and Tekna. Nissan has long been committed to constantly improving the Qashqai and the Japanese brand introduced the aforementioned n-tec+ in October 2014, giving customers even more value for money.
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Engines, performance and drive
The original Nissan Qashqai was surprisingly fun to drive but the latest model takes a more mature approach. Levels of noise and vibration in the cabin have been vastly improved, with much less sound from the road and engine making its way inside, particularly on the motorway.
In a series of corners, the Qashqai feels composed. The electrically assisted steering is direct and surprisingly weighty in feel, while grip is plentiful. Nissan’s Active Trace Control torque vectoring system helps boost the Qashqai’s agility, braking individual wheels in order to reduce understeer and deliver a more positive turn-in to corners.
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The Qashqai features Nissan’s Active Engine Brake function, which reduces jerkiness in the transmission when you lift off the throttle. Plus, the Body Motion Control technology 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 diesel engines available on the Nissan Qashqai come from sister company Renault. Although the 108bhp 1.5-litre diesel dCi has been around for a while, constant development means it revs smoothly and is noise levels are subdued at idle. Its real strength comes in the excellent economy it returns though.
The engine delivers decent performance, too, and feels more lively on the road, thanks to the combination of prompt throttle response and the precise six-speed gearbox’s well chosen ratios.
Elsewhere in the engine range Nissan offers a 128bhp 1.6-litre dCi diesel, a 1.2-litre DIG-T petrol and a 1.6-litre DIG-T petrol. The 1.6 dCi and 1.2 DIG-T units are offered with a choice of the standard 6-speed manual gearbox or the Xtronic auto – a CVT that shifts smoothly and keeps engine noise down. The 1.6-litre DIG-T offers 161bhp and is the Qashqai’s quickest engine with a 0-62mpg time of 9.1s.
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The 1.6-litre diesel is the Qashqai’s most satisfying engine with strong mid-range torque and a 0-62mph time of 9.9s compared to 11.9s in the 1.5 dCi models. It’s also the only unit offered with the Qashqai’s All Mode 4x4 set-up. If you want to take your Qashqai off-road, it’s the only choice but it does come with a price and fuel economy penalty and the majority of owners will find the 1.5 dCi 2WD car perfectly adequate most of the time.
That brings us to the 1.2-litre DIG-T 115 petrol engine. It’s the entry-level unit in the range but don’t let that put you off. It’s quiet and muscular enough for urban driving. If you do lots of longer trips, pay a bit more for a diesel but for most, the petrol will do the job.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The new Nissan Qashqai is impressively economical, especially the 1.5dCi diesel, which achieves 74.3mpg on the combined cycle and is road tax free thanks to excellent CO2 figures of 99g/km. That means it’ll be a cost-effective company car, too.
The 1.6-litre diesel is similarly frugal, claiming 65.7mpg and 115g/km of CO2. Opting for the excellent Xtronic CVT auto on this model only penalises things slightly with 62.8mpg and 119g/km.
If you must have a petrol Qashqai, a 1.2-litre turbo offers the same performance as the old 1.6 and 57.6mpg (129g/km), while a 1.6 turbo will arrive offering 50.4mpg (132g/km). Qashqai prices are on par with rivals but equipment levels tend to be slightly higher, especially in terms of safety kit.
Insurance for the Qashqai ranges from group 14 for the 1.2-litre petrol up to group 19 for the 1.6-litre diesel. That means it’s generally higher than a Kia Sportage but comparable with a Ford Focus.
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It’s worth bearing in mind that models fitted with the Smart Vision Pack are rated a couple of groups lower. This is because the pack includes features that reduce the chance of a low-speed collision. The Smart Vision Pack is fitted as standard to Acenta Premium and Tekna models, but it’s a £495 option on all other models. We think it’s well worth considering.
Demand for the Qashqai on the used market means it'll retain a good chunk of its value, with experts claiming you should get back 45% of its original price after three years and 36,000 miles. If that sounds shocking, it actually performs better than the Skoda Yeti (43%), but slightly worse than the Kia Sportage (54%).
Interior, design and technology
One thing’s 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, the Nissan Qashqai features a sharp nose with angular headlamps and distinctive LED running lights, while the twin chrome bars on the grille add a touch of interest. At the back, the LED tail-lamps wrap around the corners of the car and on to the tailgate. The optional Ink Blue paint also really helps the Qashqai to stand out. On top-of-the-range Nissan Qashqai Tekna models, 19-inch wheels come as standard, while Acenta cars get 17-inch alloys.
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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 too, and while the optional panoramic glass roof doesn’t open fully, it lets in plenty of light. Choosing Acenta trim over the Tekna means you have to forego leather for cloth.
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The Nissan Qashqai Acenta comes with decent levels of kit, including climate control, Bluetooth and automatic lights and wipers. However, you’ll have to fork out £495 for front and rear parking sensors and a whole load of other safety gear, while sat-nav isn’t even an option – you’ll have to upgrade to the n-tec version for this desirable kit.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The Qashqai’s intuitive touchscreen infotainment system is as good as you’ll find in the crossover class and better than the ones fitted to many premium-badged models. The menu system is simple to get to grips with, giving easy access to audio and sat-nav functions.
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The stereo is more of a blot on the Qashqai copybook with tinny sound quality. The upgraded audio system will be well worth specifying for music lovers.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
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.
The Nissan Qashqai is 4,377mm long and 2,070mm wide including the wing mirrors. That makes it slightly smaller than the Kia Sportage but a bit larger than the Skoda Yeti. It’s lower than both cars too, giving away around 80mm in height to the Yeti.
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Compared to a typical family hatchback like the Ford Focus, the Qashqai is very similar in size. The key difference is the extra height that’s such a central part of the crossover’s appeal. Where the Focus stands 1,469mm tall, the Qashqai towers 1,590mm off the tarmac, this extra translates to easier access and an elevated driving position.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Overall, there’s still decent legroom in the rear and the transmission tunnel doesn’t intrude on the middle-seat passenger’s foot space.
The higher spec Nissan Qashqai models have 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 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.
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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.
Nissan Qashqai group tests:
Reliability and Safety
The new Nissan Qashqai was marked down for reliability and build quality in our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but for overall customer satisfaction it ranked 21st out of 150 cars. Safety 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 and traffic sign recognition. There are even cameras to help you park and detect moving objects behind the car when you’re reversing – the Qashqai will park itself, too.
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All Nissans come with a three-year/60,000 mile warranty, which is about average for this class. If you want more cover, it’s worth remembering that the Hyundai ix35 comes with a five-year warranty and the Kia Sportage has a seven-year warranty.
Nissan offers fixed-price servicing that starts from £149 on petrol models and £159 on diesel cars. The Qashqai service intervals are every 12,500 miles for petrol models and every 18,000 miles for diesels.