It’s the family car that just couldn’t stop growing! The already successful Nissan Qashqai has sprouted a revised rear end and an extra pair of seats so it can take on compact MPVs such as the Vauxhall Zafira and Volkswagen Touran.
Believe it or not, the Qashqai+2 is now 211mm longer and 38mm taller than the standard model, while the wheelbase is 135mm greater. Although that might not sound like much, it means there’s now enough room for the all-important second row of rear seats. In addition, the revised body frees up a little head and knee room, plus an extra 55 litres of boot space.
Funky new features include a sliding middle bench, which can be moved forward by up to 240mm. This works in tandem with the longer back doors to ensure easy access to the rearmost seats. Each of the five back chairs can be folded individually as well – in the middle row, that means a 40/20/40 split.
In a final flourish, Nissan’s designers have also ensured the central chair can be dropped down to serve as an armrest. As a result, the seatback incorporates a pair of cup-holders and a storage box.
Yet even though it’s more spacious inside and larger on the outside, the Qashqai+2 isn’t being billed as a serious alternative to full-size people carriers like the Ford Galaxy. Neither will it be as versatile as compact MPV competitors such as the blue oval’s S-MAX.
Nissan claims the rear seats are suitable only for children who stand no more than 1.6 metres tall – and once you climb through to the back, you’ll see why. Although the chairs are comfortable, they wouldn’t accommodate an adult for long journeys.
Essentially, the Qashqai+2 is a fashionable alternative to the array of boxy seven-seaters on the market – and to help drive that point home, Nissan designers have carried out some distinctive tweaks to the bodywork.
Changes include a sleek new radiator grille and a completely revised tailgate. The family resemblance to the dramatic Murano SUV is clear, especially at the rear, where the Qashqai+2 features a deeper, curvy screen and slimmer, horizontal tail-lights.
But by far the most dazzling feature is reserved for those inside the car. The all-new panoramic glass roof, which is available on all models, adds a real sense of space and light into the interior.
Nissan claims it is the largest glass top of any car – and from the middle seats it gives a brilliant, near-180-degree view of the heavens.
With all that light flooding into the cabin, the standard air-conditioning is a must, as the interior heats up quickly in the sun. Out on the road, it’s business as usual, save for a few minor updates. The suspension settings and steering assistance have been tuned to cope with the car’s extra weight, and larger front brakes are fitted as standard.
The Qashqai+2 will be offered with the same engine and transmission options as the existing car when it goes on sale later this month. That means a choice of front or four-wheel-drive models with manual, automatic or CVT boxes. Petrol powerplants comprise 1.6 and 2.0-litre units, while there are 1.5 and 2.0-litre dCi diesels, but the 1.6 petrol and 1.5 dCi engines won't be available until early 2009.
It doesn’t offer the agile handling you’d expect from a low-slung, sporty car, but the Qashqai+2 is certainly entertaining family transport. While there’s a fair amount of body roll, it feels composed and more confident over rough surfaces than many soft-roaders. The steering is light and fluid, so it’s easy to push the car through bends, while the chunky 215/60 tyres grip well.
Standard equipment is generous, with air-con, electric windows, an MP3-ready audio system, Bluetooth connectivity and rear privacy glass included. There’s plenty of opportunity to upgrade, too, as flagship Tekna models can be specified with a reversing camera, sat-nav, leather seats and a six-disc in-dash CD autochanger.
The 2.0-litre diesel model we drove has a reasonable amount of shove when it gets going, but turbo lag is a real issue. What’s more, the unit sounds a little rattly above 3,000rpm – it’s clearly not as refined as many other modern turbodiesels.
Despite this, Nissan expects one in every four Qashqais sold to be a +2, and it’s easy to see why. The chunky looks and extra seats will appeal to families who want a compact MPV’s versatility and space without compromising on design and dynamics.
* Price: £22,699
* Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel
* Power: 148bhp
* 0-62mph: 11.3 seconds
* Top speed: 117mph
* Economy: 40.4mpg
* CO2: 188g/km
* Boot capacity: 130-915 litres
* Standard equipment: Air-con, Bluetooth connectivity, MP3-ready audio system, electric windows, tinted rear glass